Tired of missing out on a mobile phone deal that is cheaper because your phone is stuck with one network? In this guide, we explain how to unlock your phone, so you can have the freedom to switch to any network you like.
What does ‘unlocking' mean?
Most mobile phones are connected to a particular network such as Vodafone, Virgin, EE, or O2. This indicates that the phone is locked to that particular network and will not work with the others.
Network operators are authorised to lock your phone since they often subsidise the cost of the phone when you take out a contract, so they want to make this money back before you switch to another phone company.
Unlocking your phone implies that you can use it on any network you like.
Pros and cons of unlocking
Unlocking your phone may seem like a no-brainer. However, there are disadvantages as well as advantages to consider.
|If you resell your phone it will be worth more if it is unlocked||It will usually cost you to unlock your phone|
|You may be able to get benefit from cheaper tariffs||It may invalidate the warranty, so you may need to consider insurance if you phone is expensive|
|You can take advantage of any network-specific deals|
How do you unlock your phone?
Contact your provider
Begin by contacting your existing network and informing them that you want to unlock your phone. Every network has different policies on when you can unlock your phone, how long the process will take, and how much they will charge you.
Some networks will unlock your phone for free, so check out the tool on the Ofcom website to learn about your network's policy. However, some networks charge up to £20.
You might need the following information when you call:
- Your mobile number
- Your manufacturer and model number (this can be found on the outer case of your phone)
- Your IMEI number (this is the serial number that can be found by typing *#06# into your phone)
Your provider will then provide you with an unlocking code. When you have this, you can put the SIM card of your new provider into your phone and enter the code. It will then display a message to inform you that it has worked.
Try an online phone unlocking service
If your network charges you for unlocking your phone, it is worth checking if you can get it done for a lower price elsewhere. Some phones can even be unlocked for free using a code that you can find yourself on the internet.
However, it is worth regarding that not every kind of handset will be covered and you may not be able to look for a code for your phone.
You can check if a free unlock code is available for your phone or receive a list of quotes for a paid unlocking service with the use of Unlockapedia on Giffgaff's website. Compare the price of services and how long it will take to what your network quoted you.
Have your phone unlocked on the high street
You can also pay for a fee of about £10 to get your phone unlocked on the high street, either at your local phone shop or at an outlet dedicated to this service. However, it is worth shopping around to discover the best deal.
Some will do this with a code, similar to the online services, and you may assume that being ripped off is less likely to happen in person. Others, on the other hand, will manually handle the process, with the use of a cable to attach the handset to a computer and some specialist software.
You can also purchase the equipment to manually unlock your phone yourself online. However, it is only worth considering if you are confident in your capabilities in tinkering with technology.
Is it worth paying to unlock a phone?
If you are considering unlocking your phone, it is worth ensuring that the fees that you pay for to unlock it will be outweighed by the savings that you will make by having the freedom to switch networks. Otherwise, it may be best to stick with your current network. You could always attempt to haggle your way to a better deal.