IMEI Number Unlocking

What is an IMEI number and what does unlocking mean ?

Your phone has a unique serial number assigned to it. This is like a VIN which is issued to motor vehicles. An IMEI number can only be used once and cannot be transferred or changed at least not legally. This IMEI number along with several other bits of information identify your phone when it connects to your carriers network. When your cell phone was manufactured chances are that it was “locked” to a specific network assuming that your carrier uses something called GSM or Global Standard for Mobile technology. For CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint see flashing.

For example if I buy an iPhone from AT&T it has the capability to work outside of AT&Ts network but has been restricted from doing so. This means that if I want to use it anywhere else I must first remove this network lock. Once this network lock has been removed I am free to use my iPhone elsewhere such as on T-Mobiles network or anywhere outside of the US as long as I am dealing with another GSM compatible carrier.

Why was my phone locked in the first place?

As you might imagine your wireless carrier would like to keep you as a customer for as long as possible. Since they more than likely subsidized the cost of your phone it is reasonable for them to hope that in the long run their investment will pay off. As an incentive they have requested that the phone manufacturer make it somewhat difficult for you to take your phone elsewhere.

imei number
iPhone IMEI number shown in about screen.

What does an IMEI number have to do with unlocking?

An IMEI number is used to calculate a code which can be used to unlock your phone so that it can be used on different networks. There are complex algorithms used to calculate these unlock codes. Since these algorithms are usually not available to the public it is necessary to pay a third party to calculate these codes based on your IMEI number.

Why should I unlock my phone?

There are a few reasons for unlocking a cell phone. The most obvious would be the freedom to use your phone wherever you please and avoid expensive roaming charges when you are outside of the country. Besides that it increases the resale value of your phone.

Is unlocking legal?

In the past this was a difficult question to answer. Clarification by the Library of Congress currently states that in order to unlock your cell phone, you must have permission from your wireless carrier. This is possible since while you own your cell phone you do not own the software which operates the phone. Therefore you are not free to do as you please with it. This includes modifying, backward engineering, unlocking and more. As of today it is technically not legal to unlock a phone which was manufactured after January 26, 2013. The good news is that this ruling appears to be unpopular with just about everyone including the White House. Eventually it is expected to be overturned and so far the laws regarding network unlocking do not appear to be enforced.

Where can I find my phones IMEI number?

Your IMEI number can be found in two different locations. One of these is on the bar code label inside of the phones battery compartment. If you remove your battery you should see a sticker attached to the phone which contains several numbers including your IMEI. If you cannot find this label or you have a phone with an internal battery then you can find your IMEI somewhere in the phones settings. This will vary by model but for example you can find the IMEI on your iPhone by entering Settings>General>About. For most Android devices you can enter Settings/General Settings>About Phone>Phone Identity. Windows phones follow a path like Settings>About>More Info.

Will unlocking my phone void the manufacturers warranty?

In most cases your warranty will not be affected. The exception to this rule is when you use third party software or some sort of hardware like a Gevey Turbo SIM adapter or in the case of an iPhone 5 the GPP adapter, to perform the unlock. While this hardware is easy to remove you should be sure that any unauthorized third party software is removed from your device before requesting warranty service from the manufacturer.

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If I unlock my phone will it still work with my native carrier or cause any problems?

Absolutely. Removing the network lock from your cell phone in no way affects the functionality of your device other than allowing it access to different networks. Think of it this way. If you are locked in a cage removing the lock will allow you to leave but there is no reason that you can’t come back.

How do I unlock my phone?

If you have an iPhone scroll down to the next paragraph. This all depends on what kind of phone that you have. In most cases your phone can be unlocked using a code which is generated by a third party. This code comes from an algorithm based on your phones unique IMEI number or “International Mobile Equipment Identity” number.  Once your unlock code has been generated simply insert a “foreign” SIM card and you will be prompted to enter this code. Be aware that entering the wrong unlock code too many times can disable your phones ability to be unlocked. Make sure that your unlock code comes from a reliable source and if it doesn’t work after your second attempt DO NOT continue trying to enter it!

How do I unlock my iPhone?

GSM iPhones are actually unlocked through iTunes. After your unlock request has been processed you will need follow these steps:

  • Submit your IMEI number for unlocking and wait for an email confirming that your request has been processed.
  • Turn off your iPhone.
  • Insert a foreign SIM card into your iPhone.
  • Connect the iPhone to iTunes and wait until you see a message on your computer that states your activation could not be completed. This may take several minutes so be patient.
  • When the message appears disconnect your iPhone from the computer and then plug it back in.
  • Within minutes you will see a message in iTunes stating that your iPhone is unlocked.

No matter which unlocking service you use be sure that you submit the correct IMEI number.