Having your iPhone locked to a carrier can be a pain if you need to switch SIMs. Especially while you’re traveling, and you try slipping in another SIM card only to find that you’re blocked from using it. Knowledge is power, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Here’s how to find out, in advance, if your iPhone is locked to your carrier or not.
How to check if your iPhone Can be Unlocked or Not
The basic method
The easiest way is to get a spare SIM card, from a different network to your current provider, and try it in your phone. A few minutes after changing the SIM cards – you should reboot your iPhone to be sure – you will see the new network name in the status bar if your phone is unlocked. If your phone is locked, you’ll get a pop-up error asking you to insert a valid SIM card.
You should do this sooner rather than later if you will be traveling. You don’t want to be stuck in a foreign country and not be able to buy phone service!
If you can’t get hold of a spare SIM card and you need to know whether you’re locked or not, there are websites that can help. They track which phones in the world are carrier locked or not.
There are many sites that offer this service, but it’s best to go with a trusted provider, as there are a lot of scammers out there. We would recommend IMEI unlock provider Express Unlocks based on the user testimonials.
To use this service, you’ll need to obtain your iPhone’s IMEI code – which is a code that is unique to your device.
If you have a SIM card installed, and only if, you can see the IMEI code by dialing *#06#. You can also get the IMEI code via the Settings app by navigating to General > About and scrolling down.
Alternatively, you can plug your iPhone into your Mac or PC and start iTunes. On the device Summary screen, you’ll see a line showing your phone number (the line below the phone’s data capacity). Click on the phone number, which will reveal the IMEI code.
On the following iPhone models, find the serial number in Settings and the IMEI/MEID on the SIM tray. If you need support but you can’t view the Settings menu, you can use the IMEI/MEID instead of the serial number:
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
On the following iPhone models, find the serial number in Settings and the IMEI/MEID (the MEID is the first 14 digits of the IMEI) on the back. If you need support but you can’t view the Settings menu, you can use the IMEI/MEID instead of the serial number:
- iPhone 6
- iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 5c
- iPhone 5
On these devices, find the serial number and IMEI/MEID on the SIM tray:
- iPhone 3G
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 4 (GSM model)
- iPhone 4s
If you have an original iPhone, you can find the serial number and IMEI engraved on the back.
What to do if you are locked
You can contact your carrier, as in many countries they unlock the device for free or for a fee. In the U.S., carriers like AT&T have also made it easy to unlock off-contract iPhone. There are also many sources of information on the web about how to get your phone unlocked, and there are many websites which, for a fee, will provide an unlock code.
If you learn that you’re not eligible for the official carrier unlock, you can opt for an IMEI unlock. Although this method isn’t “official”, it works just like the official carrier unlock. It’s permanent, works with all models and iOS versions and persists even after a restore and doesn’t require you a jailbreak or any other hacks.
Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes in the comments.
Last updated: January 30, 2020
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