When you buy a phone from a carrier it is likely locked to their specific network. If a phone is locked, you can only use it with the carrier you bought it from. However, with an unlocked phone, you have the option to switch carriers. In this guide, you will learn how to unlock your phone with each of the “Big Four” carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
Verizon: Unlock my Phone
Verizon automatically unlocks your phone after 60 days
Before July, 2019, Verizon sold most of their phones already unlocked. However, Verizon now locks all phones for 60 days in order to prevent theft and fraud. Although this may be seem frustrating, the great thing about Verizon is that it will automatically unlock your phone after you’ve had it for 60 days. You won’t need to call the carrier and request an unlock.
If you bought a phone before Verizon changed its unlock policy you may find that your phone is already unlocked.
If you bought a Phone-in-the-Box device, you may need to wait up to a full year before you’ll be eligible for an unlock.
To learn more about unlocking your Verizon phone read our detailed guide: How to Unlock Your Verizon Phone
AT&T: Unlock my Phone
To start the process of unlocking an AT&T phone, you have to use the carrier’s online unlock portal. Your phone needs to meet the following criteria to be eligible for unlocking:
- Your phone can’t be reported lost or stolen
- Your phone must be fully paid off
- Wait 14 days after an upgrade to unlock your old device—If you have a business account wait 30 days
- At the time you send in your unlock request, you need to have had active AT&T service for at least 60 days with no past due or unpaid balance
- If you are in the military, you need to send AT&T proof of deployment before they’ll unlock your phone
If you meet these requirements, go to AT&T’s device unlock portal and fill out an e-form to unlock your phone. AT&T will get back to you within 48 hours to confirm or deny your request.
To learn more about unlocking your AT&T phone, read our guide: How to Unlock Your AT&T Phone
Sprint: Unlock my Phone
To unlock your Sprint phone, you must meet the following requirements:
- Your phone must be (or have been) active on the Sprint network for a minimum of 50 days
- Your phone must be paid off in full
- Your account is in good standing
- Your phone can’t be lost or stolen
To unlock your phone, contact Sprint Customer Care at 888-211-4727.
If you’re eligible Sprint will unlock your phone within two business days
To learn more about unlocking your Sprint phone, read our guide: How to Unlock Your Sprint Phone
T-Mobile: Unlock My Phone
T-Mobile will unlock your phone for free after you’ve met the following criteria:
- Your phone needs to be a T-Mobile phone
- Your account is in good standing
- Your phone can’t be reported as lost or stolen
- You haven’t reached T-Mobile’s limit of unlocking devices (two devices per year, per line)
- If you have a prepaid phone, your phone must be active on the T-Mobile network for 12 or more months—You also have to spend the amount of money listed on the back of your phone’s box on your prepaid account
- If you have a postpaid phone, your phone must have been active on T-Mobile’s network for 40 days or more—Your phone also has to be fully paid off.
If your phone is eligible for unlocking, call T-Mobile customer service and they will provide you with an unlock code. Customer service will also talk you through inputting the code into your phone.
To learn more about unlocking your T-Mobile phone, read our guide: How to Unlock Your T-Mobile Phone
Use Your Unlocked Phone
The best part of an unlocked phone is the ability to take it to a variety of carriers to get a great deal. However, keep in mind that not all unlocked phone work with other carriers. To find out which network you can take your phone to, check out our other guides:
Switch to AT&T and Bring Your Own Phone
Do We Prefer Financing Our Cell Phones or Buying Them Outright?
Most consumers opt to take the upfront financial hit of purchasing their cell phone outright rather than entering into a device repayment contract, according to a new survey from LetsTalk.com.
Indeed, 66% of the 1,000 people surveyed across all age groups purchased their current cell phone outright, while 34% chose a device installment plan.
Owning your own phone means you’re free from a long-term financial commitment with your carrier, so you can switch to a new one whenever you want. This makes it easy to take advantage of any of the multitude of cell phone deals available at any one time.
About Our Finding
The preponderance of outright purchases over financing mirrors an increasing interest in more affordable devices.
Last year at this time, the majority of searches on our sister site WhistleOut.com were for more expensive Apple devices, like the iPhone XS and XS Max, year-old iPhone X, and then-new Samsung Galaxy S9 and Note9. This year, however, most people are interested in cheaper variants like the iPhone 11, iPhone XR, Samsung Galaxy 10 S10e, and the now 2-year-old iPhone 8.
Connecting the two findings, it seems the majority of consumers are interested in buying affordable devices outright, as opposed to expensive ones via 24-month device installment plans.
To gather our data, we surveyed 1,000 Americans across all age groups about their cell phone plans. We then sorted this data according to age: 18-24 year-olds, 25-34 year-olds, 35-44 year olds, and 45+ year-olds.