More and more people these days are having their phones unlocked and a survey by Uswitch found that people in the UK spend around £48m per year on unlocking their smartphone handset. Not only does having an unlocked phone make it easier for you to take advantage of different SIM only deals across different networks, but it can also make it easier to pass on an old phone to a friend or family member when you upgrade. It can also make your old phone easier to sell to somebody else who might use a different network from you.

While mobile phones are now something most of us couldn’t imagine life without and they have been a part of our lives for almost two decades, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the unlocking process. Keep reading to find out more about what unlocking your phone involves, what the policies are, and what you have to do to unlock your handset.

How to Unlock Locked Phones in the UK – What is a Locked Phone?

A locked phone handset will only work with the provider that you originally purchased it from. However, if you bought your phone from a different network, then chances are that it might be locked to that one. If your phone is locked and you are on a contract, it will not automatically be unlocked once your contract expires. You will need to get in touch with your network provider to ask them to unlock it.

Finding out whether or not your phone is locked is quite a simple process. All you need to do is insert a SIM card from a different network into your handset – you can usually get one free of charge by ordering online or asking at a local phone shop. If the name of the network appears on your handset and you are able to continue using it as normal, then good news, it’s unlocked.

On the other hand, if your phone can’t be used with the different sim, then it’s locked to your original network, and you will need to have it unlocked.

What to Do if You Get a Locked Phone

There are several options to consider if you want to get your phone unlocked. Local independent phone shops will often offer a phone unlocking service that typically costs around £15. If you have some technical know-how and are confident in your abilities, you might also want to consider doing it yourself with a special data cable or a code and some software. Unlocking your phone with either of these methods is perfectly legal. However, bear in mind that if your phone is still under warranty, unlocking it might invalidate it if you use one of these methods.

The smartest and safest way to unlock your phone is to contact your network provider and ask them to unlock the handset. Policies vary between networks, so depending on which network you are with, you may need to pay a fee. Some networks may also take longer than others when it comes to the phone unlocking process.

How to Ask Your Network to Unlock Locked Phone

When you contact your mobile network to unlock your smartphone, you will need to give them your phone’s IMEI number. This is your phone’s unique identifier and enables your network to get the serial number, make, and model of your handset. There are several ways to get this number and some handsets have it printed on the body itself. The easiest way to get your IMEI number is to open the phone app on your handset and enter *#06#. This will cause your IMEI number to instantly appear on the screen where you can copy it into the Notes app on your handset or write it down on paper.

If you have an iPhone, you can also go to the Settings app to find your IMEI number. Head to the Settings app and then go to ‘General’, then ‘About’. The IMEI number is located at the bottom of the screen. If you have an Android phone, you will also usually be able to use the Settings app to get your IMEI number. Once you have opened the Settings app, go to ‘About Device’ and then open ‘Status’, where you will find the IMEI number displayed.

Your network will be able to start the process of unlocking your handset once you have provided your IMEI to them. How much it may cost you to have this done and how long you will need to wait until it is complete will depend on the individual network’s policy. There are some other factors that can also have an effect such as the make and model of your phone and whether you are a contract or PAYG customer.

Why Unlock your Phone?

Studies have found that the most popular reason for having a phone handset unlocked is so that the user is able to easily switch to better priced SIM only deals. When your phone is unlocked, you are no longer limited to tariffs that are provided by your individual network and can easily switch between networks if needed to take advantage of the best prices. Along with this, the best SIM only deals tend to be time-limited, and having an unlocked phone gives you that freedom to shop around and get the best offers before they’re no longer on the market.

Another reason to unlock your phone is if you are not using it anymore. If you want to give it to a friend or family member and they want to continue using a different network, then you will have to get the phone unlocked before they can use it. Selling your phone is another good reason to have it unlocked as in general, unlocked phones tend to sell faster and at a higher price.

How Much is the Cost and How Long Will It Take?

The time that you will wait to unlock a phone and how much it costs are two areas that confuse a lot of people, according to research. Around one-third of consumers believe that unlocking a phone is something that happens instantly, according to survey responses. However, the reality is that you may need to give it some more time. Ultimately, it will depend on your provider and their policies when it comes to how long you wait. You could be waiting anywhere between a couple of days to an entire month for the process to be complete, so be sure to check out your network’s policy before you get started.

Different Networks Unlocking Policies

If you are currently using another network and want to switch to Lebara but keep your current phone, then it’s a good idea to be aware of the policies around unlocking from your particular network. These can differ depending on the network that you are with. Some networks no longer sell locked phones.

Virgin Mobile: If you are a pay monthly customer, your phone will be unlocked. However, certain models are locked for pay-as-you-go customers. You will be charged £15.32 to unlock your phone if you have had it for less than twelve months, after this time, it is free. It will take up to thirty days to complete the unlocking process.

Three: For phones purchased after December 13th, 2013, there’s nothing to worry about as both pay-as-you-go phones and contract phones are no longer locked. If you bought your phone before then, it will be locked. Unlocking is free and there is no time limit. You will usually wait around seven days for the process to be complete.

EE: Both pay monthly and pay as you go phones are locked to this network. You will only be able to unlock a contract phone after six months. A charge of £8.99 is payable if you are still in your contract. It is free if you are not in a contract. There is no time limit for pay-as-you-go devices. You can expect to wait seven days for an iPhone to be unlocked and up to ten days for other brands.

Vodafone: Any Vodafone pay monthly or PAYG handset purchased after July 2013 will be locked. You can unlock your phone for free as long as you have used your phone number with the handset for at least thirty days. There is a wait of up to ten days.

O2: If you bought your phone after June 2018 on contract, it will be unlocked. Pay as you go phones are locked, but you can unlock it for free and with no time limit. You will wait up to 72 hours for it to be unlocked.

Tesco Mobile: Pay monthly and pay as you go handsets are locked. Pay as you go customers can unlock for £10 before twelve months or for free afterward. Pay monthly customers can unlock for free with a time limit on some handsets. There is usually a wait of 7-20 days.

Unlocking your phone from a different network so you can switch to Lebara gives you more freedom over the tariff you use, which will save you money. Make the move today!