How to unlock a phone locked to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile

How to unlock a phone locked to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile
For the most part, phones sold by carriers are locked in a way that prevents their use on a competitor's network – that's how a carrier ensures that you stick with their service for the duration of your contract. The practice has been around for decades and is common among wireless carriers worldwide, U.S. service providers included. Unlocking a phone tied to a U.S. carrier, however, just got a whole lot easier as new rules regarding carrier-locked handsets went into effect on February 11, 2015. Long story short, you may now ask your service provider to unlock your phone. But there's fine print, of course, and you have to meet certain criteria before having your handset unshackled. 

Why would I want to unlock my device?


Locked phones can only be used on the network of the carrier that locked them. Once unlocked, a phone (or even a cellular-enabled tablet) can connect to any carrier's frequency-compatible network, once provided with a working SIM card. This enables subscribers to easily switch between carriers. And we're not talking only about service providers in the U.S. If you ever go abroad, you're free to get a local carrier's SIM card and use their services with your unlocked phone instead of paying roaming charges. 

However, unlocking a phone does not make it technically compatible with any carrier within the U.S., let alone worldwide. Compatibility depends on the frequencies and bands that a carrier provides their voice and data services, as well as on which frequencies and bands your phone can technically operate on.

How do I tell if my phone is locked to a carrier?


If you bought your phone from a carrier's store, then it is most likely locked. Same goes for carrier-branded phones sold via retailers and online stores. Still, there's a relatively easy way of checking whether or not that's the case. Simply swap your SIM card with one from another carrier – you can probably borrow one from a friend or relative. If the phone works fine with your buddy's SIM card, then great success! That means your phone isn't locked. If it doesn't, then read on to learn how to unlock your handset. 

What are the requirements for having a phone unlocked?


The conditions you have to meet in order to have your phone unlocked for free may differ slightly from one carrier to another. Yet in general, it boils down to the following:

  • The price of the phone must have been fully paid. All service commitments and installment plans must be complete. All early termination fees (if any apply) must be paid in full.
  • Your account with the carrier must be in good standing.
  • Carriers only unlock phones tied to their own network. Don't ask AT&T to unlock a T-Mobile phone or vice versa.
  • The phone must not be flagged as lost, stolen, blocked, or associated with fraudulent activity.

How to unlock an AT&T phone


AT&T has a web page dedicated to cell phone unlocking right here, along with an online request form. In a nutshell, your device has to be active under your account, and if you took advantage of an early upgrade, you must first wait for your 14-day return period to expire before requesting your unlock code. Postpaid customers must have been active for no less than 60 days before unlocking. Prepaid customers must have been active for at least six months of paid service. Keep in mind that it might take up to 2 working days before you receive your unlock code. When filling out the unlock request form, you'll need to provide the device's IMEI number. Here's how to find the IMEI of your handset.

How to unlock a Verizon phone


The good news is that the majority of Verizon phones, although designed to be used with the carrier's CDMA network, come with an unlocked GSM SIM card slot as well. This applies to 4G LTE devices and most 3G devices activated on the carrier's postpaid service. Only Verizon's Global Ready 3G cell phones might ask you for a code when switching to another provider's service – just type "000000" or "123456" and you should be good to go. The bad news is that network compatibility and coverage might be an issue, depending on your device's specifications and on the frequencies the carrier you're switching to provides service on. It is best to contact your carrier before bringing a Verizon phone onto its network.

For more details, read Verizon's device unlocking policy.

How to unlock a Sprint phone


Let's say that your phone was launched before February of 2015 and is technically capable of being unlocked. In that case, Sprint will let you know that you're eligible for an unlock either via text message or in your bill notification. You'll have to contact Sprint Customer Care for assistance at that point. Phones launched after February 2015 will be unlocked automatically when eligible. It is also possible to unlock inactive devices, although the process may require over-the-air updates to be performed. Contact Customer Care for specific instructions. Keep in mind that even if you have your Sprint phone unlocked, it may not be fully compatible with other carriers' networks. Best results should be expected when moving to a Sprint MVNO, such as Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, FreedomPop, or Ting. Regardless of which carrier you're switching to, contact them to ensure that your unlocked Sprint device will work on their network.

For more details, read Sprint's device unlocking policy.

How to unlock a T-Mobile phone


You must contact T-Mobile's Support Service to request an unlock code for your phone. To be eligible, a device must have been active for no less than 40 days on the requesting account. As far as prepaid phones go, they must have been active for at least a year. Furhermore, smartphones must have been refilled for at least $100 before they become eligible. The requirement is only $25 if you have a basic phone. We must also mention that a line of service is allowed no more than 2 unlock codes per 12 months of service.

references: FCC, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile

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28 Comments

1. ajac09

Posts: 1482; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

I've already heard sprint is making it as HARD as possible.

8. 42nate1

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 13, 2015

I have sprint & unlock my new iphone every year. Its very easy. You can initiate via the chat function or call the international customer service which is quicker than the domestic customer service. Tell them you will be travelling and need your phone unlocked. They send you the emails on how to unlock it. You just have to backup & restore your phone which takes a little time.

9. tuminatr

Posts: 1121; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

yea I have used 2 of my sprint phones overseas with a non sprint sim card even without being unlocked just had to program the apn

18. Ramir

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 24, 2015

Every sprint customer can unlock their sprint iphone for free. You can do it trought the sprint support line. Its also possible to unlock blacklisted phones there. Took only 24 hours to unlock mine. here you find the link: plus.google.com/109255473762273695190/posts

26. tanton

Posts: 3; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Hi Guys! I saw many of you have problems with unlocking so i share my experience with you. I'm a phone shop owner, i unlock and sell Phones on a daily basis. I'm using one of the bestt unlock provider cphoneunlocker. com §§ - they can unlock ANY Phone for free in less than 1h and also they can unlock blacklisted phones in 1-2 days. Cheers!!!

27. d_scott

Posts: 4; Member since: May 31, 2016

Getting a phone network to unlock the phone is usually pretty difficult, and costly at times too (it's a hit or miss, I think). I had my phone unlocked before I left on my trip to Brazil. Completely last minute and I didn't want to wait so I decided to give one of those websites that offer codes a go, without too high of expectations I would. But it worked! If anyone is interested, the site is unlockyoursim.com :) Hope this helps!

2. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

If this went into effect in November I would have unlocked a Sprint 5S to use for VM for my father. :/

3. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

I dont think VM and BM are allowing any unlocked phones to be used unless it's a Virgin or Boost phone. I hate that.

4. Fuego84

Posts: 357; Member since: May 13, 2012

What the hell T-mobile I say if the phone if the phone has been paid in full all other requirements should be dropped.

5. Rice_Fed

Posts: 8; Member since: Aug 07, 2013

I go to AT&T's page and it keeps saying the my IMEI is wrong. Despite the fact that I check it 3 times and it's on myatt.com. The rep said it's because I'm still a month in contract, but I bought the phone outright, no contract or NEXT

6. scsa852k

Posts: 331; Member since: Oct 16, 2012

If you're on installment plan with T-Mobile, you can't unlock your device until it's fully paid. Which is the most important note considering most of their postpaid customers are now under EIP.

7. SemperFiV12

Posts: 949; Member since: Nov 09, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen... PROGRESS.

10. gryvnak

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 08, 2015

So great, but for example if your iPhone locked under AT&T and yours previos iPhone owner dosn't pay it you will cant unlock it, because your iPhone will be in blacklist. Any way some of online services provide blacklist unlock...

11. zxcvb

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 15, 2015

The lumia 635 phone that is bought comes with at&t prepaid, but the coverage is too bad now the phone is useless. Can I pop in net 10 sim card and use it ?

12. BROWN

Posts: 24; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

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13. emike

Posts: 1; Member since: May 24, 2015

I found the easiest way to unlock sprint phones, you CAN EVEN UNLOCK BLACKLISTED trough sprint customer support chat. Here is the link with link shortener: goo.gl/o9PhJp

14. Stephenseven

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 13, 2015

Thank you emike! They have unlocked my iphone 6 in about 24h.!! Wow. I saw the link is not working anymore so if anybody needs it i've uploaded again: ow.ly/OgAmK

15. steelew

Posts: 219; Member since: Jun 04, 2012

I'm on try number 3 with AT&T. I bought my phone outright at bestbuy for use on straight talk and eventhough it is the AT&T model, they keep giving me the Unfortunately, your unlock request was denied because: The IMEI number #### you entered does not match a device compatible with the AT&T network. If you think this is an error, recheck your IMEI number by dialing *#06# and submit a new request. I'm still trying though. F'n AT&T, I'm so glad I left that POS carrier.

16. ThomasJennings

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 01, 2015

For all having any difficulty unlocking Sprint phones, all that's necessary to complete is head to sprintunlockiphone.(com), we can unlock all Sprint phones.

17. Ramir

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 24, 2015

HI if you like to UNLOCK YOUR SPRINT IPHONE in the fastest way, head to the official sprint unlock chat : ow.ly/Q33fU - They will unlock ANY sprint iphone in 1-3 days EVEN the BLACKLISTED ones !!!

19. liubdevzaitzev

Posts: 1; Member since: Dec 23, 2015

I've managed to get a free code from these guys mobiledownloadapps. com/get-your-free-code-completely-free/ it did not work at the beginning but the support is good and finnally i unlocked my fathers phone

20. martyrayen

Posts: 6; Member since: Jan 25, 2016

you can unlock your phone by contact sprint customer care or use online unlocking service for unlock your phone.

21. martyrayen

Posts: 6; Member since: Jan 25, 2016

unlock phone locked on any network and use any network in the world

22. martyrayen

Posts: 6; Member since: Jan 25, 2016

informative post

23. martyrayen

Posts: 6; Member since: Jan 25, 2016

i recently search for same problem. It helps a lot.

28. nasgen15

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 17, 2016

Try to read this blog post to Unlock your Samsung Spritn phone blog.unlockbase.com/samsung-sprint-unlock/ Hope it can help you. ;)

30. jimmyjason

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 22, 2017

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31. jimmyjason

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 22, 2017

my provider refuse me to provide code for my att samsung galaxy s6 edge then i tried this one attunlockcode.com and it really works, price is normal. my experience was good with them.

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