Smartphones have become a significant part of our lives and for a good reason. These intelligent, pocket-sized devices are making our lives easier in so many ways: they keep us connected, give us access to food, transportation, and art, they give us directions, they let us capture moments whenever and wherever we want—they even let us finally learn the name of that song that we have loved every time it came on the radio but have never known what it was called. This being said, not all aspects of having a smartphone are simple. In particular, unlocking your phone can be a real pain, especially if you don’t have all the information you need to speed up the process.

The following will cover the basic things you need to know about getting a phone unlocked. The focus will be on iOS smartphones, but the same basic concepts apply to most phones.

Do You Need Your Phone Unlocked?

The first thing you need to do is determine whether phone unlocking is what you need. Don’t confuse the term unlocking with opening. If you have forgotten your passcode or are having trouble getting into your phone, that’s an entirely different problem. Phone unlocking refers to the situation where a phone that was previously attached to a plan with one company is now needed to be connected to a new plan with a new phone company.

You’ll know if this applies to you when you put your new SIM card into the phone. If you get a message like SIM card not supported or SIM card not valid, you’ll know that unlocking is the issue. Phone companies tether each phone to their services that have been bought from them or that are connected to one of their plans.

The goal is to prevent people from stealing phones and easily switching phone plan providers. Maybe part of the goal is also to make it harder for us to transfer phone companies. There are discussions in place as to whether or not this should be legal. The United States might soon ban the locking of phones. Whatever the reasoning behind the phone locking system and whether or not it’s outlawed in the future, what this system means for right now is that it’s harder for customers to take their phone to a new phone carrier as, first, the phone needs to be unlocked.

This process is pretty standard across the board, but there are specific resources available depending on which phone you have. This iphone unlocking guide might help you, however, before you get the phone unlocked, you’ll need to gather a little bit of information.

What Information Do You Need To Get Your Phone Unlocked?

To get your phone unlocked, you need two primary pieces of information. First, you need to know what company the previous plan was with. In other words, you need to know which company has locked the phone. This can be done by contacting the previous owner and asking which company they were with before selling or giving the phone to you.

If you have lots of patience, you can call the different phone companies and ask to have the phone unlocked one by one, and they’ll tell you whether the phone is coming up for them or not in their system. Be forewarned; this can take a long time.

The second piece of information you’ll need is the IMEI number or SIM number. Each phone has a special number associated with it; that is what companies use to lock or unlock the phone. Often this is printed in absurdly small print on the back of the phone, but it is also saved in a menu on the phone. Depending on which edition of which phone you have, this information will be in a different place. If you cannot find this information, when you call the phone company provider and share the phone make and model, they should be able to tell you where to find this information.

I Have That Information Now What?

Once you’ve gathered the two above pieces of information, you can call (yes, call, you might need to borrow a phone for this, seeing as your phone isn’t working right now) the company which has the phone locked. Ask for an unlocking service and share the IMEI. This service should be free. Phone companies are not legally allowed to refuse to do this. Once the call is made, it should only take a few minutes. You’ll be able to use your new SIM card and call and text as normal.

With the above information, you should have no problem unlocking your phone and setting up service with a new provider. If you suspect the second-hand phone you’ve bought is stolen, contact the authorities. When a service provider enters the IMEI number, they will know if the phone has been reported stolen.

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