How to Tell If Your iPhone Is Unlocked & What Does That Mean? (iOS 15 Update)

Is my iPhone unlocked? 3 easy ways to check iPhone unlock status.

iPhones can be bought unlocked from legitimate vendors (including Apple), but you should know how to tell if an iPhone is unlocked before you make your purchase. Whether you want to make sure your phone is unlocked so it'll be worth more or you're just thinking of switching carriers, we'll show you how to check if an iPhone is unlocked or not.

How Do I Know If My Phone Is Unlocked? 3 Ways to Check If iPhone Is Unlocked

What does it mean if an iPhone is unlocked? We'll guide you through how to tell if your iPhone is unlocked in three different ways, and help you understand what iPhone unlocked means. At the end, we'll also cover some top FAQs for how to tell if an iPhone is unlocked!

What Does It Mean When an iPhone is Unlocked?

An iPhone that’s unlocked can connect to any carrier, and can bring in a higher price when sold. If your iPhone is unlocked, you could switch from Sprint to Verizon tomorrow and your same phone will work just fine, which is highly desirable! iPhones that have been purchased 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 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:

  1. Locked iPhones are stuck with a carrier; unlocked iPhones are free to use with any carrier.
  2. Paid-for iPhones direct from Apple are usually unlocked.
  3. iPhones leased from a carrier will be locked for the duration of the lease.
  4. Unlocked iPhones will fetch more money when sold.

First, I want to clarify that you don’t necessarily need to do any of the following steps to check iPhone unlock status. 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 the steps in the methods below. But otherwise, calling the carrier is the best way to check if an iPhone is unlocked. The con of calling the carrier 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? Let’s get into how to know if your iPhone is unlocked.

Worried about the repercussions of using an unlocked iPhone, or have more questions? Check out the Unlocked iPhone FAQ section for more information.

How to Check If iPhone Is Unlocked in Settings

For this method, you’ll need to have the iPhone in question powered on and unlocked (the other kind of unlocked—enter the four or six-digit code to access the phone, if needed). Here's how to tell if your iPhone is unlocked in Settings:

  1. Open the Settings app on the iPhone in question.

    iphone settings app
     
  2. Scroll down and tap General.


     
  3. Tap About.


     
  4. Scroll to the bottom and look for Carrier Lock. If it says No SIM restrictions, then your iPhone is unlocked and you're free to use any carrier or cell service. If it says anything else, then it is probably locked.


     

However, this isn't quite the end of the story, since some users report that this information isn't displayed in their About page in Settings. If that's the case for you, check out one of the other methods detailed below.

How to Tell If iPhone Is Unlocked with the SIM Card

How can I tell if my iPhone is unlocked if it doesn't say it in Settings? There's another way, but it'll require some prep work, since this method requires you to have two SIM cards, each from a different carrier. If you don’t have two SIM cards, you could test this out by borrowing one from a friend’s phone.

  1. Power off your iPhone.
  2. Use a straightened paperclip or a SIM card tool to open the SIM card tray, then remove the current SIM card.
  3. Careful not to touch the metal on the card! These things are fragile.
  4. Place the SIM card from a different carrier (must be same size) into the SIM card tray of the iPhone. Push the tray back into place.
  5. Power the iPhone on.
  6. Now, try to make a call to any working number.
  7. 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 or can't use this method to check if an iPhone is unlocked, try using one of the two online tools I recommend below.

How to Check If iPhone Is Unlocked: IMEI Lookup Online

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 a couple of free tools, though. In general, it's best to be very cautious about using online tools like this, especially if they're unverified. As such, I recommend this approach only if it's your last resort and you absolutely don't want to call your cellular service provider.

Here's how to know if your iPhone is unlocked using the IMEI number:

  1. Open the Settings app.

    iphone settings app
     
  2. Scroll down and tap General.


     
  3. Tap About.


     
  4. Scroll down until you find the IMEI number.


     
  5. If you have an iPhone X or later, you may notice a second IMEI listing. If this is the case for you, save that second IMEI number; you'll need it.
  6. Finally, make note of your iPhone’s Serial Number, located in the top section on this About screen.


     
  7. Now visit https://iphoneimei.net/check-imei or http://www.imei.info/, preferably on a computer.
  8. Fill in the requested information and submit.
  9. You may need to solve a captcha to prove you’re not a robot.
  10. Then the website will present you with an information card. Look for Lock Status.

Unlocked iPhone FAQs

1. Can a Factory Unlocked iPhone Be Updated with Software Updates?

Yes! If an iPhone was officially unlocked by Apple or by a phone service carrier, Apple will still recognize it and the phone can be updated. If an unlocked iPhone was not officially unlocked, it's considered "jailbroken" and can't be updated... at least not without serious risk of bricking the phone.

2. What’s the Difference between Unlocking and Jailbreaking an iPhone?

A phone that is sold by Apple without association with a cellular service provider will generally come factory unlocked, which means it's not tied to a carrier but is officially supported and can be updated. An officially unlocked iPhone is one that has been unlocked by a carrier, and done so in a way that ensures Apple will still support the device for updates.

An iPhone that's been manually unlocked by a user to untether the iPhone from a service provider is considered jailbroken, and is not eligible for iOS updates and other support.

3. Are Factory Unlocked iPhones Fake or Unsafe?

If you're purchasing an iPhone from Apple that is unlocked, it's safe! Apple sells these iPhones without locking them to a service provider because it allows the company to sell iPhones directly, and users can still use them with cellular carriers.

On the other hand, buying an iPhone from an unauthorized vendor that claims the phone is "factory unlocked" does carry the risk that the device will be unsafe or not legitimately unlocked.

4. Is It Legal to Unlock My iPhone Myself?

It's legal to unlock your iPhone if you own it outright with no remaining payments due. If you're still in the process of paying off your phone or you have other reasons to be beholden to the carrier, it's definitely a good idea to check with your carrier prior to unlocking your iPhone.

5. What Is the Disadvantage of Unlocking an iPhone?

The main disadvantage of buying an unlocked phone in the first place is the price—unlocked iPhones cost more than locked ones. If you already own an iPhone that you want to unlock, the main disadvantages of unlocking your phone yourself are potential loss of support from your service provider and Apple, including software updates. Unlocking a phone yourself may void the warranty, but if you get your iPhone unlocked by your carrier, the risks are low. 

6. Will Apple Unlock an iPhone I Already Own?

Unfortunately, no. Apple allows cellular carriers to do this, though, so you can check with your carrier to see if they'll unlock it for you!

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Conner Carey's picture

Author Details

Conner Carey

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.