How to Check if an iPhone is Unlocked

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Most people purchase a phone through their phone provider, but that tends to result in a phone locked to that specific network. If you buy an iPhone through a third party, you may find yourself in possession of an unlocked iPhone, which can swap cell networks as easily as swapping SIM cards. If you aren't sure if your phone is locked or unlocked, here's how you can check.

How to Check If an iPhone Is Unlocked in the Settings Menu

This method isn't always accurate. 

  1. Open the Settings on your iPhone.

  2. Tap Cellular > Cellular Data Options.

  3. Look for an option called "Cellular Data Network" or "Mobile Data Network." If you see either one of these options, your phone is most likely unlocked. If you don't see these options, your phone is most likely locked. 

How to Check If an iPhone Is Unlocked via a SIM Card

SIM card in a device
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If you travel overseas, your phone isn't going to work unless you have a truly excellent service plan. The easier and more affordable option is to swap your existing SIM card for a local SIM. This will give you a new phone number to use in that country, but will grant you the ability to use your phone and data on the road.

  1. The first step is to power off your iPhone.

    Removing a SIM card while the device is powered on can damage the phone and the SIM.

  2. Locate the SIM card on your iPhone. Look for a small circular opening about the size of a pinhole.

  3. Use a SIM card ejector tool to remove the iPhone's SIM card. These tools simplify the process of removing a SIM card, but you can also use a safety pin or a paperclip.

  4. Look at how your existing SIM card fits into the tray. Set it to the side in a safe location and place the new SIM card into the tray in the same fashion.

  5. Re-insert the tray into the iPhone. Press until you hear a soft click.

    SIM tray on an iPhone
     nerosu / Getty Images
  6. Power the iPhone back on.

  7. Try to make a call. If your iPhone is able to connect to the network with a new SIM, then it's unlocked. If your phone is unable to connect to the network, then your device is locked. There are several ways to get around this, such as contacting your carrier and asking them to unlock the device, or using a third-party service. 

    Some carriers may charge to unlock a device. However, certain areas have legislation requiring companies to unlock mobile devices free of charge.

  8. You're done!

How to Check If an iPhone is Unlocked Using an IMEI Service

Your phone has an IMEI (international mobile equipment identifier) number that is a tell-all for any information relating to the device.

There are multiple online services that will scan databases of IMEI numbers and tell you whether your iPhone is unlocked or not. However, most are paid services, the free services aren't always reliable, and both are sometimes inaccurate.

  1. Find the service you want to use. One of the most reliable paid services is IMEI Info, but it costs $2.99 per IMEI number search. A free option is IMEI24, but your results may vary — the service might even time out before it can return results.

  2. On your iPhone and tap Settings > General

  3. Tap About and scroll down to the IMEI number. This appears just below the serial number, Wi-Fi address, and Bluetooth information.

    General, About, IMEI sections of iOS Settings app
  4. Enter your IMEI number into the search bar of the IMEI service you chose.

  5. Select Check and fill out any verification information the website requires. It will then attempt to match your IMEI number again those stored in the databases.

  6. If you entered your number correctly, you'll be able to see a lot of information about your phone, including the production date, the carrier it's attached to, whether it's locked or not, and more. The IMEI number will also reveal whether or not a device is stolen.