How To Unlock Your Mobile Phone

Find out how to unlock your phone so that you have the freedom to roam any network you like.

Man On Mobile And Laptop

What does ‘unlocking’ mean?

Most mobile phones, when you buy them, will be linked to a particular network such as Virgin, Vodafone, or Orange. This means that the SIM card that comes with your new phone is ‘locked’ to that network and will only work on the network it has been assigned to.

If you swap your SIM card for one from a different network, it’s likely your phone won’t function. This means you can only use services provided by the network you originally bought the phone with.

By unlocking your phone you’ll be able to use it on any network you like, meaning you may be able to get cheaper calls and texts, call abroad for less, and take advantage of network-specific deals such as Orange Wednesdays.

Unlocking your mobile gives you the freedom to explore different networks and their associated benefits rather than remaining with the same network until you buy a new phone, so that you can make using your phone even cheaper.

How do I unlock my phone?

It might be worth reading our guide: Unlocking your phone for network-specific instructions.

First of all it’s a good idea to check whether your phone is currently locked to a particular network. You can do this by inserting a SIM card from a different network into your phone and switching it on.

If the phone works as usual then there’s no need to unlock it and you can enjoy using different networks right away. However if your phone doesn’t switch on or displays a message like ‘Phone locked to network’, then it means you’ll need to go about unlocking it.

One of the first things worth doing is simply calling your existing network provider, and letting them know you want to unlock your phone. Under Ofcom regulations you have the right to unlock your mobile if:

  • Pay as you go: the phone is over a year old.
  • Contract: you have reached the end of any minimum term contract.

You’ll usually have to quote your mobile number, your manufacturer and model number (which can be found on the outer case of your phone) and your IMEI number (a serial number which can be found by typing *#06# into your phone). You also may have to give up to a month’s notice to your network provider, and pay an unlocking fee of up to £30.

Your network provider will then give you an unlocking code (also known as a PAC - Porting Authorisation Code) which will allow you to transfer your number from one network to another and will unlock your mobile from its original network.

When you put a SIM card from a different network into your phone, type this code into your keypad to unlock it and access any network you wish.

What else should I consider?

There are other ways to unlock your phone in addition to phoning your network provider and asking them for a code. Several websites provide free unlocking services, although it’s worth noting that not every kind of handset will be covered and you may not be able to find a code for your phone.

Alternatively you could use an online mobile phone unlocking service such as MobileUnlocked.com which will provide an unlock code in a matter of minutes.

You can also pay a fee of around £10 to get your phone unlocked on the high street, either at an outlet dedicated to this service or at your local phone shop, but it's worth shopping around to get the best deal.

If you’re thinking of unlocking your phone it’s worth making sure that the fee you pay to unlock it will be outweighed by savings you’ll make by having the freedom to switch networks, otherwise it may be best simply to stick with your current network.

You can take your pick of the free SIM cards available at the moment and start enjoying your new network as soon as the phone is unlocked. If you’re planning on using a new SIM card in your phone, it’s worth saving all the contacts and data from your old SIM to your phone, so that you can transfer all your data right away.

It’s worth noting too that if you have a warranty on your phone, unlocking it will usually invalidate this, so this is something to consider if you’re still within your warranty period.

Responses

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I have been trying to get an unlock code from Orange for 6 weeks now. I don't mind the fee that they charge, but I do mind that they seem to be playing the waiting game. I have contacted them via email, by phone, by letter, via facebook, and I am just getting no response. Lots of promises to call back, to get things done, and to respond, but that's it. They are just not doing it. Do I have any options left? (Unfortunately the usual unlockers are not able to unlock the Orange San Diego.)

by MrPuddington, 23 May 2013

If an iPhone is locked to a server, say 'Orange, would you be able to use other Orange SIM cards in that iPhone? Or would the iPhone be locked to that specific SIM card?

by jamesmw22, 10 Jun 2013

Bad info. A PAC does not ' unlock your mobile from its original network'

by kmofo, 29 Jun 2013

The guide made it quite clear that this was for moving networks, as it clearly stated that the PAC code "will allow you to transfer your number from one network to another and will unlock your mobile from its original network".

by Bonz1957, 29 Jun 2013

No, a PAC code has nothing to do with your mobile. It is about moving your phone number. A PAC code enables you to move your phone number from one network to another. Your phone number is nothing to do with your mobile; it is attached to your SIM card and the SIM card only ever works on the network you got it from. The PAC code enables a new network to attach that phone number to one of their own SIM cards. If your phone is SIM locked, it will still be SIM locked to that network after you have ported your number with the PAC code. And you won't be able to use the SIM from your new network in it. If your phone is SIM locked and you want to move networks, you need a PAC code to move your phone number, and a SIM unlatch code to unlock your phone.

by ptk, 5 Sep 2013

ptk is absolutely correct. Do not mix PAC code and UNLOCK codes. They are two totally different things.

by deckard, 1 week ago
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I purchased an Iphone 4 for my granddaughter from carphone warehouse free from any contract or provider, she choose to use vodafone on a sim only contract now she has moved she cannot get a signal so decided to sell the phone the purchaser could not use the phone because it was locked to vodafone what gives them the right to lock her phone. many thanks C.J. Street

by streetbeat, 4 Aug 2013

They have no legal rights locking a sim free phone to any network, if you have brought the phone outright. I.E so you can swap sim cards when ever you want.

by rich1963, 20 Aug 2013
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Go check out attiphoneunlocking if you want to unlock AT&T locked iPhones, they can unlock all model and firmware up to date, including the new iphone 5

by crowt22, 4 Sep 2013

I do not know what network my phone is locked to

by madhea60, 24 Sep 2013

in france the same company, Orange, give you the unlock code over the phone and all providers are obliged by law to let you have your phone unlocked free of charge after 6 months into your contract. It creates a much more competitive dynamic market. The UK should learn !

by richa32, 19 Nov 2013

£10.79 !!!!!!! thought was supposed to be £1.99 as clearly stated below!?!

by edstar, 5 months ago

I got an iPhone 4s off eBay and don't know how I can unlock it from vodaphone as i can't get into the phone yet because the people I got it from left the main password on

by jessje, 3 months ago

I want to anlock phone

by kastri, 2 months ago

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