How to Unlock an LG Phone

Don't settle for a locked phone

One of the common issues with some smartphones, especially if you want to hand them down or sell them off, is that often they're “locked” to a specific carrier. This means they'll only work on that carrier's network. But unlocking your LG phone is much simpler than you might expect, provided you do a little homework. This will work for any LG device that accepts a SIM card, not just smartphones.

What distinguishes GSM phones from CDMA phones is a removable SIM card, so these instructions will work for any LG Phone with a SIM card.

Why Is My Phone Locked?

Most carriers take a loss selling you a phone (even very expensive premium phones), so they attempt to make up the difference with your phone contract. Phone locking prevents you from buying a phone, canceling your contract, and jumping ship to another carrier leaving the first carrier in debt (so to speak).

That said, most networks will unlock any phone, your LG included, if you ask. While specifics vary from carrier to carrier, as a rule of thumb you'll need to be caught up on all outstanding bills and they'll have to get approval from the account holder, so if you're on a family plan, you'll need to have the person whose name is on the account handy.

Can I Unlock My LG Phone?

Unlocking your LG depends on the phone's basic architecture. There are two types:

You can figure out which is which by popping open the back: If there's a SIM card, then you have a GSM phone. At the time of this writing, T-Mobile, AT&T, and any company with a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) agreement with them are GSM devices. The SIM card is where certain basic data about your phone, like your phone number, lives; this is how you can buy a new phone, pop in your SIM, and have the same phone number.

CDMA phones are different; the number is effectively hard-wired into the device. Technically speaking, CDMA phones aren't locked, but CDMA and GSM don't “talk” to each other, so it's a moot point. Check your LG phone's manual to see if it's a “hybrid” phone, that can talk to both networks. If it is, you can unlock it.

How to Unlock an LG Phone

If you have an LG phone with a removable SIM card, then it's easy to unlock the device so you can use it with a different carrier. Here's how:

  1. Find your IMEI number. Think of the IMEI as your phone's global identity; it's a number unique to your device that identifies it. To find it, open your Settings app and go to General > About Phone > Status.  

    Screenshots showing the IMEI number location on LG phones.
  2. Once you have the IMEI, contact your network provider. They'll ask for your identity and the IMEI of your device. They'll need to check to ensure the IMEI isn't “blocklisted,” usually due to being reported stolen or due to unpaid bills.

  3. When that's cleared, request an unlock. They'll either perform the unlock for you remotely, or direct you to download an app that will go through the unlock process.  

  4. If you're changing providers, contact your new network and ask them if there's anything else they need from you. Depending on your phone, you may need a new SIM card or to bring the device to a storefront to complete the process.