Some iPhones are locked to some cellular networks, while others are unlocked, meaning you can use them with any SIM card and carrier. It’s important to know what kind you have, as it can mean the difference between a pleasant or frustrating experience when you get a new (for yourself) iPhone or want to switch networks.
The iPhones you pay full price for (usually from the Apple Store) are unlocked by default. But an iPhone bought over a network, usually as part of a contract, often gets locked. If you’re buying a refurbished iPhone, it should be made clear whether an iPhone is locked or not, but this isn’t always the case if you’re using private sellers on eBay or Craigslist, so being able to check this is a big help.
It’s not possible to tell if it’s locked or unlocked by the iPhone alone: Apple doesn’t allow other phone companies to brand iPhones. (You won’t get T:Mobile or Verizon-branded iPhones, for example.) To confuse things further, some phones are locked when sold, but unlocked at a later date when the owner is done paying off. the contract.
But do not worry. It’s relatively easy to find out if your iPhone is locked or unlocked, and in this article we’ll show you how.
How to check if an iPhone is unlocked with a SIM card
The fastest way to check if an iPhone is unlocked is to simply try inserting SIM cards from different networks. Obviously, you probably only have your own, but if a friend uses a different network, ask them if you can borrow the SIM card for a few minutes. Follow these steps to check if iPhone is unlocked:
Turn off the iPhone. Use the SIM eject tool (or a paper clip) to remove the SIM card from the iPhone. Insert your new SIM card. Press the sleep/wake button to wake the iPhone. If you see a message along the lines of: “The SIM card inserted in this iPhone does not appear to be supported. Only compatible SIM cards from a supported network provider may be used to activate iPhone. Insert the SIM card that came with your iPhone or go to a supported network provider’s store and the device will be locked.
You can sometimes have a carrier unlock an iPhone by calling them, or you can use a third-party unlocking service like Doctor SIM. For more information, see Unlock an iPhone.
Check if an iPhone is unlocked in Settings
Another easy way to check if an iPhone is locked or unlocked is to use the Settings app. Here’s how to access the feature.
Open Settings > General > About
Since iOS 14, Apple has added a new section called Network Provider Lock, which will immediately tell you the status of the device. Go to Settings > General > About to access.
Scroll down to find Network Provider Lock
Scroll down to find the Network Provider Lock section. If the iPhone is unlocked, it should say that there are no SIM restrictions. If you see a different status, it means that the iPhone is locked.
It’s not a quick fix – as it may take a while for the carrier to get back to you – but if you want to be sure, it might be worth contacting the carrier you signed up with and see if they can help. Many carriers can check for you if you provide the IMEI of a handset.
Use an online IMEI checker
You know how to find your IMEI, right? Once you have that code, you can go to one of the many IMEI checking tools online and find out if the handset it’s assigned to is locked or unlocked. The problem is that most of these services require a payment (although generally only a nominal amount).
There are also free services: you could try IMEI24.com, which seems legit and has been recommended by others. However, we must emphasize that we do not know the company and cannot vouch for its services.
Now that you know whether your iPhone is locked or unlocked, you can take the next step.
If you need this information because you want to sell it, read Selling an iPhone for more advice. Conversely, if you’re passing it on to a young person, How to Set Up Parental Controls might be a more helpful article.
Finally, don’t forget to check out our guide to the best iPhone deals and contracts for advice on your next purchase.