How to Unlock Your Phone From Any Major Carrier
Switching to a new cell phone service provider can save you big money—and you don’t have to leave your phone behind when you do it. But before making the change, you may have to unlock your phone from your current carrier’s network, so it will work on the new one.
Unlocking a phone can also make things easier when you’re traveling abroad or trying to get the most money back when selling it.
It isn’t hard to unlock your phone—and it’s completely legal and free—but a little help can go a long way, because the process varies from phone to phone and carrier to carrier.
If you didn’t make a point of buying an unlocked model when you purchased your phone, it’s likely tied to your current network. “When you buy a locked phone, it will work only on that carrier’s service,” says Richard Fisco, who oversees electronics testing at Consumer Reports.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, however, the carrier must unlock your phone free of charge after you’ve fully paid off the device (or coughed up an early termination fee).
In some cases, the only thing you need to unlock your phone is a software update your carrier will push to your device, and then you insert the new carrier’s SIM card and you’re good to go. Or you might need to enter an unlock code provided by your current cell phone company before you can install a new SIM card.
If you have a phone that’s compatible with eSIM, such as Apple’s iPhone 14 models and several Android devices, moving to a new carrier is easier because you don’t need to ask for and insert a SIM card—but you’ll still need to have your current carrier unlock your phone.
The process can take up to two business days, but once it’s done, you’re free to take the phone to another wireless carrier. To be clear, this doesn’t cancel your service; it just gives you the option to move to a new provider with your current phone.
If you’d rather not handle this yourself, you can pay for a service to unlock the phone. But be careful: People have been caught running fraudulent unlocking schemes in the past. “Do your research,” Fisco says.
And there’s really no reason you can’t handle this on your own. It’s easy.
Here’s what you need to do to unlock your phone.
While most phones can work with any carrier in the U.S., some—especially older devices—might still be confined to specific network types. In the past, two standards divided carriers: Verizon used a standard called CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile used GSM.
The quickest way to confirm that your phone is compatible with a new network is to type the IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) number—a unique identifier for every mobile phone manufactured—into an online tool on the carrier’s website.
Almost every carrier, whether one of the three largest (AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon) or a smaller provider, will have a section on its website where you can enter your IMEI to confirm that your phone is compatible with its network.
Here’s how to find the IMEI.
- On an Android phone: Go to Settings > About phone. The number should be on that screen.
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings > General > About. Scroll down to find the number. If you don’t see the IMEI/MEID there, the number may be etched on the SIM tray or engraved on the back of the phone.
Next, head to the new carrier’s website and insert the IMEI number into its “bring your own phone” or “bring your own device” tool. Here are the appropriate pages for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
Note that if you have a 5G-compatible phone, you’ll also want to make sure it works on your new carrier’s 5G network. While your phone may operate perfectly well on your new carrier’s 4G or LTE network, it might not have the hardware built in to connect with the network’s 5G signals.
You can check your manufacturer’s website for more information, or just give your new carrier a call. And while you have a representative on the phone, you might as well ask if they’ll just give you a great, new smartphone locked to the network free of charge.
The wireless carriers are embroiled in a never-ending war for each other’s customers and will often offer hefty incentives if they think they will get you to switch.
Once you’ve paid off the phone and confirmed that it will work on the new network, get ready to unlock the phone.
Be sure to keep the IMEI number handy because you’re likely to need it again.
Additionally, you should have some other info ready before you start, including: the account number, the account holder’s name and Social Security number, and the phone number attached to the device you want to unlock.
If you’re in the military and about to be deployed overseas, the carriers will expedite the unlocking process, but you’ll need to provide proof, so gather up your deployment papers, too.
Ready to go? Choose your carrier and complete the final steps.
Go to AT&T’s unlock page and select “Submit an unlock request.” You’ll need to agree that you meet the eligibility requirements, then submit the form. Among the requirements: If you paid off your installment plan early, you’ll need to wait 48 hours after you make your final payment to submit the unlock request.
After that, you’ll get a confirmation email with the unlock request number. Click the link in the email within 24 hours to confirm the unlock request. If you wait too long, the request will be canceled and you’ll have to start over again.
AT&T will respond within two business days to confirm that your phone is unlocked.
Here’s AT&T’s SIM unlock policy.
This carrier restricts how many devices you can unlock in a 12-month period, which can create problems for those on a family plan. If you ask to have more than two T-Mobile phones unlocked in a given year, the company may deny your request.
To unlock a T-Mobile device, go to T-Mobile’s unlock page and follow the steps listed for your phone’s manufacturer.
If at least 40 days have passed since you bought your phone through the carrier and your postpaid account is in good standing, T-Mobile will unlock your phone.
The company may send you an unlock code or ask you to unlock your phone via a T-Mobile app. You can also have your phone unlocked by calling 611 from your T-Mobile phone or 800-937-8997.
Here’s T-Mobile’s SIM unlock policy.
This carrier automatically locks any phone bought through Verizon for 60 days. After that 60-day period, your phone is unlocked—with no extra steps needed.
To confirm that your phone is unlocked, you can dial *611 from the device or call Verizon’s customer service at 800-922-0204.
Here’s Verizon’s SIM unlock policy.
Melanie Pinola covers smartphones, home office products, and a wide range of other technology topics for Consumer Reports. A seasoned service journalist, her work has appeared in the New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Laptop Magazine, PCWorld, and other publications. A former IT administrator and the author of two books about remote work and software, she was a longtime CR reader before joining the company as a tech writer and editor. Follow Melanie on Twitter @melaniepinola.
T-Mobile device unlock | T-Mobile Support
Learn how to use your device on another carrier or wireless provider’s network. This may also be known as a SIM unlock, network unlock, or carrier unlock.
On this page:
- What’s a Device Unlock?
- Unlock your device
- Get help
What’s a Device Unlock
- Device Unlock lets you use your device with another carrier, for things like international travel or selling your device.
- Not all devices are compatible with every wireless provider; your device will need to support their network frequencies and technologies.
- This is different from Domestic or International roaming, where you use a T-Mobile SIM/eSIM to access a different wireless provider’s network.
Unlock your device
- If you didn’t get a notification about unlocking your device, make sure it’s eligible to be unlocked:
- Log into your T-Mobile Account and choose your line on the Accounts page.
- Choose Check device unlock status to check if your device is locked or unlocked.
- Under the device image, check if your device is eligible to be unlocked. Review Device Unlock Policy for a list of eligibility requirements.
- Make sure you are connected to the T-Mobile network or Wi-Fi.
- Select your device type and follow the steps:
- Swipe up on your Home screen to open your Apps list and follow the steps for your manufacturer:
Samsung: Settings > Connections > More Connection Settings > Network Unlock
OnePlus: Settings > Wi-Fi & internet > SIM & network, then choose Advanced or Network Unlock
LG: Settings > Network & internet > Mobile networks > Network unlock > Continue
Motorola: Settings > About phone > Device unlock > Continue
T-Mobile REVVLRY: Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile network > Advanced > Network Unlock
TCL: Settings > System > About phone > Device Unlock
CAT / Nokia / Wiko: Settings > About phone > Device Unlock
- Older Android or other manufacturers: Check if your device uses the Device Unlock app, find steps in Tutorials, or contact us for assistance
Select Permanent Unlock and wait while the device completes the unlock.
- Restart the device.
- If you have a locked iPhone that’s eligible, Contact us so we can submit the unlock.
- Once it shows unlocked in your T-Mobile account, either insert your new SIM card or activate your eSIM.
- Choose your device on the Devices page for steps or Contact us for assistance.
- If the steps mention an unlock code, Contact us so we can provide it.
- If you’ve unlocked a T-Mobile device but can’t get signal with another carrier, contact the other wireless provider for assistance.
- If you’re bringing an unlocked device to T-Mobile, check out our compatibility checker and signal troubleshooting.
- Contact us if you can’t find the app or settings to unlock your T-Mobile device, or if you get an error message when attempting to complete the unlock.
How to unlock your phone if you forgot your password, PIN or pattern
December 14, 2020
Stop panicking. These steps will help you unlock your Android or iOS device.
How to unlock your Android phone
1. Use the Smart Lock function
The Smart Lock function automatically unlocks the screen when a certain condition is met. For example, if the device is at your home or another device is connected to it via Bluetooth.
The function can only be used if you have activated it in advance and selected a condition for unlocking. In that case, just do it. For example, if you have specified automatic unlocking when a trusted Bluetooth device is connected, activate the wireless module on both gadgets. Once connected, you will be able to access your phone without entering a PIN, password or key.
If Smart Lock has not been configured in advance or you cannot fulfill the specified condition, then this method is not suitable.
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2. Bypass security with your Google account
Some Android 4. 4 and older devices allow you to unlock your screen using your Google account. Provided that the device is connected to the Internet.
To check if your smartphone supports this method, enter any password, PIN or pattern five times. After five incorrect unlock attempts, the screen should display “Forgot your password?” or similar hint. Click on it and enter the login and password from the Google account with which your device is synchronized.
After a successful login, the screen is unlocked. If you also forgot your Google account password, try to restore access to it using a special service of the company.
3. Use the service from the smartphone manufacturer
Some brands offer additional unlocking tools to owners of their devices. For example, Samsung has a Find My Mobile service that can be used to remove pattern, PIN, password, and even fingerprint. To do this, your device must be connected to the Internet and a Samsung account and support the service.
To find out if this option is provided for your model, look for this information in the instructions or on the official website of the manufacturer.
4. Remove the password via Google account on the computer
There is a remote reset and delete all content function that will erase all data, including the lock password. Later, you can set a new access password and synchronize your data through your Google account.
This will only work if the smartphone is turned on and a Google account and Play Store are set up on it. In addition, the gadget itself must be connected to the Internet, and the “Location” and “Find my device” functions must be active.
If these conditions are met, proceed as follows:
- Follow this link and log in with your Google account.
- If you use several Android gadgets, select the one you need from the list on the left.
- Click on the item “Clear device”, and then again on the button of the same name.
To continue using your smartphone after resetting the lock code, you will need to enter your Google account password.
5. Reset the device to factory settings
If other options do not work, it remains to restore the factory settings. This will lead to the loss of all data, copies of which were not saved in your Google account and other cloud services. But you can remove the protection from the screen.
Switch off your smartphone and remove the memory card if it was inside. Then try the following key combinations in turn until one of them works (you need to hold down the buttons for 10-15 seconds):
- volume down key + power button;
- volume up key + power button;
- volume down key + power button + home key;
- volume down key + volume up key + power button.
Photo: Artyom Kozoriz / Lifehacker
When the service menu appears on the display, select the Recovery item with the volume up button and confirm with the volume down button.
Photo: Artyom Kozoriz / Lifehacker
Then use the volume keys to select the Wipe data or Factory reset command and confirm the action by pressing the power button.
If none of the above combinations work or you do not see the commands you need in the menu, look for reset instructions for your device model on the manufacturer’s website.
The smartphone should then return to factory settings within a few minutes. The device may request a login and password from a previously connected Google account, but you will no longer need to unlock the screen. After logging into the old account, the system will restore the settings and data synchronized with it.
How to unlock iPhone
If you forgot your Apple smartphone password, you have only one way out: factory reset. This procedure will remove the passcode, but it will also erase all photos, notes, apps, and other data from the iPhone. If you have a backup in iCloud or on your computer, all information and settings can be easily restored.
To reset, you need a USB cable, a Windows or macOS computer, and iTunes. If it is not installed, download it from the official Apple website. On macOS Catalina or later, you need to use the Finder app instead of iTunes.
First of all, turn off the smartphone through the standard menu by holding the side or top button. Next, make sure that the gadget is not connected to the computer, and proceed depending on the model:
- On iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone SE (second generation), iPhone X and newer models: to the computer with a USB cable and do not release it until the recovery screen appears.
- For iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus: While holding the volume down key, connect your smartphone to the PC via a USB cable and do not release it until you see the recovery screen.
- On iPhone SE (1st generation), iPhone 6s or older: While holding down the Home button, connect your device to your computer with a USB cable and hold it until the recovery screen appears.
When a dialog box appears on your PC display, click Restore and follow the iTunes or Finder prompts. First, the system will restore the factory settings, and then offer to restore the saved data. As a result, the password will be removed and the device will be unlocked.
If the timeout exceeds 15 minutes, iPhone will exit recovery mode. In this case, reconnect the smartphone to the computer by holding the corresponding button again until the required window appears. Then click “Restore” again.
This article was first published in July 2019. In December 2020, we updated the text.
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How to unlock your phone if you forgot your password: 6 ways
Anything can happen in life, and situations when a user forgets the password from his smartphone are not so rare. Don’t worry, this situation seems scary only at first glance, and smartphone manufacturers have provided many ways to help you. Let’s figure out how to unlock the phone without knowing the password.
We note right away that the question of how to unlock a phone with a fingerprint is simply not worth it. You can’t forget a fingerprint in any way, and if the finger itself is damaged, then you can simply unlock such a device by entering the desired password.
Use your Google Account
If you forgot your old smartphone password running Android 5.0 or earlier, you can unlock your screen lock using your Google Account. All you need is an internet connection.
Enter any password or pattern five times. After that, the message “Forgot your password?” will appear on the smartphone screen. Click on it and in the window that appears, enter the login and password for the Google account to which the gadget is linked.
After a successful login, the smartphone screen will unlock by itself. If you forgot your Google account password, then you can recover it using the services of the American giant itself.
Use the Smart Lock function
If the first method is suitable only for owners of old gadgets, then the Smart Lock function, on the contrary, is designed for new smartphones released after 2015. Starting with Android 5.0, smartphones running the Google operating system have the ability to unlock them under certain conditions.
For example, you can set the device to automatically unlock when a trusted device connects to it. For example, your smart watch or fitness bracelet. The same applies to finding a smartphone in a certain area or its contact with you.
The main advantage of the function is that it does not require any intervention from you: the smartphone will be automatically unlocked if one of the above conditions is met. Well, its main disadvantage is that the setting must be done in advance. You will not be able to launch Smart Lock if your smartphone is already locked and you have forgotten your password. If you are lucky and the function is already active, just fulfill the conditions you set, and the smartphone will automatically unlock.
Use the manufacturer’s services
As we wrote at the very beginning, many manufacturers have provided their own smartphone unlocking services. For example, the Korean Samsung has a Find My Mobile service. With it, you can track the location of the smartphone, delete all data from it, remotely lock the gadget or, on the contrary, unlock it.
To do this, simply go to the service website from a computer or laptop, log in to your Samsung account, select your smartphone and click the “Unblock” button. The whole procedure is extremely simple and clear.
Use third-party programs
How to unlock your phone if you forgot your pattern password or regular PIN, if other methods don’t help? To do this, you can use third-party programs. For example, the free program Tenorshare 4uKey can easily restore access to your smartphone and even delete the Google account on it.
Install the program on your computer, then connect your long-suffering smartphone to it. Tenorshare 4uKey itself will offer to get rid of the lock. However, before using this application, please note that all data stored in the smartphone’s memory will be lost.
Reset your smartphone to factory settings
You don’t care too much about the data stored in your smartphone, but for some reason you really don’t want to use third-party applications to restore access? how can i unlock my phone if i forgot the password in this case? Any Android smartphone has a factory reset function that deletes all information stored there. Moreover, you can use it bypassing the interface of the shell itself.
Depending on the smartphone model, the way to enter the engineering menu may be different. Turn off your smartphone, remove the memory card from it, if you have one, and try to press and hold the following key combinations for 10-15 seconds in turn:
- volume down + power key;
- volume up button + power key;
- volume down button + power key + home button;
- volume down button + volume up button + power button.
One of them should start the engineering menu. Using the volume up and down buttons, select the Recovery item in it, and then the Wipe data / factory reset command. Confirm resetting your smartphone to factory settings.
Within a few minutes, all smartphone settings will be reset to their original state, and all user information will be deleted from its memory. If you have set up data synchronization with the Google cloud, then when you log into your account, you can restore at least part of the lost information.
How to unlock iPhone
All of the above methods apply to Android smartphones. But what if you have an iPhone? In this case, there is only one way in your arsenal – resetting the smartphone to factory settings. True, if you have their backup in an iCloud account, then there will be no problems with data recovery.
For this procedure, you will need a Windows or macOS computer with iTunes or Finder installed, respectively.