An Essential Tutorial On How To Unlock An iPhone 4

The Ultimate Tutorial On How To Unlock iPhone's

So, you have finally completed the contract on your iPhone and that baby is officially all yours. What this means is you’re able to use it while traveling overseas with a local SIM card and are free to swap networks as you please, right? Don’t start booking your flight to Mexico or running to Sprint quite yet because, unfortunately, it’s not quite that straight forward.

So as to stop somebody from moving to a rival’s network before they’ve payed off their iPhone or fulfilled their contract, a large number of carriers place a sim lock (sometimes known as a carrier lock) on their smart phones. This consequently means that you, or anyone you sell your used iPhone to, are tied to them in the future. If you’re thinking this sounds like a pretty dysfunctional partnership, we’d have a tendency to agree with you. Thankfully, with a bit of effort as well as an account in good order, you will be on your way to a SIM-unlocked iPhone before you know it!

Before we continue, a quick note on the type of unlocks that are available, and the one's you should stay away from! There are apps around offering a chance to unlock a device yourself, however you need to jailbreak your mobile phone, and this is not a smart move, for a lot of reasons. You can do your own investigation into jail-breaking, but it's not a sensible choice, and to be avoided. The best way to unlock your iPhone is actually by discussing directly with your wireless provider. The journey to a carrier-unlocked iPhone depends largely on your network, with the procedure being either comparatively quick and simple or painfully tedious. To get you a step closer to a life free from carrier-locked tyranny, we put together all the steps in order to get an iPhone unlock in this comprehensive guide. Please be aware that while this was written with iPhone owners in mind, plenty of the recommendations can easily be used with other smartphones.

What Is Carrier Unlocking?

As noted before, when you buy an iPhone or other smartphone through your cellular provider, that cell phone will still only operate on that specific network until you either request to have your service provider unlock it or your carrier automatically unlocks it for you (more about that later). Commonly known as a SIM unlock, factory unlock, or network unlock, carrier unlocking means removing a network’s restrictions on a device, so that you can use it with a different cellular provider.

Thankfully, not every iPhone require unlocking. For instance, if you buy your iPhone from Apple and purchase it outright, it should already be unlocked and able to use with a variety of carriers.

Please be aware, however, not all phones purchased outright from third-party retailers are automatically unlocked. For example, although sold as “unlocked”, smartphone's purchased at Best Buy are actually considered universal. So, if you insert a Sim for the first time, the device will basically lock itself to the network associated with the Sim. Subsequently, given that certain networks like T-Mobile will only unlock your iPhone if you purchased it directly from them, you can end up with an eternally carrier-locked device. Put simply, you find yourself paying factory-unlocked prices to get a network-locked cell phone.

Why would I Unlock My iPhone?

Possessing a SIM-unlocked iPhone comes with a number of rewards including the ability to operate on (almost) any network within the US and overseas in addition to increased second-hand values.

  1. IMEI-unlocking allows you the ability to use your cell phone with the network provider of your choice, almost wherever and whenever you want (with a handful of exceptions, as you’ll see later on). Such as, if you are currently using T-Mobile but are moving to a new part of the country with poor T-Mobile coverage, you'll be able to swap to AT&T in a heartbeat

  2. A SIM-unlocked iPhone makes international travel a cinch. Unlocking also provides the ability to use your cellphone abroad. International roaming fees, pricey international plans, and crazy dashes for WiFi are a thing of the past with an unlocked iPhone. Simply pop in a SIM card from a local network and you're golden.

  3. Factory-unlocked iPhones have higher resale values.

Even when you don’t intend on switching service providers or going internationally soon, unlocking your iPhone is still a smart idea. Should you ever plan on trading in your old iPhone once you upgrade, you’ll usually get more money for it if the iPhone has already been network unlocked because of a greater demand for them on the resale marketplace.

Is it against the law to Carrier Unlock your phone?

Definitely not! Thanks to the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, finalized into law by President Barack Obama in 2014, all US-based cellular providers have to allow people to unlock their phones. However, the conditions under which a service provider will unlock a smart phone vary greatly from provider to provider. In general, most carriers require you to finish your contract, pay for your financial obligations fully, or otherwise have an account in good standing before they’ll assist you to unlock your iPhone.

The best way to determine whether your iPhone is Unlocked

Prior to starting the network-unlocking process, you’ll first need to check if your iPhone is already unlocked (no need in under-going the hassle if you don’t actually need to). All you have to do is make sure that you’re connected to WiFi and insert a new SIM card from a different cellular provider and your mobile will do the rest automatically. This authentication check typically takes less than a minute to finish after a SIM has been inserted.

Through the verification procedure, you’ll find that your iPhone will boot onto a white screen and attempt to authenticate that it has been unlocked with your service provider. Should Apple verify that your iPhone is IMEI-unlocked, it will go back to the home screen and service bars should appear from the new carrier. However, if you see a white screen that says SIM Not Supported, your cell phone will not be unlocked.

How to Unlock iPhones from any Provider

Having verified your mobile phone is definitely locked to your current cellular provider, next you'll need to take a look at your network’s unlocking eligibility conditions. If your iPhone meets those guidelines, you can then request that the device can be unlocked from their network. As hinted at previously, both the eligibility requirements and the unlocking process vary from provider to provider. They all have been outlined below for the major carriers including T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

Please be aware that, provided you’ve met the unlock requirements and so are completing the network-unlocking directly with your network, asking for your iPhone be unlocked is likely to be completely free. If you choose to go through a 3rd party unlocking service provider, you'll be charged, but making use of a 3rd party company is your only option if you are not the original owner of the phone. So, before you spend money unnecessarily, try using the directions outlined below as a first step.

How To Locate Your iPhone’s IMEI Number

When officially-unlocking your iPhone, you'll need to supply your provider the device’s IMEI number. This unique, 15-digit identifier is effectively your cell phone’s VIN or social security number. To locate your IMEI, on your phone, select Settings > General > About and scroll down to the bottom section where you'll see it displayed next to IMEI.

Additionally you can locate the number on the cellphone outer shell itself. For earlier iPhone models (1st-generation SE, 5s, 5c, 5, 6, 6 Plus), the number will also be imprinted on the back or the SIM tray.

When you’ve found the IMEI number, it highly advisable that you store it somewhere for safekeeping.

Unlock an iPhone on AT&T

Unlocking an iPhone from AT&T is about as easy as a, b, c. Just pop on over to the AT&T unlock portal, answer a few questions, and you’re well on your way to SIM-unlocked freedom.

After you submit your request, use your IMEI and request reference numbers to check on your AT&T unlock status. After you obtain your validation text or email, simply open it up then click on the confirmation link. That’s it! AT&T will unlock your iPhone in just 2 working days.

For any iPhone to be unlocked from the AT&T network, it must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Must not be reported as lost, stolen, or blocked
  • Must not have a past-due balance
  • Must not be active on a different AT&T account
  • If it is a work phone, you must have your employer’s permission to unlock it
  • If it is an AT&T PREPAID phone, it must be active for at least six months

If the iPhone is included in term agreement or installment plan, it must also adhere to these requirements:

  • The device must be active on the AT&T network for at least 60 days
  • The installment plan must be paid off
  • The term agreement must be complete

For in depth eligibility requirements, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on Sprint

Dependent on when you purchased your phone and if it has got SIM-unlock capabilities, you've got a several different unlock options. In the event you obtained a new iPhone from Sprint after February 2015 (it should be SIM-unlock capable) and it's actively being used on their network, Sprint should unlock it automatically after it meets their qualifications requirements. So, you really don’t have to do anything at all besides keep your account in good standing. However, if your iPhone hasn't been activated or was purchased before February 2015, you’ll need to contact Sprint Customer Care directly to request an unlock (either dial *2 on your Sprint phone or ring 888-211-4727).

There have been reports from some Sprint clients that the auto-unlock program does not always work as it should, so it’s definitely a very good idea to verify that your iPhone is unlocked before attempting to move to a different provider or advertising your iPhone as unlocked, if you propose to sell it to a buyback business or on eBay.

For an iPhone to be unlocked from the Sprint network, it has to adhere to the following requirements:

  • Must have SIM-unlock capabilities (if it doesn’t, it is MSL (Master Subsidy Lock) locked and you will need to call Sprint for the MSL code)
  • Must be active on the Sprint network for at least 40 days
  • Must be on an account in good standing
  • Must not be reported as lost, stolen, or associated with fraud

If your iPhone is part of a service agreement, lease agreement, or installment plan, it must also satisfy these requirements:

  • Any lease or installment payments must be fully paid
  • If leased, the end-of-lease purchase option must be fully paid
  • Any early-termination fees must be fully paid

For in-depth eligibility requirements, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on T-Mobile

If your reading this and own an Android mobile phone and your device matches the eligibility requirements, consider yourself fortunate: You can actually unlock it easily from the handset itself. For all you iPhone owners out there, you’ll have to get in touch with T-Mobile’s Group of Experts directly (either dial 611 from a T-Mobile iPhone, call 877-746-0909.

For an iPhone to be unlocked from T-Mobile, it must adhere to the following prerequisites:

  • Must not have been reported as lost, stolen, or blocked
  • For prepaid accounts, it must have been active on the account for at least 12 months
  • Must have been purchased directly from T-Mobile
  • Must be paid for in full

If the iPhone is on a postpaid account, it needs to also meet the following conditions:

  • Must have been active on the account for at least 40 days
  • The account must be in good standing

For detailed eligibility conditions, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on Verizon

Verizon is, hands down, the leading provider to work with for unlocking an iPhone. Why? Because Verizon will automatically unlock your phone 60 days following the purchase of the device. If you purchased your iPhone from a retail partner, it'll be unlocked automatically 60 days after device activation.

There are no catches. You don’t have to pay off your phone, meet any unique requirements, or even contact them to request to unlock your phone from their network. So long as your iPhone hasn’t been reported stolen or lost, simply wait two months following purchase or activation and your phone will be ready to go.

Don’t believe us? Just click here.

Once I've Unlocked my iPhone — what now?

Back many years ago, you’d need to hook your iPhone up to iTunes and complete a software restore to carry out the unlock procedure. Luckily, it’s much simpler now. All you have to do is go through same steps you followed earlier to check if your phone is unlocked to begin with.

In the event you don’t have access to a Sim from an alternative carrier, you may still confirm that a iPhone has been unlocked by performing iTunes software restore. Just hook up your iPhone with a computer running iTunes and click the “restore” option. When the restoration process has completed, you will see a message saying “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.”

Well done! You successfully IMEI-unlocked your iPhone! Which means you're able to use whichever network you wish to now, true? We hate be the bearer of bad news, but sadly not. Because of the two different types of networks used in the US, GSM and CDMA, your available cellular providers is determined by the model of your iPhone as well as the original network it's locked to. Specifically, Verizon and Sprint are CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and most service providers abroad are GSM (Global System for Mobiles) networks.

As you’ve probably guessed, both of these different network types don't talk to each other (because that's too logical). Thankfully, as we move closer to world wide 5G access and as older networks are retired, this will hopefully no longer be a major issue.

To determine which carriers you can access based on these two factors, keep on reading.


GSM networks only (AT&T, T-Mobile, international GSM carriers): Original iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


International networks only: iPhone 4s and iPhone 5

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


GSM networks only (AT&T, T-Mobile, international GSM carriers): Original iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


Compatible with any carrier in the world, but with limitations when using GSM networks: iPhone 4s, iPhone 5

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max

Is the Unlock permanent?

You got it! After your phone has been network-unlocked, it'll stay like that for the lifetime of the handset. You'll be able to restore your iPhone or up-date apps without worrying about your unlock vanishing afterwards.

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