Picked up a new smartphone off of AT&T’s network, and now you’re wondering how you can unlock the phone to use on other networks. Typically, when you buy a phone from a carrier, it is locked onto that carrier’s network, meaning you cannot take an AT&T phone and immediately go over to Verizon or T-Mobile. However, there are a handful of way that you can unlock an AT&T phone for free so that you can use it on other networks out there.
If you’re not sure how, be sure to follow along below as we take you step by step through the unlocking process.
There are some prerequisites to keep in mind before unlocking an AT&T phone for free.
- First and foremost, you must have been a current or former AT&T customer, although there are exceptions for those who don’t meet that guideline, but purchased an AT&T phone privately, which leads us to the second prerequisite.
- The device we are unlocking has to be from AT&T. You cannot unlock a Verizon device with AT&T, as silly as that sounds.
- Third, if you are a customer, the installment plan needs to be paid off, though AT&T does offer you some leeway with this, depending on how long you have been a good customer with them. If you’re not an AT&T customer, the phone still needs to be paid of, otherwise, it’s put on a blacklist and cannot be unlocked.
- The device must not be blacklisted from AT&T’s network, such as reporting lost, stolen, or involved in fraud.
AT&T does have different requirements for different types of devices. For example, prepaid AT&T phones must be active for six months before you can unlock them.
The carrier also doesn’t require service/military members to have to pay off their installments to unlock the device. Email AT&T your TCS or PCS (Temporary/permanent change of station) documents, and they’ll unlock it for you so that you can continue to use your AT&T phone in a poor AT&T service area or abroad.
The Apple iPhone also operates a little differently. You don’t need a code from AT&T per say — just submit your unlock request, and after you get that approval email, you can simply enter the SIM card from another carrier to start the setup process.
Unlock an AT&T Phone
The first way that you should try to unlock your AT&T phone is through the carrier itself. If you’ve been with the carrier for some time and have a good history of paying your bill on time, AT&T will usually unlock the device without issue.
The first step is to, on your computer or smartphone, head over to the AT&T Device unlock portal in your browser of choice. You’ll want to click the option that says Unlock a device.
Next, you’ll want to choose whether or not you’re an AT&T customer. If you choose that you are, enter your account’s wireless number in the field, agree to the terms, and then press Next. If you aren’t, you’ll want to enter your phone’s IMEI into the field, agree to the terms, and press Next.
If you confirmed that your an AT&T customer, you’ll need to enter a bunch of account information on the next page — your account’s security PIN, the account holder name, and an email address. Then you can unlock the device by pressing “Next”.
If you aren’t an AT&T customer, unlocking is a little more strict. AT&T will check if the phone can be unlocked by making sure the device is paid off and free and clear. If not, it’ll throw an error. If it’s clear, you can head to the next page to unlock the device.
Use a third-party service
AT&T deny your unlock request? You can also use a third-party service to unlock your phone. This will usually require you to shell out a few dollars (some can cost up to $60), but it’ll get your phone operating on another network in no time, and without all of the red tape from your carrier.
You’ll want to search around and research good companies for this, though. Make sure they’re reputable, otherwise you might end up handing your money to one in return for, well, nothing.
As you can see, unlocking your AT&T phone can be a bit of a hassle. There’s a lot of steps and requirements that AT&T has you go through, but if you meet the criteria, using your phone on a different network isn’t impossible. And, you can even skip most of that hassle by purchasing a unlock code from a third-party service.