Happy with your iPhone, but want to switch providers? Perhaps you don’t like their customer service, or the tariff isn’t right for you. Whatever your reason, switching iPhone network providers has some huge benefits:
- Save money and get better deals on tariffs
- Keep your old mobile number
- Perfect for travelling, especially when switching SIMs
Before you can enjoy the benefits of switching networks, you’ll need to check whether your current iPhone is locked, then unlock it.
Some iPhones are easier to unlock than others, depending on the network service provider. Newer iPhone models like the iPhone 7 7s, 8 and X are already unlocked. So, if you’re using an iPhone 7 or a earlier model (iPhone 5, 6, 6s), it’s probably locked. Don’t worry; we’ll talk you through the steps so you can unlock your iPhone quickly and easily.
Is it legal to unlock my iPhone?
Despite what you might think, unlocking your iPhone is completely legal as long as you own the device. But, If you’re still paying for your iPhone through a contract, we advise you to check with your carrier before attempting to unlock it. More on this later.
Read below to find out whether your iPhone is locked, and how to unlock it.
How do I find out if my iPhone is locked?
If you purchased your iPhone 5, 6, or 6s direct from the Apple Store, it’s unlocked by default, which means swapping SIMs from any network is easy. Give it a try!
If you bought your iPhone 5, 6, or 6s as part of a contract, your phone is likely to be locked, and you will need to contact your service provider to unlock it (details on how to do this below).
To find out if your iPhone is locked, just follow these simple steps:
- Make sure you have two SIM cards to hand, one should be the one you own, the other from a different network
- Make a phone call using your current SIM card. Make sure it connects
- Turn off your iPhone
- Use the SIM-card ejector tool to remove the SIM card from the iPhone
- Insert your new SIM card
- Turn on your iPhone
- Make a phone call using the new SIM
If you fail to make a phone call with your new SIM, then the iPhone is locked. If your iPhone is locked, you’re likely to see an error message such as “Invalid SIM,” “SIM Card Not Accepted,” or “Insert Correct SIM Card.”
If you don’t have a SIM card from an alternate provider, you can check if your iPhone is locked in the settings menu. To do this, you will need a working iPhone.
- Open Settings
- Mobile Data > Mobile Data Options. (or ‘Mobile’ and ‘Cellular’ in older versions of iOS)
- Check for an option named Mobile Data Network (or Cellular Data Network)
If you see an option for Mobile Data Network, then your iPhone is most likely unlocked. This option will not be available for locked iPhones.
By now, you should know if you’re phone is locked or unlocked. If your iPhone is unlocked, then great. You can start to use your new SIM right away. If your iPhone is locked, we discuss how to unlock it, below.
Contact your network provider to unlock your iPhone
Contacting your network service provider to unlock your iPhone 6 (remember that any phone made after the iPhone 6 is already unlocked) is by far the safest and easiest way. We’ve highlighted the UK’s most popular network carriers and the method for unlocking your iPhone.
Scroll down to find your specific carrier and the process of unlocking your device.
How to unlock my iPhone from EE (Orange and T Mobile)
If you’ve been an EE, Orange or T-Mobile customer for six months, EE will unlock your iPhone for the price of £8.99. Providing you have a good record and have paid all your bills.
Pay as you go customers can unlock their phones for the same price (£8.99) providing they have enough credit to pay the fee.
If you purchased your iPhone second hand and it is locked to EE, You’ll need the original owner’s name and EE phone number to unlock it. It’s not always possible to get your hands on these details, in which case you will need to use a third-party provider (more on this below).
How to unlock your iPhone from O2
To unlock your iPhone from O2, you will need to fill in an online form. This can take up to 72 hours.
Pay monthly customers can unlock their iPhone at any time. This does not mean your contract will be cancelled, and you’ll still have to pay monthly as usual.
Pay as you go O2 customers will need to wait 12 months before they can unlock their iPhone, for a fee of £15.
How to unlock your iPhone from Vodafone
Vodafone customers can unlock their iPhones for free by completing the online unlocking form. It could take up to 48 hours to receive confirmation and a further ten days to unlock the SIM.
If you have purchased a second-hand iPhone which is locked to Vodafone, you will need the details of the previous owner (name and phone number).
How to unlock your iPhone from Three
If you purchased your iPhone from Three after 1 January 2014, it is automatically unlocked once you connect it to iTunes or WIFI.
However, if you purchased your iPhone before 1 January 2014, you will need to restore the device using iTunes to unlock it. This can be done by simply connecting your iPhone to iTunes. Be warned: restoring your iPhone will wipe all data, so make sure you back up everything before you start.
How to unlock your iPhone from Virgin Mobile
Virgin Mobile won’t charge you to unlock your iPhone. But, you will have to meet certain requirements. You must be a Virgin customer with a good standing online account, and the device must be locked to the Virgin network. Once you ask Virgin to unlock your iPhone, they’ll issue you with an unlock code. Earlier iPhone models will automatically be unlocked.
How to unlock your iPhone from Tesco Mobile
If you have a pay monthly contract with Tesco Mobile that has been active for over 12 months, unlocking your iPhone is free. However, if you’re a pay as you go SIM holder or you’ve had a pay monthly contract less than 12 months, Tesco Mobile will unlock your iPhone for £10. It can take up to 20 days to unlock your iPhone, depending on the model.
How to unlock your iPhone from Giffgaff
Unlocking your iPhone with giffgaff is easy; use their online ‘Unlockapedia’ to search for your device and you’ll find options and reviews on unlocking your phone.
Using third-party services to unlock your iPhone
As mentioned above, if you purchased your iPhone second-hand, some network providers will only allow you to unlock your iPhone if you have specific information about the previous owner of the device.
Using a third-party iPhone unlocking service is a way of getting around this. Many retailers offer this service for various prices, usually around the £20 mark.
Online iPhone unlocking services are available, but these aren’t always reputable places, and we would urge to be cautious. Online services are usually quicker than other retailers, so if you do decide to use one, make sure to read the small print to avoid any nasty surprises, like hidden charges.
Mobile network provider, GiffGaff, offer free, impartial advice to help you unlock your iPhone. Use the drop-down menu to check if there’s a free way to unlock your device.
How much does it cost to unlock my iPhone?
Hopefully, your network provider should unlock your iPhone for free (if you’re paying for a contract or a pay as you go customer). Some networks—like EE and O2—charge between £5 and £18. Third-party companies could charge up to £25. Remember to shop around for quotes; you could save money!
What happens after I’ve unlocked my iPhone?
You will receive a confirmation from your iPhone’s network provider once your device has been unlocked. Follow the steps below to get everything up and running.
- Turn off your iPhone
- Remove the existing SIM card using the SIM card tool
- Replace the existing SIM with the new one (from a different network)
- Insert the new SIM card into the iPhone
- Turn on your iPhone
- Make a phone call to check if your new SIM is connected
If you can successfully make a phone call, then your phone is unlocked. If you have any trouble connecting your new SIM, speak to your network service provider.
How to unlock your iPhone without the original SIM card?
You can request to unlock your iPhone without the original SIM, but there are certain things you need to do before it can be unlocked. We’ve detailed the steps below.
- Request an unlock code from your service provider
- Back up your iPhone. You can do this by connecting your device to iTunes via a computer or on your iPhone (Settings > Click on your name > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups > Choose your device > Choose data to backup)
- Restore your iPhone. To do this click on Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings
- Complete the setup assistant and restore your iPhone using the backup
You must complete the setup assistant and restore from the backup you created. Once this has been achieved, insert your new SIM card.
Congratulations! Your iPhone is now unlocked
Unlocking your phone and switching providers has plenty benefits from saving you money on new tariffs, to better customer service. And depending on your circumstance, you can unlock your iPhone 5, 6, 6s relatively easily as most UK network providers offer a free unlocking service.
Once you’ve successfully switched networks; you might need to transfer or sync your existing contacts. We’ve written a handy guide on how to transfer your contacts to an iPhone—take a look.
Enjoy using your unlocked iPhone on any network!