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How to Unlock an iPhone

Bring your own iPhone to a cheaper carrier

Unlocking an iPhone

These days, lots of people are switching away from the Big Four carriers – Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint Wireless, and AT&T – to realize major savings with one of the growing armies of low-cost carriers, like Mint Mobile, Twigby, or US Mobile.

Requesting an Unlock Code

Requesting an unlock code is easy and it's free.

Each of the major carriers has slightly different procedures and conditions for unlocking your phone, so we have produced a short unlocking guide for each of the big guys to help you, whether you are currently with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. So if you are looking for methods on how to unlock iPhone 7, how to unlock iPhone 6s, how to unlock iPhone 4, or how to unlock any other iPhone, the same guide applies to each code.

Be ready for your existing carrier to ask you for the following information when you request an unlock code:

  • The account number as well as the account holder's name.

  • Either the password to the account or the last four digits of the account holder's social security number.

  • The phone's IMEI number. You can find this by dialing *#06# on your phone; the 14 or 15 digits IMEI number will appear onscreen after you dial and press Call or Send. Another way to find the number is by checking under the battery cover. If you have an iPhone, you should check the back of the device.

  • The phone number belonging to the mobile device.

  • Your deployment documents, if you're military and asking for an overseas unlock.

Your existing carrier MUST help you unlock your device

If there are no outstanding payments due on your locked phone, your carrier cannot refuse to give you the unlock code.

There is an unlocking law enforced by the FCC which states that a user who has paid in full for their device - and completed all formal procedures of their service agreement - has the legal right to have their device unlocked by the phone's original carrier.

Some iPhones Do Not Work on All Networks

The low-cost carriers (called Mobile Virtual Network Operators or MVNOs) buy their network coverage at wholesale prices from one of the major carriers who own the towers.

If you are switching to an MVNO on the same network (e.g. switching from Verizon to Twigby, which uses the Verizon network), you know your particular iPhone will be compatible.

However, when you switch from one network to another, some of the older iPhones (4, 4s, 5, 5c, and 5s) may not be compatible. So if, for example, you are switching from Verizon to an MVNO on another network (e.g. Mint SIM on T-Mobile's network), you will need to contact the new carrier and double check that your device will work on that network. So, while switching services can be a bit complex, most of the time, and depending on your phone, you should have no issue.

Save Money With a MVNO

MVNOs are companies like US Mobile, Mint Mobile, and TPO Mobile. These alternative mobile service providers rent space on the major carriers' towers and resell it to you at a lower cost than what you're paying the big guys.

These companies offer several major advantages:

  • Better prices: MVNOs don't have the same massive overhead and marketing costs as the major carriers so they can sell you similar service at lower prices.

  • Customized plans: The vast majority of smartphone users don't need unlimited data, yet they pay for it. That's like paying for 100 channels when you're only going to watch 20 of them. MVNOs let you decide what kinds of services - and how much - you need, so you're only paying for what you actually use.

  • No contracts or credit check: All low-cost carriers offer prepaid plans. If you're unhappy you can leave at any time you want.

  • BYOP: Bringing your own phone to an MVNO you can pocket the extra money you'd put into a costly device payment plan. And don't worry, you can keep your number too.

Selling Your Old Phone? Compare Offers to Get the Best Price

Now that you have unlocked your iPhone, what now? More than likely, you'll want to sell the phone. While trading your iPhone into your carrier may sound like a good idea - after all, it is a simple process - you won't get a lot of money for doing so. Instead, you should consider selling your phone yourself, so you'll gain a lot more money for your phone.

There are plenty of reputable online companies who will take a phone that is in good condition (it powers on and has no scuffs, scratches, or cracks), and the process of selling your phone to them is typically quick and easy.

Yet, if you want the maximum amount possible when you sell your phone, you'll need to compare prices between these companies. We've made this task easier for you by creating a comparison tool that shows you multiple offers in one place. With this tool, you'll be able to compare what you'll receive for your phone, all in one convenient location.

For example, say that you want to sell your iPhone 6s Plus, which happens to be the 128GB model and in good condition. If you use the tool - and at this point of writing - Gazelle will offer you $205, BuyBackWorld will offer $220, and Decluttr will pay you $237. The choice is yours!

You may also be on the hunt for a new phone as well, but before you purchase a brand new phone, you should instead turn your attention to a buying a used phone, which can be hundreds of dollars cheaper than a new phone - up to 50 percent off the phone's MSRP, to be precise! You can even save more thanks to our price comparison tool, allowing you to get the best price for your phone without wasting hours shopping around.

Rob Webber
Rob Webber

Rob has 15+ years experience in the US and UK running price comparison sites for cell phone plans, smartphone deals, TV, and internet. He loves thinking outside of the box to build tools that empower consumers to make more informed decisions.