Maybe you’re out of contract and you've seen a great SIM-only deal. Or perhaps someone’s given you their old phone and it’s locked. Unlocking your phone doesn't need to be a headache. In fact, it’s often easier and cheaper than you might expect.
Sim only deals
- There are some great SIM-only deals around, and if your phone's unlocked, you can take your pick.
Sell your mobile
- If you're thinking of selling your phone bear in mind that it will be worth more if it's unlocked.
- Going abroad? With an unlocked phone, you can pick up a SIM card in the country you're in and save money.
Is it legal?
Lots of people think it's illegal to unlock your phone, and mobile phone companies are happy for them to keep believing that. It's in their interests for phones to remain locked. But unlocking is perfectly legal. Spread the word!
Is it safe?
There are different forms of unlocking, and some are safer than others. If you're entering a code to unlock your phone, this is pretty safe. If you're connecting your handset to a machine or third-party software, there's always a risk of changing settings and affecting the phone's usability.
It's worth bearing in mind that unlocking will probably invalidate your warranty. So if your phone's pretty new and expensive, you might want to think twice.
Before you delve into the world of unlocking, be sure that your phone is locked in the first place. While most network providers sell locked phones, there are exceptions to this. You can find out by asking your network provider or simply trying a different provider's SIM to see if it works.
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Where do I start?
Phones can be unlocked in two ways.
1) With a code
This is the most common method and is also known as remote unlocking.
2) With a cable
This will most likely involve getting someone else to do the unlocking. It is possible to do it yourself, but it's not easy.
Unlocking with a code
If you've got an older phone, you might be able to find a code to unlock it for free. Try entering your phone's make and model here to check. In order to get the code, you'll need your phone's unique IMEI number. You can find this by typing *#06# into your phone's keypad.
If there's no free code for your phone, you can buy one. Ask your network provider how much they charge for an unlocking code, or try a site like doctorSIM.
Once you've got your code, enter it into your phone carefully (you'll probably only get a few tries). You should see a message saying something like 'phone restriction off'.
Unlocking with a cable
There are lots of places on the high street offering to unlock your phone by cable. Get a few quotes and do a bit of haggling to get the best price. There are online services for this too, but you'd have to send your phone away to them.
Want to do it yourself? You can buy a cable fairly cheaply and download free software to do the unlocking. But be warned: it's pretty complicated. Unless you're very technical, it's probably not a great idea.
Once your phone's unlocked, make sure you keep an eye out for the best SIM-only deals. Remember, you can save by switching from one network to another when good offers come up.
And don't forget, when you're ready to get a new phone, you can cash in by selling your existing handset.Now that it's unlocked, you should get a better price for it.