If you have recently switched cell phone carriers and you want to keep the same cell phone, you may be able to use an unlock code to gain access on another network. Not all phones are able to be unlocked; some can be unlocked at no cost. Others may require a software download and purchase of a cable.
Identify what type of phone you have to see if you can get the unlock code directly from your carrier, or if it can be found online from a free, or sometimes paid, service. Once you know the exact make and model of your phone, you can visit a free website to see if your unlock code is available for free (see link in Resources). Also, try contacting your previous provider to see if it is able to provide your unlock code to you directly. If you have a Nokia phone, the website offers a free download tool as well (see link in Resources).
Many high-end data phones, including models from Sony Ericsson, BlackBerry, Treo, LG and HTC smartphones can only be unlocked with software and a special cable. The software you download uses a remote database of unlocking codes and transmits the right code to your phone via the connected cable. The software and cable usually end up costing between $15 to $60 total (in 2009), but you can also send your phone off to a service that can unlock your phone for you. Most services charge a flat fee, somewhere in the $20 to $40 range. Your phone will be returned to you within 7 to 10 days.
Once you have successfully unlocked your phone and moved to a different cell phone service provider, you will have to reprogram the phone's data settings so you can utilize all its capabilities--picture mail, text messaging, web access and more.
T-Mobile users can get their settings online (see link in Resources). Cingular users will need to dial "611" and have their MMS and WAP settings sent over to their phone number (which can be done remotely when you call in). For other providers, such as Verizon and Sprint, take your phone into one of the stores and have them reset the phone directly.
Tips & Warnings
- Some newer phones cannot be unlocked at all due to software copyrights. For instance, the iPhone is only capable of being operated on the AT&T network currently. You will not be able to unlock this device to run on another network, like Verizon or Sprint.
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