If you buy a phone from a mobile carrier and would later like to move to another carrier, you need to get the phone unlocked. Each mobile service provider has its policy on unlocking.
Buying a phone through your mobile service provider
If you buy from a mobile carrier, it’s possible to get good deals on phones. But the drawback is that the phones will be locked to the carrier. Customers prefer to buy phones through their service providers because it’s easy to find a good deal.
Buying a phone directly from the manufacturer
If you bought the phone directly from the manufacturer, it’s possible to buy the phone unlocked. This allows you to switch carriers easily.
Note that not all devices work with all carriers. You can check your phone’s compatibility with a carrier on the carrier’s website.
How to check if your phone is locked
If you are not sure if you can phone is locked, you can go to imei.info to check. You can also call your cell phone carrier to check if your phone is locked to that provider.
What you need to know about unlocking policies
If you are on an installment plan, and you leave the carrier, your payments will be accelerated. So pay off the phone before you request unlocking if you plan to move to another provider.
Exceptions for military personnel
Almost all providers have lenient unlocking policies for military personnel.
Unlocking policies of top mobile service providers
Unlocking policies vary widely between carriers. Over the years, major telecom providers have loosened their unlocking policies. Some carriers such as Google Fi don’t lock phones anymore.
Verizon phones are locked for 60 days but are unlocked automatically after the 60-day period. The policy applies to both prepaid and postpaid plans.
Visible is a Verizon-owned MVNO and Verizon’s 60-day policy on unlocking applies to Visible phones. So phones are unlocked after 60 days.
AT&T will unlock your postpaid phone if it has been active for at least 60 days. If you have a prepaid service with AT&T, your service must be active for at least 6 months before your phone can be unlocked.
If you have a T-Mobile postpaid plan, you can request unlocking the phone after 40 days. For prepaid plans, you must wait until 365 days before T-Mobile will unlock the phone.
If your phone is fully paid off, Xfinity Mobile will unlock your phone 60 days after activation.
If you buy a phone from Google Fi, it comes unlocked. There is no need to call Google Fi to unlock your phone.
Unlocking through third party services
If you have a locked phone, the safest way to unlock a phone is through the carrier. If you call Customer Service, the representative will walk you through the steps to unlock the phone. Unlocking through the carrier also maintains the manufacturer warranty in most cases. If you qualify for the unlock, the carrier don’t charge a fee.
There are third-party Unlocking Services that will unlock your phone for a fee. Read reviews and ensure that you are dealing with a reputable company before you sign up. If you unlock your phone using a third party, your phone warranties may be void.
You can move to another carrier by unlocking your phone. Carriers have different policies for unlocking. In almost all cases, the phones need to be paid off and your account needs to be in good standing. Your carrier will unlock the phone for free if you meet their requirements for unlocking. But there are also some third- party services that will unlock your phone for a fee. Do your research to confirm that these providers are trustworthy before using them.