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How do I unlock my phone?

Unlocking. It’s an issue that’s lead many a mobile user to the back alley shops of the mobile world’s high street underbelly, where a soldering iron or a secret passkey and the £20 in your back pocket were the go-to method for unlocking your handset, unbeknownst to your carrier.

Such practices have seen a gradual decline however, as smartphones become more sophisticated and harder to modify, whilst carriers become more comfortable with the handset unlock. Current methods are a little more high-tech requiring no hardware tinkering whatsoever.

Phone unlocking

Why would I want to unlock my phone?

Unlocking your phone means you’ll be able to use other mobile networks. This is useful if you’ve bought a phone off a friend, or you’re out of contract and you want to go on PAYG or SIM-free for a while, or if you are heading abroad and want to use a local SIM.

How do I know if my handset is carrier locked?

Bear in mind that not all carriers lock all their handsets and before you commit it’s worth checking by putting a SIM card from another network, if it works your phone is unlocked, if it doesn’t you’ll need to unlock it.

Will it void my warranty if I unlock my phone?

Unlocking is not illegal, but if you don’t unlock your phone through the proper channels it can affect your warranty, and you may be in breach of contract. Three specifies in its contract: ‘you must not permit your Handset to be unlocked via any unauthorised manner (ie. by anyone other than us or the Handset manufacturer).’

If you’re in doubt contact your network operator.

How do I unlock my phone?

The tech-savvy can unlock their phone via software for free, giffgaff’s unlockpedia is a great place to start

If you are less confident delving into the depths of your phone settings, the easiest and simplest method is to ask your carrier – yes that’s right many network providers will be perfectly happy to unlock phones, provided certain conditions are met.

We’ve asked around amongst the leading UK carriers, to find out how to approach a handset unlock.

Which networks offer handset unlocking and for how much does it cost?


A company spokesperson told us that all Pay Monthly phones can be unlocked straight away for free, whilst PAYG customers will be charged £15. The exception is with major new handsets like the iPhone or phones that are exclusive to O2. These are dealt with on a case-by-case basis and unlocked at the end of a period of time that varies from phone to phone.  



Unlock codes are available on request for £20.42 for pay monthly customers, arriving 30 days following a request. Contact customer services by dialling 150 on your Orange SIM-laden handset if you’re a Pay Monthly customer or dial 450 if you’re a PAYG customer.  



Within its Terms and Conditions document, Three states that unlocking of their phones, Mi-Fi’s and dongles is possible, if you’ve had the phone for 30-days and you’ve paid your first bill, but to do so within the first twelve months of your contract will cost £15.32.  


A T-Mobile spokesperson informed us that customers can unlock their phones after the first month of their plan, and there will be a charge of £15.32.


Vodafone told us that they offer handset unlocking anytime within a customer’s contract and better yet, it’s free. Contact customer services by dialling 191 on your Vodafone SIM-laden handset if you’re a Pay Monthly customer or dial 191* if you’re a PAYG customer. 


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