- When you unlock a phone, it means that you alone own the device and can use it with any cell phone carrier.
- Every major cell phone carrier allows you to unlock a phone, and a standard requirement is that you’ve paid all of your bills.
- The steps to unlock your phone differ by carrier, but usually involve calling your current carrier or using a special website.
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If you bought your phone from a cell phone carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile, there’s a good chance that you don’t actually own that phone. If you’re still paying monthly bills for it, or just have it locked to the network, the phone carrier has some say over it.
That’s where unlocking comes in. When you unlock your phone, you get full ownership of the device. This means that you can then switch cell phone carriers without having to buy a new device.
Although every carrier has a slightly different unlocking process, they’re all similar. Here’s how to unlock your phone, no matter which carrier you’re signed up with.
How to unlock your phone
Meet the prerequisites
Before you can unlock your phone, you’ll need to fulfill a few terms.
- If you bought your phone on an installment plan, you need to pay off the entire device (the only carrier that explicitly doesn’t require this is Verizon).
- Your phone can’t be reported as lost or stolen, and your account with the carrier needs to be in “good standing.”
- You’re current with all of your phone bills, and don’t have any past-due balances.
Request the unlock
If you’ve met all the terms and conditions required by your carrier, you can ask for the unlock. Again, every carrier makes you go through a slightly different process – for example, AT&T has an online portal you need to fill out – but you can’t go wrong by calling your carrier’s customer service line. Worst case scenario, they point you in the right direction.
If you call and they tell you that you’re eligible for an unlock, request it. It might take a few days, but once your request is processed, you’ll receive a confirmation email or letter. While you’re waiting for that confirmation, keep your SIM card in your phone.
Once you’ve unlocked your phone, you can feel free to cancel your carrier contract and move to another company. All you’ll need to do at that point is switch out the SIM card in your phone.