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A Complete Guide to Unlocking Your Smartphone on Any Network in the UK


Recently, iPhones and various android mobile phones of different manufacturer brands have been available in the markets as already unlocked devices. These smartphones are available to buy without dependence on a specific telephone company.

So, from the first moment, you can hire the telecom services of the one that interests you and then change it to another without needing to unlock your phone. Or use a prepaid SIM card that you already owned previously.

Yet many people wonder how to unlock a smartphone because they do not want to continue with the service provider that initially gave them their mobile phone on contract or a pay-as-you-go deal.

When we talk about how to unlock your phone, we refer to the process by which your mobile phone gets unlocked from dependence on its original telecom service provider and is ready to support another telco’s SIM card.

In other words, your mobile phone can be used with any SIM card from any telecommunications company and anywhere in the world. It is unnecessary to use USB-WIFI to format your mobile device. We can also clarify that the methodology for unlocking a mobile phone is very different from that of unlocking a Desktop PC or an Apple laptop.

Locked Vs Unlocked Smartphone – The Difference

When we have a smartphone, we connect to the world, and everything is fine. Nevertheless, when we find that our phone is locked and not compatible with any other SIM carrier, many problems arise for users.

Unlocking a SIM has many benefits, and the main advantage is that the phone receives freedom from network restrictions; you can use any GSM network you need and move anywhere with your precious handset. An unlocked mobile also helps you save money in many ways.

Therefore, every smartphone user needs to know how to unlock their Android phones or iPhones.

Based on the type of mobile you have and the company you get telecom services from, you may be able to unlock your phone. Then you have the freedom to use the same phone with different companies or change phone numbers and service accounts.

There are two primary motivations for taking a locked cell phone and turning it into an unlocked phone:

Easy To Switch Companies

The device gets compatible with another local wireless provider by following the process to unlock a phone or tablet. An unlocked phone allows you to change operators without buying a new mobile phone.

Minimise The Cost of International Calls

International roaming fees while travelling abroad can be costly. An unlocked phone can remain usable in conjunction with a prepaid SIM card from a local company at the destination to save a significant amount of money. Unlocking a phone can also increase its resale value.

If you are thinking of changing your network operator or service provider, you may be worried about using an alternative SIM card on your phone. Some phones are locked with a particular carrier, preventing using a SIM card from another network.

We’ll assist you in unlocking your phone, so make sure you read till the end.

Locked Phones Are Dedicated

If your smartphone is under restrictions and you try to use a different SIM card, you will be unable to consume calling minutes, send texts or use data of the other SIM. There aren’t many downsides to a phone that isn’t locked anymore. If someone takes the action of unlocking their phone, it may or may not void their warranty.

Locked phones, however, are best for the businesses that provide corporate phones to their employees. It can offer a standardised facility to the employees, and the corporate billing will be transparent and easy to manage by the company.

It is a grey area in the telecom industry, and it seems to vary between operators and even between unlocking methods. If done correctly by following the rules dictated by the carrier, you can unlock your phone without voiding its warranty.

An Unlocked Phone Is Costly

Apart from that, the only real downside to an unlocked phone is acquiring one. Since any SIM card can be inserted and used in an unlocked phone, consumers often demand it. The result is usually a price increase, so people end up paying more than they would like for an unlocked phone.

It shows the benefit of staying in the market for locked phones; If you can find a phone that you want to dedicate to a single carrier you use, and you don’t think you will change your network anytime soon, you can save yourself some money.

How To Get the IMEI Code of The Mobile You Want to Unlock?

If you want to check your phone’s lock status, you’ll need the International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI code. As you are checking, in all cases, your IMEI code is necessary to obtain the unlock code that allows you to unlock your mobile.

At this point, you may have wondered how you can get it. Don’t worry; it’s effortless. Every mobile has this code from the moment it leaves the factory, and there are no two alike in the world. You have several ways to get it:

Dial *#06#

One of the most common ways is dialling *#06# from your mobile’s dial-pad that you want to know the IMEI code for; chances are you’ll get it ASAP. Regardless of which brand of mobile device you use and which company you use. A 15-digit code will appear on the mobile screen. It is your IMEI code.

Look For It in The Mobile Settings

Each mobile has its particular settings, but the procedure is the same with slight variations. In settings, in the information about the phone and status, you will find information about the IMEI to see the code.

Look It Up on The Physical Phone

Usually, the IMEI code rests under the mobile battery (external mobile battery); don’t confuse it with fixed batteries. In addition to requesting the unlock code to unlock a mobile phone, the IMEI code is a requirement to identify if it’s a stolen phone or not.

You can also find it in the phone’s box and invoice, probably also under the battery on the mobile itself. It acts similarly to the chassis number of a vehicle’s engine, so it is essential to recognise it and have it written down in one or more places.

Currently, it is effortless to unlock a mobile for free and from Home. In some companies, it will be a faster process than in others, but the difficulty to do it successfully is minimal in all of them. If you want to unlock your mobile, do not hesitate, it does not have any problem.

How To Know If Your Phone Is Locked?

If you want to know about your mobile phone’s situation and if it’s locked or not, the simplest way forward is to try a different SIM. If the other SIM of a different telco doesn’t show any signals or you’re unable to make phone calls and texts, your SIM has restrictions and is under a lock by your mobile service provider.

There are simple reasons why your current telco service provider has locked your SIM. It can be due to your contract restricting you from changing your SIM, or it may be because you haven’t yet become eligible to use your smartphone for any other SIM. Another reason can be that you haven’t even applied to unlock your phone from your service provider.

Most mobile phones are already unlocked, and users can use different SIM cards in their cell phones. Nevertheless, it’s not a finite situation, and your purchase may vary in your phone’s usability status.

In this sense, one of the quickest ways is to check if your phone is locked or not. Try a different SIM from another network you currently have and attempt to make a phone call. If the call gets through, your mobile is already free to use; if not, it’s better that you connect with your service provider at the earliest.

Based on your contract, there can be different restrictions on your phone from your telecom service provider. For this reason, you should read the fine print before you sign any contract, especially if the service is for the long run, like a year or multiple months.

What Are Carrier Restrictions On a Locked Smartphone?

First, let’s explore what kind of lock an “unlocked” phone has defeated. When phone manufacturers create a phone, they add special software accessible with a unique code. This software and its code should only be accessible by the telephone operators who sell the phone.

When operators decide to support the manufacturer’s phone as part of their product range, they access this software using the code and add operator restrictions to any mobile. These restrictions dedicate the smartphone to the carrier’s network only.

So, people who buy the phone from that network cannot use it on anyone else’s network even if they remove the SIM and use an alternative one.

We may ask why the lock is there in the first place? The operators claim it’s to prevent people from taking a phone cheaper than the market price through a two-year contract and then switching operators, leaving the original operator out of money.

However, to get out of these yearly contracts, you have to pay the extra money upfront to cover the cost the carrier would lose entirely, so you wouldn’t lose out even if someone did. The real reason probably lies in a simple argument: it makes it harder for people to leave the carrier.

If they want to test someone else’s network, they can’t just insert a rival operator’s SIM card. It means that consumers sacrifice their phone and go or keep their phone and stay. Since this is not a problem if the phone lock is not there anymore, unlocking comes into play.

UK Networks

To help you unlock your phones, we have shortlisted some of the top UK based telecom carriers. If you have a phone with carrier restrictions, you can easily follow the instructions and start using your phone without any restrictions.

There are slight differences in the process of unlocking your phone based on the network; still, the process is straightforward for each telco. If you don’t see your network on the list, you can connect with your customer support service, and we’re sure they will guide you through their process.

Unlock Your Phone – EE

EE has already revised a small fee for pay-as-you-go or SIM-only and contract customers, and it’s just under £9. The unlock phone process goes through an online form, which you can access here.

The network checks if your bills are clear or still pending, and you must have been on the contract phone for six months at the least.

For pay-as-you-go customers, you need to register yourself by calling at 150, and a similar way also works for Plusnet or BT Mobile phones. EE automatically unlocks iPad or iPhone after 18 months, and the Pixel phone unlocks after 721 days.

Unlock Your Phone – O2

O2’s monthly paying customers can unlock their mobiles during their contract for zero fees. 02 unlock phone process initiates through the ‘My O2’ Online platform or the main menu in the O2 app; if you want to unlock an iPhone or an iPad, it’s best to connect with iTunes as you use the alternate SIM.

iTunes will explain when the phone or tablet is active for alternate SIM usage. O2 will send you a text with an unlocking code if you have any other mobile or tablet. O2 pay-as-you-go customers can follow the same steps stated earlier. The methods are the same.

Unlock Your Phone – Vodafone

Vodafone mobiles are unlocked with zero fees through an online form. Vodafone unlock phone application allows you to get a response within 48 hours, and the whole process may take up to ten days.

If you are a pay-as-you-go customer, you must be active on the device in the past month. You need to pay at least three bills for monthly paying customers since you get your device, and likewise, it goes for small business customers.

Unlock Your Phone – Tesco Mobile

Suppose you are a monthly paying or the pay-as-you-go customer at Tesco Mobile. Your device is easily unlockable. Monthly paying devices can activate for free, but a £10 fee for unlocking is needed if the phone activates in the past year for pay-as-you-go devices. The device’s IMEI number is mandatory for this to happen, and use the online platform to get your phone active.

Once you apply, you will get through the unlocking process within seven days. Tesco mobile may offer this service to most phones. However, some devices might not work through this process. So, it’s better to connect with the service provider first then apply for unlocking.

Unlock Your Phone – Three

All Three’s devices available after January 2014 are already free to use. However, if you have an older device, you need to fill up the online form, and your unlock code will arrive in 72 hours. Three unlock phones process takes less than seven days for the unlocking to take place, and for Apple devices, it usually concludes within 72 hours.

Unlock Your Phone – Virgin Mobile

If you have a Virgin mobile device from earlier than July 2012, it may need unlocking since all devices after this date are already unlocked. Virgin unlock phone process requires your device’s information like IMEI, manufacturer or model name and connect with your service provider.

Your device will unlock within fifteen minutes to 48 hours tentatively.

Is It Legal to Unlock Your Phone?

There are requirements if you want to unlock your phone. If you have finished paying your contract, it is entirely legal to unlock your phone. The same goes for any phone that you bought outright.

However, suppose you are still in the process of paying your initial contract. In that case, you are technically not the owner of the phone yet, and therefore it is a bit shady if you try to unlock your phone without informing your current service provider. We recommend checking the conditions with your network service provider before unlocking your phone.

Unlocking a phone can seem like a form of hacking. The ability to take a device and remove its restrictions to an operator sounds like something a law could protect.

Veteran smartphone users may roll their eyes at this question, but it is entirely valid! Around the year 2012, it was illegal to unlock your phone in America. Until 2015, users realised that manufacturers were selling unlocked phones as legitimate products and thus, unlocking the phone became legal again.

If you cancel your contract with a phone operator altogether, the operator must unlock a compatible phone.

How Talk Home Can Help

Talk Home can help you unlock your phone by giving you the details based on your UK’s telecom service providers. Unlocking your phone can be surprisingly easy once you know how to do it. First, you will need to contact your provider and request an unlock.

It must be the original network, not the network of the new SIM card you are trying to use.

Once you have received confirmation that your provider has unlocked your phone, you can turn off the phone, put the new SIM card in the SIM card slot, and turn the phone back on.

Now, try to make a call to find out if the unlocking was successful or not. The unlocking has worked to connect a phone call through the new network. If not, contact your network provider again for further support.

Looking to transfer your number to another network? Read this guide: How to Transfer Mobile Number to Another Network

Get Your Free SIM From Talk Home Mobile

If you don’t have the SIM card, you may need to reset the phone before it gets free to use with other networks.

Contact us, and we will send you an absolutely free SIM card with fantastic call rates and data deals that are the lowest cost in the entire UK.

We’ve listed each network provider to help you figure out how to unlock your phone. Find your company in the list above and follow the instructions provided.

To unlock your phone, you must be the device account holder and have the information like its IMEI number, have had the device for at least six months, have paid your bills on the date, and have not reported the device as lost or stolen.

If you have a monthly payment device, you will be able to unlock your phone for free if your contract has ended. If you haven’t, it will cost you a subscription to unlock it. The same goes for a pay-as-you-go device (free if the applicant buys it outright, or pays a specific fee payment if they don’t).

Any locked second-hand device purchased through eBay, Gumtree, etc. it will cost to unlock, just like any small business device. The phone activates for free use within 72 hours on average, but it may take up to ten days in some cases.

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