Wireless Service

Knowing If Your Phone is Unlocked (and the Methods to Do It)

Sara Nuss
October 21, 2022

Getting a new phone can be a blessing, especially when it comes to all of the upgraded capabilities that a lot of new smartphones offer nowadays. From high-speed 5G data, hotspot capabilities, fast loading times, and other newer features, getting a new smartphone has a lot to offer, but what happens if you get your phone through one carrier and you decide to make the switch to another?

There are often times where your phone can be locked if you’re still making payments on it through one carrier. If you’re looking to make the switch from a carrier such as Verizon to AT&T, Verizon can “lock” your phone so it won’t be able to work on any other carrier’s service, meaning you might not be able to make the switch as quickly as you’d like.

If you’re wondering if there are ways to see if your phone is locked or unlocked, then you’re in luck because it’s not as difficult as you may think! Stop what you’re doing and learn more about how to know if your phone is unlocked or not so you can switch over to another carrier!

There is a lot to cover in this article on topics you may not be aware of, so we’re going to cover everything from:

  • What is an unlocked phone?
  • How to know if your phone is unlocked
  • What to do if your phone is locked

What is an Unlocked Phone?

Knowing what an unlocked phone is is extremely important to be able to get ahead on the process!

Knowing if your phone is locked or unlocked is important, but it’s also essential to know what that really means. Image courtesy of 9 to 5 Mac. 

Have you ever heard of the reference to an unlocked phone? While many people want to automatically assume it means if your phone is unlocked to be able to use it is a good guess, it’s completely different from what we’re actually talking about. An unlocked phone can mean two different things, one being able to access all of the apps and other features your phone offers, the other being if your phone can be switched over to different carriers.

Knowing what it means to have an unlocked phone is important just in case you’re looking to make the switch from one major phone provider to another, and knowing if you can use the same phone you currently own as well. 

Here is some more information about an unlocked phone and what exactly this means!

The Basics: What is an Unlocked Phone?

To continue to dive into this unlocked phone issue, we’ll make sure by the end of it, you understand how important it can be to know what kind of phone you have and how to differentiate an unlocked and locked phone from one another. 

An unlocked phone is when your phone is contracted to one specific carrier, such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or even T-Mobile. If you still have a contract with any of these three major phone providers and you continue to make monthly payments on your phone, then the carrier “locks” the phone so you won’t be able to use the phone on another carrier if you decide to make the switch.

If you use plans that don’t have long-term contracts, or aren’t tied to a specific carrier, then you may never have to worry about your phone being locked. You then will have the freedom to switch phones and plans as much as you like without having to wait for it to be unlocked. 

It is important to know that whether your phone is locked or unlocked, this can happen on iPhones, Androids, and even Google phones as well and there are plenty of ways to find out through the settings of whatever phone you have how to know if it is locked or unlocked. If you have a phone that isn’t tied to any major carrier, you can also enjoy some extra space on your phone without the carrier applications that many phones are sold with. 

What Are the Benefits to Having an Unlocked Phone?

There are a ton of reasons why having an unlocked phone is ideal besides what we previously mentioned above. If you are someone who has an unlocked phone, there are a lot of extra things that you can do with your phone that you can’t do if it is locked, so why not mention a couple of them!

Save More Money on Plans and More

The great thing about unlocked cell phones is that you can save some money if you own one and use it instead of a locked phone through a carrier. While some unlocked phones may cost more upfront, you can enjoy some great benefits over time, such as being able to use older voice, text, and data plans that cost less money.

Perfect if You Need a Phone to Use While Traveling

Are you someone who loves to travel and you need a new phone in order to do so? If so, then purchasing an unlocked phone is one of the best things that you can do while you’re abroad. There is a lot of flexibility involved whenever you are using an unlocked phone for traveling overseas because you can avoid a lot of roaming rates if you were on a normal carrier. You can also pay local rates to the individuals that live in the country you’re visiting too.

SIM Cards Are Easy to Access

If you are looking for a new alternative when it comes to cell phones, making sure you have an unlocked phone is important for so many reasons. You can activate these phones by using a SIM card and there are a ton of cards to get that include different plans when it comes to talking, texting, and data, and it’s super easy to take them out and replace them. You can also purchase prepaid SIM cards, or even get one through a phone carrier as well through tech stores such as Best Buy. 

How to Know if Your Phone is Unlocked

Knowing how to distinguish a locked phone is important, but also how to check if it is just as important too!

Getting to know your phone a little bit more and how to check if it is locked or unlocked is just as important. Image courtesy of iGeeksBlog.

Are you someone who is wondering if they have a locked or unlocked phone and are wondering if you can check before you can (hopefully) make the switch to a new carrier? It is important to know the status of your phone and also how to check it as well so you know if you’re able to make the switch.

If you are someone who is wondering how you can physically check by yourself if your phone is locked or unlocked, no matter what kind of phone that you have, there are a couple ways to check.

Here is a breakdown on how to check the status of your phone whether you have an iPhone or Android, and some extra information too!

How to Know if Your Phone is Locked For iPhones

If you have an iPhone, there is a really easy way to find out if your phone is unlocked or not so it can help you make the best decision for you when it comes to switching carriers and more. 

Just following these simple steps can help if your phone is unlocked:

  1. Unlock iPhone
  2. Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data

You can also try out this method as well to make sure:

  1. Unlock iPhone
  2. Go to Settings > General > About
  3. Scroll to the bottom
  4. Look at the “Carrier Lock” option
  5. If it says “No SIM restrictions,” then your phone is unlocked

If you see a carrier listed, such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint, with the Cellular Data button turned on, then your phone is locked, but if don’t see any of this, then your phone is unlocked and you’ll be able to get a SIM card to activate a new plan with no contracts, and so much more.

How to Know if Your Phone is Locked for Androids

While iPhones are known for having a simple and easy interface where the settings are the same regardless what version of the iPhone you have, Androids can be a little bit trickier. Androids can look different depending on the model and version of the phone that you have, but you can still find what you are looking for by just simply going to the settings.

If you have an Android, just follow these steps to see if your phone is unlocked:

  1. Unlock Android
  2. Go to Settings > Connections > Mobile Networks > Network Operators 
  3. Tap “Search Now” to see if the names of other carriers pop up
  4. If multiple carriers pop up, then your phone is unlocked

Another Easy Method to See if Your Phone is Unlocked

There are a ton of ways to see if your phone is unlocked as well with just one simple step that will take you about five minutes to do. If your phone has a SIM card that you physically insert into your phone, then take out the one that you have from your current carrier, and pop in another one from a different carrier.

If you are able to make a phone call using both SIM cards, then your phone is unlocked and your phone will work with multiple SIM cards from any carrier. 

Contact Your Carrier

One of the easiest routes that you can take when it comes to figuring out if your phone is able to be unlocked or not is to simply call your phone carrier. There are a bunch of different carriers that have the ability to be able to lock your phone including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Metro, Cricket Wireless, Mint Mobile, Straight Talk, Boost Mobile, and more. 

All you need to do is call the customer service carrier and give them the information that they need and they’ll be able to provide you with what you need to know to see if you are able to switch carriers, if that’s what you wish to do.

What to Do if Your Phone is Locked

Have you been wondering what you should do if your phone is locked? It’s important to consider your options!

Make sure to consider your options for when your phone is locked so you know what next steps to take just in case you can’t switch carriers right away. Image courtesy of MacWorld. 

The best case scenario if you’re looking to sign a contract with a new carrier is that your phone is unlocked and other SIM cards and carriers support it, but in some cases it may be the opposite and your phone may be locked. This can be a big inconvenience for a lot of people and something that can be super annoying, but there are ways around this. 

Calling your current carrier is among one of the many things that you can do just to make sure that your phone has the capability to be unlocked, and so much more. If you are wondering what you should do if your phone is locked, here is some of the best advice we have to offer you!

Request Your Phone to be Unlocked

There are a ton of different things to do whenever your phone is locked and you’re looking to switch carriers. One of the best things that you can do, that may not always work, but is worth a shot is to put in a request to your own phone carrier to unlock your phone.

This is something that you’ll have to get a hold of customer service for and you’ll need to get a couple things together before you get on the phone with someone. You will need to have your phone number, your password to your account, your phone’s IMEI numbers, and a couple other basic things as well. This is what you’ll need to unlock your phone if your major carrier is one of the four main carrier companies.

It should also be known that if your phone is currently lost, stolen, or involved in some illegal or fraudulent activities, then your phone provider will not unlock it and there are also a few stipulations for many major phone companies that you need to follow and be actively doing before you are able to have it unlocked.

Some things that you should do or be doing to have better chances on getting your phone unlocked include:

  • Don’t have a past-due balance
  • Can’t be active on another account through the same carrier
  • Account must be in good standing
  • Device must be sold by the carrier you bought it from 
  • Depending on the company, phone may be locked for sixty days after activation

How Long Does it Take For Your Phone Carrier to Unlock Your Phone?

After you initially put in your request to unlock your phone, you may be wondering how long you have to wait for it to finally be unlocked. If you meet all of the requirements and if your phone is approved to be unlocked it could take anywhere from one to two business days. Once this is done, you can take it to another carrier that you wish to set up your device with without any issues at all. 

How Much Does it Cost to Unlock Your Phone?

If you are looking to unlock your phone through your carrier, it’s important to think about if this may cost you while you’re in the process. Most carriers, if your initial contract is up, will unlock your phone for free or little-to-nothing, which is a great thing for a lot of people who are not wanting to spend any more money on their current phone plan and to switch to a new carrier. 

Almost all of the phone companies out there will do this service for free so you don’t have to worry about paying anything. Also, if your contract with your current carrier is up and if your phone is paid off, this is a better chance for you to not be able to pay anything and for them to unlock your phone ASAP.

Unlocking your phone, although we tend to think it just means getting access to all of your  apps, texting people back, checking social media, and so much more, but there are two different ways to describe unlocking your phone. 

Being able to gain access from your carrier to unlock your phone is something that a lot of people wish to do to be able to switch to other carriers. Make sure you get to know how to unlock your phone, and even what to do if it is locked.

Sara Nuss
Sara Nuss is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in wireless, dewi, phone plan advice & blockchain.