Some of the questions we get asked most frequently from customers are in regard to iPhone unlocking. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the topic, so we made a comprehensive guide that addresses every imaginable question. Keep in mind that this guide was made exclusively for people who want information about unlocking Apple iPhones. If you’re looking for unlock information about any other kind of smartphone, you’ll want to look elsewhere for that information.

What does it mean for an iPhone to be “locked” and what does unlocking your iPhone do?

Many networks place a lock on their devices to prevent you from switching networks before they have recouped their money. Unlocking refers to removing this restrictive network lock so you can use your iPhone with a network other than the company from which the iPhone was originally purchased.

Why should I unlock my iPhone?

Unlocking gives you the freedom to use your iPhone with the network of your choice, whenever and wherever you want (with a few exceptions detailed later in the article). For example, if you are currently using T-Mobile but are moving to a new area of the country with poor T-Mobile coverage, you can switch to AT&T on a dime. Unlocking also gives you the ability to take your iPhone to foreign countries and use local networks in those countries. If you travel between countries frequently you can switch between your foreign and domestic networks effortlessly. Unlocking makes it as simple as popping in and out a SIM card to switch between these networks. But what if you have no desire to switch between networks? What if you’re perfectly content using the network you’ve been using for years and are just upgrading to a new device? Should you still bother with unlocking your iPhone? The short and sweet answer is yes. If you ever plan on selling your old iPhone you’ll almost always get more money for it if the iPhone is already unlocked. Unlocked iPhones are in high demand and as such have a higher resale value than locked iPhones for all the reasons we just addressed.

Is my iPhone eligible to be unlocked?

Most U.S network operators allow customers to unlock their iPhones but under what circumstances varies widely from company to company. As a general rule, most networks want you to complete your contract or pay off your financial obligations with them before they’ll allow you to unlock your iPhone. We’ve made a list of the detailed iPhone unlocking requirements for each of the nations 4 largest wireless networks.

AT&T iPhone Unlocking Requirements

Your AT&T iPhone is eligible to be unlocked if it meets all of the following requirements:

-Your AT&T iPhone must not be reported as lost or stolen.

-If your AT&T plan calls for a service commitment that commitment must be completed prior to unlocking your iPhone. For example, if you are on one of the older 2-year contracts you must complete that 2-year service agreement before AT&T will allow you to unlock your iPhone unless you pay all the associated early termination fees.

-If you are on an installment agreement such as AT&T NEXT you must either complete the installment payments on schedule or pay the agreed upon amount for early termination as well as the balance still owed on the iPhone.

-Your associated AT&T account needs to have been active for at least 60 days and be in good standing (I.E no missed payments or unpaid balances).

-If your associated AT&T account is a prepaid Go-Phone account you must pay for at least 6 months of service before the iPhone will be unlock eligible.

-If anyone on your AT&T account just upgraded to a new AT&T phone you need to wait 14 days past the upgrade date before submitting an unlock request.

T-Mobile iPhone Unlocking Requirements

Your T-Mobile iPhone is eligible to be unlocked if it meets all of the following requirements:

-Your iPhone must not be reported as lost or stolen.

-Your iPhone must not have a current activation status of ‘blocked” by T-Mobile

-Your iPhone needs to have been active on the T-Mobile network for at least 40 days.

-If your T-Mobile plan has a service commitment that commitment must have been served for at least 18 months and your account must be in good standing.

-If your iPhone is on a financing plan your must pay off the full remaining balance due

-You haven’t requested more than 2 T-Mobile device unlocks within the past 12 months.

-If your associated T-Mobile account has been canceled the remaining balance due must be $0.

-For pre-paid T-Mobile plans your iPhone must have been active on the associated account for 1 year or have had $100 in refills since the first activation date if it’s been active for less than 1 year.

Sprint iPhone Unlocking Requirements

Your Sprint iPhone is eligible to be unlocked if it meets all of the following requirements:

-Your iPhone must not be reported as lost or stolen.

-Your iPhone needs to have been active on a Sprint Account for a minimum of 50 days.

-The associated Sprint account must be in good standing.

-All service agreements, billing agreements, or leasing agreements for the iPhone must be fulfilled including any early termination fees if applicable.

-If you are leasing the iPhone you must pay for the end of lease purchase option after fulfilling your contract.

Verizon iPhone Unlocking Requirements

Drumroll, please… Your iPhone is already unlocked! Verizon decided to remove all network locks several years ago. As such, all Verizon iPhones from the 4S to the latest model have already been network unlocked by Verizon. There are no requirements or catches of any kind.

Update 10/30/2018: In early 2018 Verizon started a new policy of locking brand new iPhones for an unspecified amount of time. They started this new policy to prevent theft from their retail stores, amongst a few other issues. That being said, Verizon’s official unlocking policy has not changed. They may or may not lock your brand new Verizon iPhone to their network for a minimum of 60 days but after that short time frame they will unlock your iPhone with no strings attached in accordance with their official post-paid unlocking policy. In summation, if you have a Verizon iPhone that’s more than a few months old it should be unlocked. If your iPhone is brand new or less than a few months old you may want to call Verizon to see if they can verify if your iPhone is unlocked or not.

How do I request that my iPhone be unlocked?

If your iPhone meets the eligibility requirements for your network the next step is to request that the iPhone be unlocked from your network. As with the eligibility requirements, this process varies from company to company and is outlined for each one below.

AT&T

AT&T makes unlocking your iPhone incredibly easy with their unlock portal. Even better, you don’t even have to be the original owner of the iPhone to submit an AT&T iPhone unlock request. As long as the previous owner met the unlock requirements, the iPhone can be unlocked by a non-AT&T customer. Simply go to this link, fill out the form and submit it. You’ll then receive a confirmation email. Just open the email and click on the confirmation link. That’s it! AT&T will unlock your iPhone within 2 business days.

T-Mobile

While T-Mobile does have a device unlock app, it, unfortunately, does not work with iPhones. To unlock a T-Mobile iPhone you’ll need to contact T-Mobile customer service directly. To get in touch you can dial 611 from your T-Mobile iPhone or go here for other contact options like instant chat.

Sprint

If you purchased a new iPhone from Sprint launched after February 2016, Sprint will automatically unlock your iPhone once it meets their eligibility requirements (which is pretty darn cool). Sprint specifies that this only applies to iPhones being actively used on their network. If you have an inactive iPhone or have a Sprint iPhone that was launched before February 2016, you’ll need to contact Sprint customer service by dialing *2 on your Sprint phone or dialing 888-211-4727 to request an unlock. There have been reports from some Sprint customers that the auto-unlock program does not always work as it should so it’s definitely a good idea to verify that your iPhone has been unlocked before attempting to switch to another network or advertising your iPhone as unlocked for resale. Directions for verifying that your iPhone has been unlocked are outlined later in this article.

Do I need to do anything after my unlock request has been approved?

In the old days you’d have to hook an iPhone up to iTunes and do a software restore to complete the unlock process. These days it’s much simpler. If you’re unlocking any iPhone newer than a 3GS your iPhone will perform an automatic unlock verification check as soon as you insert a SIM card that does not belong to your current network. Once Apple verifies that your iPhone has been network unlocked your iPhone will boot up to your new network and you’ll never get the verification message again for any new SIM card inserted. This verification check generally takes less than a minute to complete once the SIM has been inserted and just requires a WIFI connection.

How can I make sure that my iPhone is unlocked?

It’s never a bad idea to make sure your iPhone has truly been unlocked before switching networks or selling your iPhone as “unlocked”. Better safe than sorry right? To verify that your iPhone has been unlocked simply insert a SIM card from another network and wait for the automatic unlock check mentioned above to complete. If your iPhone returns to the home screen after the SIM has been inserted, it’s unlocked. If you see a white screen that says “SIM Not Supported”, your iPhone has not been unlocked. If you don’t have access to a SIM card from another network, you can still verify that your iPhone has been unlocked using an iTunes software restore. Just hook your iPhone up to a computer running iTunes and hit the “restore” option. Once the restore process has completed, you should see a message that says “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.”

Are there any limitations on what networks I can use after my iPhone has been unlocked?

This depends on the model of your iPhone and your iPhones original network. We’ve made a list of what networks you can use below based on these factors.

AT&T

Original iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C: Will only work with other GSM networks after being unlocked such as T-Mobile in the USA or any international GSM network. Will not work with CDMA networks such as Verizon or Sprint.

iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus: Will work with any network in the world.

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max: Will only work with other GSM networks after being unlocked such as T-Mobile in the USA or any international GSM network. Will not work with CDMA networks such as Verizon or Sprint.

T-Mobile

iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C: Will only work with other GSM networks after being unlocked such as T-Mobile in the USA or any international GSM network. Will not work with CDMA networks such as Verizon or Sprint.

iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus: Will work with any network in the world.

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max: Will only work with other GSM networks after being unlocked such as T-Mobile in the USA or any international GSM network. Will not work with CDMA networks such as Verizon or Sprint.

Sprint

iPhone 4S and iPhone 5: These models can only be unlocked for international use. You won’t be able to unlock them for domestic use with any network other than Sprint in the USA.

iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max: Will work with any network in the world.

Verizon

iPhone 4S and iPhone 5: These models are compatible with any network in the world but may have internet limitations on GSM networks depending upon your network. For example, if you use the iPhone 5 with a GSM network like AT&T it will only operate on 4G signal rather than the LTE data speeds it’s capable of on the Verizon network.

iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max: Will work with any network in the world.

Is the unlocked status of my iPhone permanent?

Yes, once your iPhone has been unlocked it will remain that way for the life of the device. You can freely restore your iPhone or update to new software without worrying about your unlock disappearing afterward.