Where can I get my iPhone unlocked?

Having an unlocked iPhone provides you with more flexibility and freedom. An unlocked iPhone is not tied to any particular carrier, allowing you to switch between compatible carriers and use local SIM cards when traveling internationally. However, most iPhones purchased directly from carriers come locked. So how do you unlock an iPhone?

What does it mean to unlock an iPhone?

When you purchase an iPhone directly from a carrier like AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile, it comes locked to that carrier’s network. This means you can only use it with a SIM card from that specific carrier. The carrier locks the phone to prevent you from taking your device and using it on another carrier’s network, at least until your contract or payment plan is completed.

Unlocking an iPhone breaks that carrier lock, allowing you to use it on other compatible carriers. Once unlocked, you can pop out the old carrier’s SIM card and put in a new SIM from any other carrier that uses GSM networks (like AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.). This gives you more options if you’re traveling internationally or want to switch carriers.

Benefits of unlocking your iPhone

Here are some of the key benefits of unlocking your iPhone:

  • Use other carriers: You can switch carriers or use local SIM cards when traveling abroad. This allows you to access cheaper prepaid plans.
  • Improved resale value: Unlocked phones have higher resale value because they have more versatility.
  • No long-term contracts: You avoid being locked into long carrier contracts when you bring your own unlocked phone.

Requirements for unlocking

There are a few requirements in order to unlock an iPhone:

  • The iPhone must be tied to a carrier. Unlocked iPhones purchased directly from Apple cannot be unlocked again.
  • The device must be paid off in full. Carriers will not unlock phones that are still being paid off through a carrier payment plan.
  • For older iPhones, you may need to meet certain account tenure requirements (like having had service for 12 consecutive months).

If you meet these requirements, there are a few options for getting your iPhone unlocked:

Unlocking through your carrier

The easiest way to unlock your iPhone is to go directly through your carrier:

  • AT&T – You can request an unlock through AT&T’s online unlock portal or by contacting customer service. AT&T unlocks are free for eligible devices.
  • Verizon – Verizon iPhones purchased after January 2019 are unlocked automatically after 60 days on their network. Older phones can be unlocked by submitting an unlock request.
  • T-Mobile – T-Mobile requires 40 days of service and for the device to be fully paid off to submit an unlock request by calling or chatting with customer service.

The carrier will provide you with instructions and may require you to connect your iPhone to iTunes to complete the unlock process. Unlocks directly through the carriers are reliable and free if you meet their eligibility conditions.

Using third-party unlocking services

If going through your carrier is not an option, you can use a third-party unlocking service. This involves paying a fee (usually $15-30) to services that offer remote iPhone unlocks. Some popular options include:

The process involves providing them with your IMEI number, iPhone model details, and making a payment. They will then send you instructions to complete the unlock process.

While cheaper than going to phone repair shops, be cautious of scam unlocking websites. Vet reviews and only use reputable third-party unlocking companies.

Using third-party apps

There are also some third-party apps that claim to provide iPhone unlocks:

However, Apple frowns upon these apps and they violate terms of service. Jailbreaking also voids your iPhone warranty. While cheaper, these options are less reliable and come with risks.

Using your phone provider abroad

Instead of going through the unlocking process, another option is to simply use your current iPhone carrier while traveling internationally:

  • AT&T – AT&T offers international day passes for $10/day per device.
  • Verizon – Verizon’s TravelPass is $10/day for 512MB of high speed data.
  • T-Mobile – T-Mobile has free 2G data and messaging internationally, with $15 for 15GB of 4G LTE data.

While more expensive than getting a local SIM, these carrier plans simplify using your iPhone abroad without any unlocking hassle.

Finding the best local SIM card

If you do unlock your iPhone and want to use a local SIM when traveling, you’ll need to do some research to find the best SIM card for your destination:

Country Recommended SIM Card
United Kingdom EE, Vodafone, Three
France Orange, SFR
Italy TIM, Vodafone
Spain Vodafone, Orange
Germany Telekom, Vodafone

Do some research ahead of your trip to find the carrier with the best prepaid SIM plan for your needs in your destination. Consider data amounts, coverage, and price.

What you’ll need to get started

When purchasing a local SIM for an unlocked iPhone, make sure you have the following:

  • An unlocked iPhone
  • A nano SIM ejector tool (to swap out SIM cards)
  • Destination SIM card purchased in advance or at airport kiosk
  • Passport or national ID card
  • Destination carrier account set up for SIM card

Having an unlocked phone and your own local SIM card allows you to access much cheaper cell phone plans when traveling internationally.

Key takeaways

Here are the key points to remember about unlocking your iPhone:

  • Unlocking lets you use other carrier SIMs domestically and internationally
  • You’ll need to fully pay off your iPhone before carriers will unlock it
  • Getting the carrier to unlock it is the best free option if eligible
  • Third party unlocking services work but fees apply
  • International carrier plans offer some flexibility without unlocking
  • Local SIM cards provide the most savings but require planning


At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision whether it’s worth taking the time and effort to get your iPhone unlocked. If you travel frequently or want maximum carrier flexibility, then unlocking has clear benefits. But occasional travelers may find their domestic carrier’s international plans or day passes provide enough connectivity when abroad at a simpler cost.

Hopefully this breakdown gives you a better understanding of the iPhone unlocking process, requirements, and options available. Having an unlocked device provides more choice, but there are still ways to get connected overseas even with a locked iPhone.

Carefully consider your own cellular usage needs. For most people, unlocking offers the best versatility and savings. But convenient carrier-based options exist too for those who prioritize simplicity over maximizing international savings.

With the right preparation and research ahead of time, you can have a smooth experience using your iPhone regardless of destination. Safe travels!