Until recently, unlocking the iPhone has been a great deal. Having covered the iPhone since the original iPhone was unveiled, I know how much of a pain unlocking the iPhone can be. It required heavy technical skills at first followed by user friendly tools. It would require jailbreaking the device first and then unlocking using ultrasn0w. I don’t even want to start about the ugly Gevey SIMs! Not anymore. With the iPhone exclusivity contract between Apple and AT&T expired, things got better. Unlocking the device to use on T-Mobile, Prepaid MVNOs or cellphone carriers internationally is now a breeze. I wrote an article about buying the iPhone for a decent price on craigslist or eBay.
iPhone Unlock – A background
I am sure you must have heard of unlock codes for other handsets (Samsung, Nokia, LG,..). Unlock codes don’t exist for the iPhone. It is tied to the activation process. iTunes is typically required to activate/unlock your handset barring iPhone 4S or 5. More on that later in the ‘how to unlock section’. The unlock essentially depends on the IMEI (unique identifier for each phone) which is stored in Apple and AT&T’s list of unlock databases. If the IMEI of your iPhone matches the unlock database, you are free to use whatever carrier (GSM in this case) you want to use.
You have 2 options to choose from :
- Request AT&T to unlock your device
- Purchase an unlock from a reliable source
Request AT&T to unlock your device
- Unless you are using the latest and greatest iPhone (iPhone 5 in 2012), you should ask AT&T to unlock your device. This applies to any previous generation iPhones. Eligibility requirements here.
- If you have bought an iPhone from AT&T for no-commitment pricing, then you can request for a FREE unlock from AT&T directly.
- In simple, plain terms : If you have owned any iPhone(s) before and currently are using iPhone 5, you are out of contract with the previous iPhones. AT&T will unlock your older devices in this case.
- After you filled the form for an unlock request, this is how the email looks like if you are eligible for the free unlock.
Purchase the unlock from a reliable source
Having seen so many cheap unlock solutions on eBay, I was skeptic about the cheap prices. The very point of unlocking the iPhone is to use a SIM card overseas without much hassles. What if the cheap unlock you bought on eBay is reversed by the carrier? Search for iPhone unlock scams and ripoffs on the web, it is full of them!
I finally found a reliable source for unlocking the iPhone 5. This method ensures your iPhone’s IMEI is in both Apple and AT&T’s database of unlocked IMEIs. I had my iPhone 5 unlocked within hours of placing a request.
- Make sure you have an AT&T locked iPhone
- Send an email to will [AT] chronicunlocks.com with your IMEI number (you can obtain this by dialing *#06# on your iPhone dialer)
- Don’t forget to include in your email that ‘Kiran from iLikeMyiPhone.com‘ sent you. This will give you $5 off!
- You will get a PayPal invoice from Will and after a PayPal payment of $30 ($35 is the actual price before $5 off). I promise I will continue to negotiate a better price for iLikeMyiPhone.com visitors.
- you will receive an email after the unlock is complete.
How to Unlock the iPhone
So, AT&T sent you an email with successful unlock or you purchased the unlock and got the email notification about unlock completion. What do you do next?
If you have either iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 :
Simply pop the foreign (non-AT&T) SIM in and give it few minutes to display the carrier. It just worked! I was being impatient and I rebooted the iPhone followed by toggling AirPlane mode in Settings.
Previous generation iPhones other than iPhone 4S/5 :
For the unlock to be “pushed” to your device, please perform a firmware restore in iTunes, as the unlock is pushed through during the re-activation process. For more advanced users, you can use computer-side tools like redsn0w or device-side tools like SAM to de-activate your device, then just plug into iTunes to re-activate (and unlock!) without requiring a restore!
Feel free to drop a comment if you have any questions regarding the unlock. It is a lot easier and any iPhone as of 2012 can be unlocked. No more jailbreaking or unlocking tools!