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It can be genuinely frustrating when your phone is locked to a specific network. In most cases, an iPhone will only work with a SIM card from the network that it is locked to. The reason many network providers’ SIM cards lock their phones is that they generally offer phones to customers at a discounted price in exchange for a contract to which they receive payments from customers. SIM locking will prevent networks from losing customers to rival companies for the period of a contract.

Depending on their respective network connections, some iPhones are more straightforward to unlock than others. Many of the iPhones that have been released within the past few years are most likely be unlocked already. However, if your phone is slightly older, your provider may offer to unlock your phone for free – or you might just be able to do it yourself.

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One way to find out if your phone is locked to a specific network is by inserting a different network SIM card. If the SIM card does not work when trying to make a call or connect to the network at all, you will then know that the phone is locked. You may also get error messages such as ‘Invalid SIM’ or ‘Insert correct SIM card’. These small indicators will help to confirm whether the device is locked.

Depending on how old or new the device is, you may need to contact your network provider to get the right SIM for the device. Many networks have made the transition to nano-SIMs which are smaller than the older Micro SIM cards, which are larger in size. If this is the case, contacting your chosen network prover will help you get the right SIM card.

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Unlocking your phone is an entirely legal activity if you have purchased the device outright. However, if you have not finished paying your contract, you don’t technically own the phone yet because of this reason it would be best to check with your network before trying to unlock the device.

So, moving forward, if you’re keen on using your phone with any SIM card, it’s worth checking out platforms like SmartphoneChecker and MoneySupermarket to check the best deals.

If you are free of your contact and wish to move to a different network in the pursuit of better phone plans, here is a list of popular networks and ways to get your phone unlocked:

Unlocking a EE iPhone

In order to unlock an EE iPhone, the first step requires you to have your account with them for at least six months. you will also need to make sure all bills to date have been cleared. according to EE, unlocking your phone could take up to 72 hours and costs £8.99. to do this, you will need to fill out an online form which is available from their website. it’s important to note that if an iPhone or iPad was sold by EE after 1 September 2015, then the device will automatically be unlocked once it reaches 18 months old.

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Unlocking an O2 iPhone

Unlocking your phone on O2 is quite simple and requires you to use the My O2 Online or My O2 app. O2 allows you to unlock your iPhone at any time, unlike EE, however, you’ll still need to finish paying your contract off. To complete the unlock process for iPhones, users will need to connect their phones to their iTunes with the new SIM card.

Unlocking a Three iPhone

Three’s state on their website, that all iPhones that have been purchased after 1 January 2014 will be unlocked as soon as the device is activated over WiFi or connect to iTunes via the user’s computer. there is no need to do anything more in order to use another network.

However, to unlock an iPhone running iOS 7 or above that wasn’t purchased from Three recently, you’ll need to connect to iTunes and conduct a system restore of your device to use it on other networks.

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Unlocking a Virgin Mobile iPhone

iPhone’s purchased via Virgin Mobile lately will be unlocked already and will allow users the ability to use other SIMs. However, the case still remains that older iPhones are likely to be locked to Virgin Mobile. if this is the case, simply update your iPhone to the latest version of iOS. doing this will automatically unlock your device. Alternatively, if you find your iPhone isn’t compatible with iOS 8 or newer, you can perform a full restore of your handset just like you can if you’re unlocking from Three.

Unlocking a Vodafone iPhone

Vodafone requires users to use their account with the company to unlock their phones and fill out Vodafone’s online form. you can expect to hear back from Vodafone in 48housr of your initial request. However, it could also take up to 10 days if there’s an issue.

Unlocking through Vodafone will be free if you’ve had your plan with the company for more than 12 months, but if you’ve taken out a contract within the prior year, you’ll need to pay £19.99. If you’ve purchased a handset on a Pay as you go deal, it’s £19.99, too.

The Final Step

When your network provider has agreed to unlock your iPhone and has processed your request, you’ll need to replace the old SIM card with a new network SIM card. Make sure your iPhone is off when you do this, and when you turn your iPhone back on it will talk you through any further updates that may be required.

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