How to Know If Your iPhone Is Unlocked, Plus What That Means (UPDATED FOR iOS 12)

There are three different ways to know if your new or used iPhone is unlocked or not. You can check if the iPhone is unlocked in Settings, with the SIM card, or using an online resource. We’re going to go over each of those methods so you can easily check if your iPhone is unlocked or locked. But what do I mean when I say unlocked iPhone? An unlocked iPhone is not associated with any particular carrier and can therefore connect to any carrier. Unlocked iPhones, when sold used, are worth more as well. There are a few reasons you might have a locked or unlocked iPhone, which we’ll go over in detail below. Once we cover what it means when an iPhone is unlocked, I’ll show you how to check if your iPhone is unlocked.

Related: How to Use Animoji on iPhone X (They're More Fun Than You Think!)

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There are lots of iPhone IMEI checkers online, and some of them allow you to check if your iPhone is unlocked. I’ll recommend a resource that works to check if your iPhone is unlocked. However, some iPhones allow you to check if it’s unlocked from within settings. You can also use the SIM card from the iPhone to check if it’s unlocked. If you just need to check if your iPhone is unlocked, jump to the how-to. But if you have questions about what unlocked iPhone means, we’ll cover that next.

What Does “Unlocked iPhone” Mean?

An iPhone that’s unlocked can connect to any carrier. If your iPhone is unlocked, you could switch from Sprint to Verizon tomorrow and your same phone will work just fine. iPhones that have been completely paid for and bought directly from Apple are likely to be unlocked. But if you bought the iPhone through a carrier on a contract, the phone will be locked until the contract is over and paid in full. It’s also possible to buy a used, locked iPhone that becomes unlocked later on when the previous owner has finished their contract. That’s why it’s important to know whether the iPhone you’re buying is unlocked or not. So to recap,

  • Locked iPhones are stuck with a carrier; unlocked iPhones are free to choose.
  • Paid-for iPhones direct from Apple are usually unlocked.
  • iPhones bought through a carrier will be locked for the duration of the contract.
  • Unlocked iPhones will fetch more money when sold.

Firstly, I want to say that you don’t necessarily need to do any of the following steps. You could call your current carrier and ask them if your iPhone is unlocked. If you’re considering buying a used phone and the phone’s current carrier won’t give you the info over the phone, your only option (aside from trusting the seller) is to try these steps. But otherwise, calling the carrier is definitely going to tell you if the iPhone is unlocked or not. The con of this method is the time it will take (no one likes spending an hour on the phone with customer service, I know), but it’s guaranteed to be accurate. Not interested? Alrighty then, let’s get into how to know if your iPhone is unlocked.

(The steps outlined in this article have been tested for iPhone XS, XS Max, as well as all previous iPhone generations.)

How to Tell if Your iPhone Is Unlocked via Settings

For this method, you’ll need to have the iPhone in question powered on and unlocked (the other kind—enter the four or six digit code to access the phone, if needed). To check your device-unlock status:

  • Open the Settings app on the iPhone.
  • Select Cellular.
  • Tap Cellular Data Options.

  • If you see Cellular Data Network as an option, your iPhone is probably unlocked. If you don’t see it, your iPhone is probably locked.

However, there are instances in which this method isn't accurate. In fact, it wasn't accurate on my own iPhone.  If you're buying a used phone, you should definitely use one of the other methods to confirm before making the purchase.

How to Check if Your iPhone Is Unlocked with the SIM Card

This method requires you have two SIM cards from different carriers. If you don’t have two SIM cards, you could test this out by borrowing one from a friend’s phone.

  • Power off your iPhone.
  • Use a straightened paperclip to open the SIM card tray, then remove the current SIM card.
  • Place the SIM card of a different carrier (must be same size) into the SIM card tray of the iPhone. Push the tray back into place.
  • Power the iPhone on.
  • Now, try to make a call to any working number.
  • If you get an error message that the call cannot be completed, then your iPhone is locked. If you’re able to connect and make the call, then your iPhone is definitely unlocked.

If you’re still unsure, try using one of the two online tools I recommend below.

How to Know if Your iPhone Is Unlocked with an Online Tool

There are quite a few online tools that allow you to check if your phone is unlocked using the IMEI number; however, the vast majority want you to pay about three dollars to get the info. I found one tool that’s free, IMEI24.com. But I can’t tell you that it’s 100 percent accurate, because I’m not sure. However, it did accurately say that my iPhone is unlocked. Alternatively, if you don’t mind paying $2.99, IMEI.info is a great, very professional website that will tell you for a small fee; just follow the “3 Quick Steps,” on this page to take the paid route. If you want to check with a free online tool:

  • First, find your IMEI number on your iPhone. Open settings.
  • Select General.
  • Tap About, and then scroll down until you find the IMEI number.

  • Now visit this website: IMEI24, preferably on a computer.
  • Enter the IMEI number you just found and click Check.

  • You will need to solve the captcha to prove you’re not a robot.
  • Then the website will present you will a card of information. Look for Lock Status. As you can see in the image, it shows that my iPhone is Unlocked.

Which method did you use to check if your iPhone is unlocked?

 

Top image credit: hurricanehank / Shutterstock.com

 
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Conner Carey's picture

Conner Carey's writing can be found at conpoet.com. She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.