In 2012, it basically became illegal for a consumer to unlock their cell phone. It meant that we couldn’t just switch phone carriers unless we wanted to switch to a locked carrier device, had to put up with terrible customer service, and of course there’s all those mysterious “fees” that you have to proactively watch for on your account.
President Obama is set to sign the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which means it will be possible to take your T-Mobile phone over to AT&T if you want, get out of Verizon, or head over to Verizon because they’ve got the only 4G network in your location. Once this bill becomes law, you’ve got options once again.
In order to take advantage of those options, you’ve got to be able to unlock your mobile phone successfully. Here’s how you’re going to be able to get the job done without a headache.
If you own a 4G LTE phone from Verizon, there’s a good chance it’s already unlocked. It’s not a widely advertised secret, but it’s not a secretive secret either. If you don’t have a 4G LTE phone, then call 1-800-711-8300 to request a free SIM unlock code from the representative for your make and model.
You can request an unlock code directly from AT&T. The only real requirement is that your phone must be paid in full and it hasn’t been reported lost or stolen. It’s also got to be a phone that was engineered for use on AT&T’s network. You provide the vital info, they give you the code, and then you punch it in.
An added bonus: most AT&T tablets are already unlocked. You can do this up to 5 times per year, but they do reserve the right to deny you for any reason.
You’ll have the most hoops to jump through to unlock your T-Mobile phone. You’ve got to meet service time requirements, have made 18 consecutive payments on your phone if you have an agreement, and have your account be in good standing. You’ll also have needed to have the phone active on the network for at least 40 days unless you have a phone with a terminated account – then your account must be paid in full.
Dial #611 and talk with customer support. Request the unlock code and you should be set!
You’re pretty much in the same shoes as T-Mobile, except that you need an active phone for 90 days instead. Their internal policy is only to unlock international SIM cards right now, but that should change once the legislation is signed. You can request this through the integrated chat box, email, or by speaking directly to a rep at 1-888-226-7212.
Maybe you don’t want to deal with the carrier at all? Don’t have one of these carriers and still want to unlock your phone? You’ve still got options.
This link is a good option for unlocking Samsung and old Nokia phones.
There’s some extensive information at this link to help you unlock a wide variety of phones, although some of the services are paid services.
The FCC offers some good advice about unlocking mobile phones at their official website.
Do you have a method of unlocking a mobile phone that you’ve found to be reliable? Share your methods below!
Photo via EFF/Flickr