How to Unlock a Phone From Any Carrier

T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Boost, and U.S. Cellular all have different processes

What to Know

  • Each mobile carrier has its own processes and policies for unlocking phones.
  • Most carriers require that your account is in good standing and the phone hasn't been reported lost or stolen.
  • iPhones and Androids may have different unlocking procedures even on the same carrier.

This article explains how to unlock smartphones on T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Boost Mobile, and U.S. Cellular networks.

How to Unlock a T-Mobile Phone

To unlock a phone on the T-Mobile network, you must meet the following device guidelines:

  • Own a T-Mobile device that has been active on the T-Mobile network for at least 40 days. You may need to show T-Mobile proof of purchase.
  • The associated device and account must be paid-in-full and considered in good standing.
  • The phone can not have been reported lost, stolen, or blocked.
  • Prepaid devices must have been active for a year or used more than $100 in refills.
  • In the past 12 months, you must have made two or fewer unlock requests.

If you meet all these conditions, follow this process to unlock your T-Mobile phone. iPhone and Android instructions differ:

Unlock an iPhone on the T-Mobile Network

  1. Ensure your iPhone is eligible for unlocking: sign in to your T-Mobile account via a web browser, then select Check device unlock status. You'll see your iPhone's unlocked status displayed.

  2. If the device is eligible for unlocking, contact T-Mobile directly. Call 611 from a T-Mobile device or call customer support at 877-746-0909.

  3. Customer support will submit the unlock request. They may send you an unlock code. Once your account status shows that your device is unlocked, insert your new SIM and follow the set up prompts.

Unlock an Android Device on the T-Mobile Network

Check to see if your device has the T-Mobile Device Unlock app. This app comes preinstalled only on supported devices like the Google Pixel. Launch the app and follow the prompts to unlock your device.

If the device doesn't have the T-Mobile Device Unlock app, follow these steps:

  1. Open your Apps list and select Settings.

    • For Samsung phones, go to Connections > More Connection Settings > Network Unlock.
    • For LG phones, go to Network & internet > Mobile networks > Network unlock > Continue.
    • For OnePlus phones, go to Wi-Fi & internet > SIM & network >  Advanced or Network Unlock.
    • For Motorola phones, go to About phone > Device unlock > Continue.
  2. Select Permanent Unlock, wait while the device performs the unlock process, and restart the device.

If you have a Metro by T-Mobile prepaid phone, check to see if it has the preinstalled Device Unlock app; if so, use the app to unlock your device. Metro by T-Mobile prepaid iPhones will be automatically unlocked when they're eligible.

How to Unlock a Verizon Phone

Verizon only locks devices for 60 days after purchase. After that, Verizon automatically removes the lock. Unlike most other carriers, there's no process to undertake to unlock your Verizon phone. Consult Verizon's device-locking FAQs to learn more.

How to Unlock an AT&T Phone

To unlock a phone on the AT&T network, you must meet the following device guidelines:

  • The phone must be designed for use on the AT&T network.
  • The phone can not have been reported as lost or stolen, or involved in any type of fraud.
  • You must be completely up-to-date on all service commitments and installment plans.
  • Early termination fees must be paid in full. If not, you'll have to pay off all your fees and retry the process in 48 hours.
  • The phone can't be active on another AT&T customer's account.
  • Prepaid devices must have been active for six months.
  • For business devices, you'll need your company's permission.

If you meet all these conditions, follow this process to unlock your AT&T phone:

  1. Go to AT&T's Unlock Your Device website and select Unlock Your Device.

    AT&T device unlock page with Unlock Your Device highlighted
  2. Enter your 10-digit mobile number (or your AT&T device's IMEI number if you've already switched carriers) and submit the form. Select Next to continue.

    AT&T Unlock page with mobile phone field highlighted

    If you don't know your IMEI number, call *#06# on your device to retrieve it.

  3. AT&T will send you a confirmation email. Select the link in the email within 24 hours.

  4. AT&T will send you unlocking instructions or codes via text or email within two business days.

    Instructions and codes vary by device. For example, iPhones don't require an unlock code; once your unlocking is approved, just remove your SIM card and insert the new SIM card.

  5. To view the status of your unlock request, return to the AT&T Unlock Your Device page and select Check Your Unlock Status.

    AT&T Device Unlock page with Check Your Unlock Status highlighted

How to Unlock a Boost Mobile Phone

Note that Boost Mobile absorbed most Virgin Mobile customers. To unlock a Boost Mobile phone, you must meet the following guidelines:

  • Your account must be paid up and in good standing.
  • Your device must have been active for at least 12 months.
  • Your device can not have been reported lost or stolen.
  • You must have a Boost Mobile device that is SIM-unlock-capable.

If your device meets eligibility requirements for unlocking, call the company at 888-402-7366 to make an unlock request.

DISH has acquired Boost Mobile, so the unlocking process may have additional requirements in the future.

How to Unlock a U.S. Cellular Phone

Most U.S. Cellular phones have been sold unlocked since 2016. However, if you have an older device, contact U.S. Cellular’s customer service at 611 or call 888-944-9400 to request an unlock code.

Unlocking a phone before you've completed the agreed-upon service contract may result in early termination fees.

  • What does unlocking a phone mean?

    Unlocking a phone allows it to accept a SIM card from a different carrier so the user can make phone calls, send text messages, and use the new carrier's mobile network.

  • How do I find SIM cards for unlocked phones?

    You can buy prepaid SIM cards from third-party sellers, which comes in handy if you travel internationally. That way, you can buy a SIM card with a phone number local to the country you'll be visiting so that you can make calls without paying international rates.

  • What are third-party lock-breakers?

    Third-party lock-breakers are IMEI companies that unlock your phone from your carrier for a fee. You may opt for this legal service if you're having trouble unlocking your phone via your carrier. Always read reviews of these services to ensure they're legitimate and trusted. Doctor Sim is a well-reviewed service for Androids, and Direct Unlocks is popular for iPhones.

  • Can you buy an unlocked phone?

    Yes. But there are considerations with buying an unlocked phone, such as not having access to all the carrier's features if you use a phone the carrier didn't provide. Unlocked phones also come with high upfront costs. You'll need to decide if the freedom to switch carriers is worth it for you.

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