Unlocking your mobile phone
When you buy a phone there is a good chance it will be locked to the network provider you purchased it from. This is done to stop you from switching networks easily. Thankfully, unlocking your phone to use on other networks isn’t complicated and means you can:
- Put another network’s SIM card into your handset and access their services, potentially saving you money.
- • Have the freedom to use your handset overseas by getting a local SIM wherever you go.
How can I tell if my phone is locked?
If you bought your phone directly from a network then it’s more than likely that your phone is locked to that provider. Three and giffgaff sell all of their handsets unlocked, so if you buy your phone from them you’ll be able to change networks whenever you want to.
The easiest way to find out if your phone is locked to your network is to just ask them. You can also try using another network’s SIM card in your phone. If you don’t have a SIM card for another network that you can borrow, order a free one from any network other than the one you currently have a contract with.
Remove the SIM card from your phone and replace it with the new SIM. If after a couple of minutes the screen appears as normal with the new networks icon displayin, then you have an unlocked phone. If you receive any messages telling you to contact your provider or if you can’t make a call, that’s probably a good indicator that it’s locked to your current network.
Can my network unlock my phone for me?
Yes! All networks offer an unlocking service and some will even unlock your handset free of charge. The time it takes to unlock your phone varies between networks and can take from four hours to two weeks.
Is unlocking my phone illegal? (NO!)
Unlocking your phone is not illegal. However, you may be breaking your contract agreement with your service provider by tampering with your handset and this will affect your warranty. So while it is not a criminal offence to unlock your phone, your provider may refuse to repair your handset, or charge you for repairs, if it is damaged in the future.
If your contract is over, you won’t be tied into any agreement with the network and if your phone is over two years old, it won’t be in warranty either.
It is important to note that unlocking is not the same as unblocking. Unblocking is activating a phone that has been blocked by a network, probably because it has been reported lost or stolen. Don’t do this, it is very illegal.
Is unlocking mobile phones safe? (YES!)
Yes! Ofcom, the independent communications regulator, state that selling phones that cannot be unlocked is a restriction of a customer’s freedom to choose the operator they want, so handsets are built with unlocking in mind.
There are a number of ways to unlock your phone. Many newer handsets can be unlocked through remote unlocking by your network or a third party. Some older phones may need to go through a high street unlocking service. Speak to your current network to find out what you should do.