How to unlock your mobile phone or check if it’s already unlocked

If you want to use the UK Prepaid Sim Card or a different SIM card in your mobile phone, you’ll need ensure that your phone is network unlocked.

What does locked mean?

A “locked” phone will only work on your current network – it is “locked” to that specific network.  For example, a phone might be locked to the Telstra network and as a result it won’t work on Optus or Vodafone, or any other network anywhere in the world.

Why does a phone get locked to a particular network?

The mobile network provider often subsidises the cost of the phone to entice people to buy it.  For example, the phone might actually cost $500, but the network provider sells it for $100. Then it makes sense that the network provider doesn’t allow the phone to work on any other network.

The network provider “locks” the phone to its network so then you have to take out a contract with them.  By locking the phone, the network provider recoups the cost of the phone through the network services that the customer purchases over a period of say 12 months.

Is my phone locked or unlocked?

If you purchased your phone at full price / outright direct from the telephone manufacturer, then it’s unlocked.  For example, if you paid full price for your iPhone and you purchased it directly from Apple, then your iPhone is unlocked.

But if you purchased your phone from the network provider (either on a plan or pre-paid), then it might be locked to that network. For you to be able to use a prepaid sim or a local sim card in your phone, you need to find out if your phone is locked, and if it is, then get it unlocked.

Even if your phone contract has ended, that doesn’t mean your phone becomes unlocked.

Similarly, if your phone is old, it also doesn’t mean that it’s unlocked.

How do I check if my phone is locked or unlocked?

There’s only one way to check if your phone is locked or unlocked: insert into your phone a different network SIM card and check if it connects to that different network.  If it does connect, then your phone is unlocked.  If it doesn’t connect, or you see an error message such as “Invalid Sim” or “SOS” then your phone is locked.

For example, if your phone normally uses a Telstra SIM card, just insert into it an Optus or Vodafone SIM card (borrow from a friend or buy a $2 SIM card from the supermarket) and find out whether your phone is locked to the Telstra network or not.

Note that when checking if your phone is unlocked by using a sim card from a different network, be sure to use a different network sim card, not just a different company sim card. For example, the mobile network “Amaysim” uses the Optus network, so using an Amaysim sim card is no use if you want to check if your phone is unlocked from the Optus network.

How do I get my phone unlocked?

If your phone is locked, you’ll need to get it unlocked in order to be able to use a prepaid sim card.  Just ring your network provider and request it be unlocked and they’ll explain what to do.  It’s usually free to get your phone unlocked.

If you have an iPhone, you can also read the official instructions provided by Apple about how to unlock your iPhone. For non-iPhone users, simply contact your phone carrier and request they unlock your phone and follow their instructions.

What can I do now that my phone is unlocked?

Once your phone is unlocked, you can start using it on a different network.  For example, you might find that a pre-paid plan with Aldi Mobile, Telstra or Optus gives you better value.

If you’re travelling overseas, it also means that you can use a travel sim card: you don’t need to pay to use global roaming with your existing network provider.  For the UK and Europe, you can purchase a local sim card from UK Prepaid Sim Card which comes with 12GB of high speed data, calling and texting, and works in the UK and in 34 European countries.

Check that your phone is unlocked before flying oversees

If you arrive in the UK and your phone is locked – and you therefore can’t use your UK Prepaid Sim Card – unfortunately we cannot refund you under any circumstances.

Please note:
It is solely your responsibility to ensure that your phone is unlocked. If you arrive in the UK and your phone is locked, the UK Prepaid Sim Card won’t work and you won’t get a refund.
Your phone must be both network unlocked and technically compatible to be able to use the UK phone sim card. Find out if your mobile phone is compatible with travel sim cards.

Still have a question regarding locked or unlocked phones? Post a comment below!

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