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How to unlock your phone

sim-card-in-phoneWant to use a new SIM card in your mobile phone, or sell or recycle it for the highest possible price? Chances are you won’t be able to do that until it’s unlocked from its current network. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.

 

Why do I need to unlock my phone?

 

When you get a phone from a mobile provider, a lot of the time the provider will lock the handset to its own network – basically to discourage you from getting a SIM from someone else.

 

It’s a bit uncool of them, really. Thankfully a lot of networks are phasing this practise out – Three no longer locks any of its phones, for instance.

 

Removing the lock on your phone is a great idea though, as it means you can…

 

– Switch to a SIM-only plan from a different network and get a better deal

– Use a foreign SIM in your phone when you’re abroad

– Sell your phone to a recycler for a higher price

– Make life easier for its next owner if you sell it on

– Generally get more freedom with your mobile

 

How to unlock your phone

 

Before you do anything, check that your phone is definitely locked. Try putting an active SIM from another network into the card slot, and see if it can connect to the network. If you get an error message, then yes, it’s most likely locked. So how can you fix that?

 

Method 1 – Through your mobile network

The easiest and best way of unlocking your phone – and often the cheapest way too – is to go straight to your mobile network. You need the network that the phone is locked to, not the one you want to switch to. So if your mobile came from Vodafone, and will only take a Vodafone SIM, you’ll have to contact Vodafone.

 

If you’re no longer within your contract with the network, they’re required to unlock your phone for free if you ask. If you’re still in the contract’s minimum terms, however, or if you bought the phone from your network on pay-as-you-go, you may face a fee. Many will still unlock it cost-free in this case, but some charge up to £15 or so.

 

To get the unlocking ball rolling, ring the network’s customer service line or use its online portal, and you’ll get instructions on what to do. You’ll usually be given an NUC (network unlock code) to enter, though some networks can unlock it for you remotely.

 

Method 2 – Through a third party

 

Going straight to the network to unlock your phone is our recommended method, but sometimes that’s not possible – for example, if it’s an older handset, or second-hand, or if you haven’t been with the network long enough.

 

The next best option is to go to a third party, such as a local phone shop or an unlocking website.

 

They’ll charge a little more, and it can take longer to work, but so long as you find a reputable store it should be quick and painless. Again, you’ll often be given an NUC to enter, but some phone shops will do the unlocking for you using a cable.

 

Method 3 – DIY

For the tech-savvy among you, unlocking your phone yourself is an option.

 

You can do this by…

 

Getting a code online and entering it in your phone – You only have a limited number of tries for this though so it’s a bit risky. If it doesn’t work, you’ll need to go to your network or a phone shop anyway.

Using the right cable – This is possible for a few older handsets, and cables can be ordered online. Make sure you know what you’re doing here – we’d recommend trying other methods first.

 

How long does it take to unlock?

 

You usually need to allow up to 10 days for an unlock to complete. Sometimes it’ll be done within three days, though occasionally it can take up to four weeks.

 

How much does it cost?

 

The cost of unlocking your phone depends on how you do it.

 

Through a network – Free most of the time, but can cost up to £15.

Through a third party – Usually around £15, but can sometimes cost much more.

DIY – Free with some codes; up to £15 for others; or simply the cost of the cable.

 

Is it legal to unlock my phone?

 

Absolutely yes. It is completely legal and above board to get your phone unlocked and use a different network’s SIM in it.

Just be aware that it can invalidate your phone’s warranty – check the terms and conditions if you’re concerned.

 

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