How to Unlock an iPhone

First, you'll need to contact your current carrier

What to Know

  • Contact phone company > request unlock > wait a few days > remove SIM card > insert new phone company SIM.
  • To check if your iPhone is unlocked: Settings > General > About > Carrier Lock > No SIM Restrictions.
  • Unlocking your iPhone means you're free to switch phone companies without having to buy a new phone.

This article explains what it means when an iPhone is "locked" to a phone company, how to unlock your iPhone, why you may want to consider it, and how to know if your iPhone is unlocked.

How to Unlock Your iPhone From a Carrier

Your iPhone may be "locked" to your current phone company. This means your iPhone is configured to only work with a company's network and you can't switch phone companies without switching phones—or unlocking the phone. (In this case, "unlocking" refers to a connection to a phone company, not using a passcode to access your iPhone.)

Phones are locked to phone companies when you're under contract or are paying a monthly plan to buy the phone (you can buy unlocked phones from Apple, among others). If you want to start using your phone with another phone company, you may qualify to unlock your iPhone if:

  • You've fulfilled the terms of any discount or promotion applied when you got your phone.
  • Your installments for buying the phone are fully paid.
  • Your phone number has been active for at least 40 days (for some carriers, it's 60 days).
  • Your account is in good standing.
  • The phone has not been reported stolen.
  • You don't request unlocking too often.
  • The phone is used with a pre-paid plan, there may be additional conditions.

If you meet those conditions, follow these steps to unlock your iPhone from a carrier:

Want to check whether your iPhone is already unlocked? Go to Settings > General > About > Carrier Lock. If "No SIM Restrictions" is present, that means your iPhone is unlocked.

  1. Contact your current phone company to request an unlock. Here's information on unlocking for each major carrier in the U.S.:

    Phone companies in other countries should have similar pages on their websites.

    Third-party apps claim to be able to unlock your iPhone, but only your carrier can actually unlock a phone from its network.

  2. It may take a few days to complete the unlocking process. Check with your phone company for updates or wait to hear from them.

    After the unlock is complete, you can keep using your iPhone with your current phone company (if so, you're done!) or move to another phone company whenever you want.

  3. If you want to change phone companies, remove your phone's SIM card by pushing the end of a paper clip (or Apple's SIM Removal Tool) into the SIM card tray's access hole. All recent iPhones have the SIM tray on the phone's right or left edge.

    If you have an iPhone 14 or higher, your phone doesn't have a physical SIM Card. It uses a digital eSIM. Apple has extensive instructions on how to switch carriers on phones that use eSIMs.

  4. When the SIM tray pops out, fully remove it and take out the SIM card. Insert a new SIM card from the phone company you want to move to.

  5. The phone should activate on the new company's network (assuming you already signed up for new service). You'll see an onscreen message. Try placing a call to confirm your phone is activated.

In some cases, you could have some problems after inserting a new SIM. If you do, check out our tips on fixing SIM card errors on iPhones.

Reasons to Unlock Your iPhone

The only reason to unlock your iPhone is so you can keep your current phone and move to a new phone company. You may be happy with your phone (or at least not interested in spending hundreds to get a new one) and want to take advantage of better coverage or better rates offered by another company.

Unlocking an iPhone doesn't offer any other benefits—it's not the same as jailbreaking, for instance—but keeping your phone while choosing a new phone company is reason enough.

Using an iPhone With More Than One Phone Company

If you have an iPhone XS or newer and your iPhone is unlocked, you can use two phone numbers from two different phone companies on your iPhone at the same time!

That's because these models add a second, all-digital eSIM in addition to the physical SIM card (starting with the iPhone 14, there's no physical SIM at all). This means one iPhone can have one number for personal use and another for business calls. You can also add a temporary local number while traveling in other countries.

This only works on unlocked iPhones. On locked phones, both phone numbers need to be from the same phone company. Learn all about using two phone numbers and eSIMs from Apple.

  • How do I unlock an iPhone without a passcode?

    To unlock an iPhone without a passcode, you'll have to erase the iPhone and set it up from scratch. Connect the iPhone to your computer and put it in iPhone Recovery Mode. Follow the prompts on your computer and select Restore. Follow the instructions to restore a backup and set up a new passcode.

  • How do I unlock my iPhone with an Apple Watch?

    To unlock your iPhone with a paired Apple Watch, open the Settings app on your iPhone and select Face ID & Passcode. Scroll down and enable Unlock With Apple Watch. Your Apple Watch must be unlocked, close to your iPhone, and have a passcode enabled to be able to unlock your iPhone.

  • How do I unlock screen rotation on an iPhone?

    If your screen rotation is locked and the iPhone screen isn't rotating as you want it to, you need to unlock the feature. Launch the Control Center and tap the Portrait Orientation Lock button to turn it off. Tap it again (it will become red) to turn it on.

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