How To: Unlock Your Phone for Free

So you love your phone, but are not too keen on your phone service provider lately? Now, if you bought a phone from your provider when you got service then your phone is most likely locked to that provider and they will never let you leave with it, bwuahahahaha! Ok, so the sinister laugh is uncalled for and that statement is not actually true. I’ll explain.

To make a long story short, in the US, the phone companies here meet with manufacturers to see their new phones. If the US phone company likes a specific phone then they order it in a large quantity for a good price and require that the manufacturer put the carrier’s proprietary software on the phone, brand it with their company logo, and then lock it to their service (and also in the case of CDMA carriers here in the US, they have them convert the GSM version to a CDMA version as well). And viola, you have a Carrier branded and locked phone that they may also have an exclusive deal on to get you to sign up for their service (if you are curious about this whole process, we’ll get into it in more detail in another post).

Now, while the carrier may use the phone as an incentive to sign up for their service, there are some ways around this that the carriers wouldn’t really want to become common knowledge (…oops). What is this way around?

Well, first off there is a law that states that anyone has the right to unlock their phone so long as it is “for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.” With that being said, most carriers will unlock your phone for you. For free. Seriously.
Basically they have implemented their own rule that if you had a phone on their network for at least 3 months, you can call in and have that phone unlocked by their customer care department absolutely free. Just call in and tell them you are going on a vacation to Europe and you want to use a carrier overseas. They will say “no problem” and give you your unlock code.

Now, keep in mind this will only work for GSM networks (as they are the only ones that have codes to unlock the phone, CDMA phones must be flashed with new firmware. You always try though and see what they say). So that means AT&T and T-Mobile here in the US. (BUT doesn’t mean you can call in to unlock your iPhone. AT&T won’t budge on that phone. But calling in to curse at them is a nice stress reliever anyway).

So you are not past the 3 month period or you didn’t buy the phone from the carrier themselves? Well, you can still get your phone unlocked, but you would have to search Google for a company that unlocks devices. Just make sure they have a money back guarantee.

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  • Acsteffy87

    if it is a law then it shouldnt matter that att doesnt budge on the iphone, you could sue them for not abiding by the law right?

    • Hello ACSteffy87,

      Well the law says that you have the right to unlock your phone, but not anything about forcing the companies to unlock the phone for you… so you can unlock it yourself without any legal issues but dont expect ATT/Apple to make it easy when there is a huge contract between them on the line.
      Now ask them about any other phone and you wont have an issue… hmmm

  • jerby

    how about the tmobile mytouch, do you think tmobile can unlock it? just curious…

    • Hello Jerby,

      They definitely can, but you need to have used the phone on their network for 3 months first.
      Otherwise you can always unlock the phone on the internet by paying for it.

  • bomski

    I don’t understand why there is no software available for unlocking the phones. The source code for everything is there, right? I had always thought that all the firmware could be reflashed. So why can’t the phones be unlocked with a ROM upgrade?

    What is going on here?

  • shefflex

    i have a quick question. i bought htx magic. unlocked. i’m in tmobile and i have unlimited masages, but i cant send or recieve picture masages and i dont won’t to buy data plan. it cost to much. what should i do? i had nokia n95 8gb and i didn’t had this problem.

    • Hello Shefflex,

      You need to put in the T-Mobile MMS settings. You can find them in our Support section.

  • jae

    Whoooooooohooooooooo is true I called tmobile
    And said I was going to Europe and I was email my code .
    I’m using a g1, though it took 4 days but it was worth it..
    A millon thnkxs to the unlockr. ….

  • Aaron

    Is it better to have your phone unlocked or just gain root access.

    • Aaron,

      They are two different things, so it depends what you need. Do you like your phone on the carrier you are using it on? Then no need to unlock it.
      Unlocking lets you use a different service provider (I.e. Instead of AT&T, use T-Mobile, or vise versa). Where as rooting, lets you alter things on the phone itself (being able to tether, change themes, load roms, etc.).

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  • Oscar

    If i unlock a mytouch and i dont have the android plan will i still be able to use it?

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  • Alainnsuil

    How do I flash my droid eris with verizon to use with another service company?

  • Anonymous

    You actually don’t have to lie to your service provider. I called T-Mobile and just straight-up asked for an unlock code for my G1. No lies about Europe. Had the code within 24 hours in my inbox, free.

    • Mon Jiller

      thats because you have been a customer with them for over 3 months like the article stated

  • Olie

    The “Unlock My Phone” link works, but the page wont load :(. When an unlock code is purchased, can i use the code for more than one phone? I am a phone re-seller and a lot of my customers use Cricket or Boost but want to buy my Galaxy-S phones that are locked for T-mobile or AT&T.


    • Hpj

      Im having the same problem with the link…..any word on fixing this?

    • Hpj

      Im having the same problem with the link…..any word on fixing this?

  • Referman11

    Cant use the unlock my phone link where else can I go to get this.

  • Referman11

    Cant use the unlock my phone link where else can I go to get this.

  • ruger

    so i have a friend who wants to sell me his at&t galaxy s and i have tmobile who do i need to contact for the unlock code at&t or tmobile? thanks for the help

  • Akrogmeier

    dear unlockr…..i called att to unlock my captivate and they told me that because the captivate has exclusive rights to att….so is that like the iphone…also the link to purchasing unlock codes from here doesnt work….