How to Unlock a Samsung Galaxy (and Switch to a New Carrier)

Want to bring your Samsung Galaxy to a new carrier? View our step-by-step guide to the unlock process

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Michelle McLean

Michelle McLean

If you're planning to use your Samsung Galaxy phone on a different network, you'll almost certainly need to unlock the phone first.

The major carriers know that if a cell phone is locked to one network, there is a good chance that the owner will stay on that network for the lifetime of that phone, or even longer if they can persuade you to upgrade to a new model.

Once your phone is unlocked, you can switch away from the Big Four carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) to realize major savings with one of the growing armies of low-cost carriers, like Tello, Mint Mobile, Boost, or US Mobile.

If you are looking to unlock your Samsung smartphone to bring it to a new carrier, we have good news: it's easy!

Requesting an Unlock Code

Requesting the unlock code is a simple process.

Best of all, it is absolutely free!

We should emphasize that each of the major carriers has slightly different procedures and conditions for unlocking your phone, so we've produced a short unlocking guide for each of the Big Four carriers - Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T - to help you out.

However, we will also provide guides for unlocking Samsung smartphones in the following categories:

Most Recent - Samsung Galaxy S6 series, S7 series, S8 and Note 8 series, and S9 series

Fairly Recent - Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 5 series, S4 and Note 4 series, and S3 and Note 3 series

Older - Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 3 series, S2, etc.

But before you unlock any of these phones, you'll need the following information on hand:

  • The account holder's name or the account number.
  • The password to the account or the last four digits of the account holder's social security number.
  • The IMEI number - you can find the IMEI number by checking underneath the battery cover, checking the "About Phone" section underneath "Settings" of your Samsung Galaxy, or dialing *#06# on your Samsung Galaxy, which will reveal a 14- or 15-digit number onscreen once you press Call or Send.
  • The phone number that belongs to the mobile device.
  • If you're in the military and requesting an overseas unlock for the purposes of deployment, your deployment papers.

Compare: Looking for a used Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus? Compare prices on the used Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus with our comparison tool here.

Your Existing Carrier Must Help You Unlock Your Device

As of February 11, 2015, no carrier can refuse to unlock your phone. This is because of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which has been enacted by the Federal Communications Commissions.

So if you have a phone to unlock, have paid off the phone in full, and have satisfied all requirements as stated in the carrier's terms and conditions, you can have your phone unlocked free of charge… and without complaint from the carrier!

Unlocking Recent Samsung Galaxy Phones (S6 onwards)

For all recent Samsung models - the S6 series, S7 series, S8 series, and S9 series - a simple phone call to your carrier should produce the unlock code. In the case of AT&T, you will need to complete an unlock request form, but otherwise, the unlocking process is similar.

Unlocking Older Samsung Galaxy Phones (S4, Note 4, S5, Note 5)

Luckily, unlocking older Samsung Galaxy phones - the S4 series, Note 4, S5 series, and Note 5 - is just as simple a process as unlocking the more recent models of Galaxy phones. All you'll need to do is contact your carrier, who will provide you with an unlock code.

Unlocking Galaxy S3 Model

Here is a quick guide to unlocking your Galaxy S3, but keep in mind that these steps must be followed properly.

Your phone must also be running on Android 4.1.1. To check, go to the Settings menu, select "About Device" and check the phone's "Android Version."

  1. Dial *#197328640#
  2. Select [1] UMTS
  3. Select [1] Debug Screen
  4. Select [8] Phone Control
  5. Select [6] Network Lock
  6. Choose [3] PERSO SHA256 OFF and wait 30 seconds. Press the Menu button and select back
  7. Choose [4] NW Lock NV Data INITIALLIZ
  8. Wait one minute and reboot your phone.
  9. Insert the new SIM card, et voila! Your phone should be unlocked!

Some Samsung Galaxy Phones Do Not Work on All Networks

Mobile Virtual Network Operators, otherwise known as MVNOs, are low-cost carriers that buy their own coverage at wholesale prices from the Big Four carriers, who own the towers and distribute the coverage for a smaller fee to customers.

If you are switching to an MVNO on the same network - in other words, if you are switching from Verizon to Twigby, which relies on Verizon's network, then your unlocked Samsung Galaxy phone should be compatible with the network.

However, if you're switching to another network from Verizon's network, such as from Verizon to Mint SIM - which uses T-Mobile's network - then you should be aware that certain Samsung Galaxy phones may not be compatible. You'll need to contact the new carrier and ensure that your phone can be used with the network. Sure, it can take a bit of effort, but you should have no issues if you have a more modern phone.

Save Money with a MVNO

To put it simply, MVNOs are carriers like Mint Mobile, US Mobile, and ROK Mobile. These alternative mobile carriers lease coverage from the major providers' towers and resell it to you for less than what you're paying the big guys.

These companies offer several major benefits to you:

  • Better prices: MVNOs do not have to pay the same huge overhead and marketing costs that the big carriers face, so they are able to sell you plans at cheaper prices.
  • Customized plans: Most smartphone users do not need unlimited amounts of data, but unlimited data plans tend to be the main offering of the major phone companies. It is no different than paying for 100 TV channels when you're only going to watch 20 of them. MVNOs allow you to pay for what you actually need.
  • No contracts or credit checks: All low-cost carriers offer prepaid plans, so if you find yourself dissatisfied with the carrier's service, you can leave whenever you'd like.
  • BYOP: Bringing your own phone to an MVNO allows you to pocket extra money that would be otherwise funneled into an expensive device financing plan. Best of all, you can keep your number!

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

You've finally managed to unlock your old phone. Now what? You're probably considering selling it now. But where can you sell it? You'll receive more cash for your phone if you sell it yourself rather than trade it into a major carrier, and you'll definitely earn a lot of cash by selling it to a reputable online company.

If your phone is in good condition - in other words, there must be no major damage, like scratches or scuffs outside of your typical wear and tear, and the phone must be able to power on - then you'll find plenty of companies who will offer a crisp dollar for your phone.

However, prices can vary considerably, so if you want the greatest amount for your phone, you'll have to compare potential buyers yourself - or let us do the legwork for you with our sell your phone comparison tool. How does it work? Well, say you want to sell your Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which is in good condition. Using our tool, you'll find that - at the time of this writing - Decluttr will offer $142, BuyBackWorld will offer $135, and Gazelle $120.

You may also be shopping around for a phone to replace your current one. In that case, you should consider buying a used phone, as a used phone may be up to 50 percent cheaper compared to the MSRP of a new, off-the-shelf model. In other words, you'll be able to save hundreds of dollars just by buying a used phone. You'll be able to save even more with our used phone price comparison tool.

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