What to Know
- Easiest way: Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options. An option like Cellular Data Network indicates an unlocked iPhone.
- Or, if you’re traveling, swap your existing SIM card for a local SIM. If you can make a call, your iPhone is unlocked.
- Or, enter the iPhone’s IMEI number into an online service like IMEI Check and see if your device is unlocked.
This article explains how to find out if your iPhone is unlocked, and therefore isn't tied to any one phone company. Methods include checking the iPhone Settings, using a new SIM card, and using an IMEI service.
How to Check if an iPhone Is Unlocked in the Settings Menu
The easiest way to see if your iPhone is unlocked is to check your Settings menu. This method isn't always accurate, but it's a good place to start.
Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
Tap Cellular > Cellular Data Options.
Look for an option called "Cellular Data Network" or "Mobile Data Network." If you see either one of these options, your phone is most likely unlocked. If you don't see these options, your phone is most likely locked.
How to Check if an iPhone Is Unlocked via a SIM Card
If you travel overseas, your phone isn't going to work unless you have a truly excellent service plan. The easier and more affordable option is to swap your existing SIM card for a local SIM. This will give you a new phone number to use in that country, but will grant you the ability to use your phone and data on the road.
The first step is to power off your iPhone.
Removing a SIM card while the device is powered on can damage the phone and the SIM.
Locate the SIM card on your iPhone. Look for a small circular opening about the size of a pinhole.
Use a SIM card ejector tool to remove the iPhone’s SIM card. These tools simplify the process of removing a SIM card, but you can also use a safety pin or a paperclip.
Look at how your existing SIM card fits into the tray. Set it to the side in a safe location and place the new SIM card into the tray in the same fashion.
Re-insert the tray into the iPhone. Press until you hear a soft click.
Power the iPhone back on.
Try to make a call. If your iPhone is able to connect to the network with a new SIM, then it's unlocked. If your phone is unable to connect to the network, then your device is locked. There are several ways to get around this, such as contacting your carrier and asking them to unlock the device, or using a third-party service.
Some carriers may charge to unlock a device. However, certain areas have legislation requiring companies to unlock mobile devices free of charge.
How to Check if an iPhone Is Unlocked Using an IMEI Service
Your phone has an IMEI (international mobile equipment identifier) number that is a tell-all for any information relating to the device.
There are multiple online services that will scan databases of IMEI numbers and tell you whether your iPhone is unlocked or not. However, most are paid services, the free services aren't always reliable, and both are sometimes inaccurate.
Find the service you want to use. One of the most reliable services is IMEI Info, which does a basic check for free with paid options for more information. Another free option is IMEI24, but your results may vary; the service might even time out before it can return results.
On your iPhone and tap Settings > General.
Tap About and scroll down to the IMEI number. This appears just below the serial number, Wi-Fi address, and Bluetooth information.
Enter your IMEI number into the search bar of the IMEI service you chose.
Select Check and fill out any verification information the website requires. It will then attempt to match your IMEI number again those stored in the databases.
If you entered your number correctly, you'll be able to see a lot of information about your phone, including the production date, the carrier it's attached to, whether it's locked or not, and more. The IMEI number will also reveal whether or not a device is stolen.
- Where can I buy an unlocked iPhone?
You can purchase an unlocked iPhone on Amazon, which has a section for unlocked phones that you can filter by "Apple" or "iOS." You can also buy unlocked iPhones at places like Best Buy, Walmart, and Gazelle.
- What does an unlocked iPhone mean?
An unlocked iPhone is an iPhone that works with any cell phone carrier. Not everyone wants to be tied to a certain carrier's network for various reasons like frequent travel or living in a poor service area. Some people prefer to purchase an unlocked iPhone and activate it with any company.
- Is it legal to unlock an iPhone?
No, not if you live in the United States. In the U.S., it is legal to unlock your iPhone or another cell phone. To be able to unlock a phone, you'll need to either buy an unlocked phone or complete all the requirements of your phone company contract.