Owning an unlocked phone is very practical, since it gives you a lot of freedom. However, the thing with unlocked phones is that they can be quite expensive, especially high-end ones. For this reason, many users opt for carrier-locked devices that can be purchased at subsidized prices and consequently are tied to one network for two-years. Even after the contract ends, a locked phone still can’t be used on a different network. But what if you find a better offer from a different carrier? Does it mean that you always have buy a new phone? Of course not. You can unlock your Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint phone via carrier. This is how it can be done.
Unlock your phone through service provider
Unlocking a cell phone is not a new idea. Users have been removing SIM-locks in the past but it required some skills and maybe a good friend to help, not to mention that it wasn’t exactly legal. It all changed thanks to the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act and active support from the FCC. As a result, even users who are still on a two-year contract can legally unlock their phones through service provider.
However, keep in mind that the process requires a phone call or two and may take a few hours off your schedule. Before you begin, gather the following information: the account holder’s name and account number, IMEI of your device, your phone number, the account holder’s social security number or password, a finished contract and overseas deployment papers if you are in the military.
If you own a Verizon phone, you can still use it on other networks. However, few requirements apply. Even though Verizon uses CDMA network to deliver talk / text service, many of their devices are GSM ready and feature SIM-card slots. The carrier claims that its GSM capable phones are SIM-lock free out of the box and you don’t need any pass codes to program the phone to work with other GSM service providers, such as: AT&T or T-Mobile. However, if you encounter a problem you can always call 1-800-711-8300 and request an unlock code. Just remember, that Verizon phones without GSM support, lacking SIM card slots, won’t be compatible with other networks.
AT&T subscribers have to meet a few conditions in order to have a phone unlocked. First, the phone needs to be from either a current or former subscriber which will be verified by way of a phone number or account number. Moreover, the phone has to be paid in full and can’t be reported lost or stolen. Also remember that AT&T won’t allow more than five unlocks per account per year. In order to unlock your phone you should fill out an online request providing such information as the IMEI number and then wait a few days for the unlock code to arrive at your email. If you have any problems, you can call customer support at 1-800-331-0500, but don’t expect them to unlock your device over the phone.
T-Mobile unlocks only its own phones and won’t unlock a phone that has been reported lost or stolen. Another requirement is that the handset must be attached to an account with “good standing” and, if it’s a prepaid device, you’ll need to have made at least $100 in refills. Keep in mind that the Magenta network limits the number of unlocks to two per year. If you meet all the requirements, all you need to do is have a nice live chat with a T-Mobile representative, call 1-800-746-0949 or dial 611.
Sprint’s requirements are very similar to other carriers, that is you need to have an active account in “good standing”, which will be verified either through an account number or a phone number, and the phone can’t be reported stolen or lost. Customers who meet those requirements can unlock their phones through an online chat with a customer representative or call 1-888-211-4727 (*2 from a Sprint device).
Unlocking Sprint phones, however, won’t guarantee that they will work on other networks without hiccups – the culprits are very specific radios built into the devices. Sprint’s service, similar like Verizon, operates on CDMA frequencies. Therefore, if you want to have an unlocked Sprint phone, the device must be GSM ready and should have a SIM-card holder. Sprint’s iPhone owners are in even more difficult position. They can forget about switching to a different network and keeping their phone, since Sprint iPhones are manufactured in such a way that they cannot be unlocked at all.
Unlocking phones is easy…
Unlocking prepaid or fully paid devices is even easier today. Many carriers used to have their own regulations on unlocking phones, however, since February 11th 2015, they are obliged to follow new standardized unlocking policies for phones and tablets set by the CTIA.
According to the new rules, a fully paid and prepaid phone in service for a year must be unlocked by a carrier on customer’s demand. You don’t even have to remember the dates – your carrier is required to inform you as soon as your device becomes eligible for unlocking. Carriers also need to unlock phones for US military personnel if they make such a request. All US major carriers complied with the new policies so you can unlock your phone without any problem at any time.
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