Unlocked-iPhone 4S

There is a lot of confusion among noobies about jailbreaking and unlocking. One of our readers recently asked for a clear “non geeky” definition of both terms.

If you already know the difference between jailbreaking and unlocking, this article might not be very helpful to you but you may still be able to give us some insights or maybe add your comments and suggestions. If you don’t know what jailbreaking or unlocking means, then read on because you’re just about to get a crash course on iPhone hacking.

What’s the difference in a nutshell?

The difference between jailbreak and unlock is that jailbreaking allows you to gain access to files on your device that Apple wouldn’t normally let you access, while unlocking is the removal of carrier restrictions allowing you to use your iPhone on any carrier. These are two very different things which we will explain in more details below.

What is Jailbreaking?

Definition of Jailbreaking

Jailbreaking is the process by which an iPhone firmware is modified to allow unsigned code to be run to gain access to files that Apple wouldn’t normally let you access. Jailbreaking adds unofficial application installers to your iPhone such as Cydia or Icy (I personally only use Cydia), which let you download many 3rd-party applications previously unavailable through the App Store.

Is Jailbreaking Legal?

Update: Jailbreaking is now officially legal in the US

Yes and no. The legality of jailbreaking is very unclear. Most iPhone owners including myself think that since we own the iPhone, we should be able to do whatever we want with it.

Apple’s lawyers think differently as they consider jailbreaking to be a violation of copyright. I had a phone conversation with Apple’s copyright attorney about a year ago and he admitted to me that they are not capable of going after every jailbreaker out there… To these days, I don’t think anyone has had legal issues with Apple due to jailbreaking.

Why Jailbreak Your iPhone

Jailbreaking lets you install applications that are not approved by Apple. Many of these applications can be very helpful but they will unfortunately never make it to the App Store due to Apple’s restrictions. There are many reasons why you would want to jailbreak your iPhone:

  • install 3rd party applications rejected by Apple for various reasons (ie. nudity)
  • video recording (now available on the iPhone 3GS)
  • changing the look and feel by installing custom graphics and themes
  • free tethering
  • get access to cracked App Store apps for free (not endorsed by me, but still worth noting)
  • be able to unlock your iPhone

Why Not Jailbreak Your iPhone

I can only think of one reason why you wouldn’t want to jailbreak. Jailbreaking your iPhone automatically voids the warranty. This is not really a problem as you can always restore your iPhone in iTunes, putting it back to its factory settings. This will make it impossible for Apple to see you jailbroke your iPhone, thus not voiding your warranty.

In the past, some jailbreak methods were not very stable and sometimes turned your iPhone into an iBrick aka an expensive paper weight. Jailbreak methods are now very stable and I have yet to hear about someone bricking his iPhone while jailbreaking. In other words, jailbreaking is safe!

How Do I Jailbreak My iPhone?

I wrote many tutorials on how to jailbreak your iPhone, depending on what iPhone and what firmware you have. Check them out, follow the instructions, and have fun. You don’t need to have a PhD in computer science to jailbreak your iPhone. It’s very simple and straightforward. If you can download 2 files and click “next” when prompted, then you can jailbreak your iPhone.

What If Something Goes Wrong?

It’s very unlikely that something will go wrong… If you have a problem, simply plug your iPhone to your computer, launch iTunes, and click “restore”. As I mentioned above, it will restore your iPhone to factory settings.

Why Are You Still Reading This?

What? You’re still aren’t sure about this whole jailbreak thing? You’re missing out big time. An unjailbroken iPhone is a plain boring iPhone! Jailbreaking is the best thing that has happened to my iPhone and I seriously can’t live without it.

What Is Unlocking?

Definition of Unlocking

Unlocking is the removal of SIM restrictions on the modem, allowing the use of the iPhone on any carrier. There are 2 types of iPhone unlocks:

  • software unlock: the iPhone is unlocked by a software
  • hardware unlock: modification have to be made to the actual hardware to unlock the phone

Software unlocks are safer because they do not modify your device and can easily be reverted back. Soft unlocks are mostly developed for free by the Dev Team, an international group of iPhone hackers. Hardware unlocks are a little tricky and usually cost money. In clear, if you want to unlock your iPhone, you can do it for free by with a safe software unlock.

Is Unlocking Legal?

According to Wikipedia, “unlocking a phone without the permission or unlocking code from the provider is usually in breach of the agreement with the provider, though most countries do not make specific laws prohibiting the removal of SIM locks. In the United States the DMCA formerly was claimed to criminalize unlocking. However, an exemption that took effect 27 November 2006 specifically permits it.”

Why Unlock Your iPhone

The main reason to unlock your iPhone is if you want to use it with a different service provider (ie T-Mobile). An unlocked iPhone also has a better resell value.

Why Not Unlock Your iPhone

If you’re good with your phone carrier and will not use your iPhone internationally, there is absolutely no reason for you to unlock your iPhone.

How Do I Unlock My iPhone?

Before unlocking your iPhone, you will have to jailbreak it. The unlock can either be done from a computer, or directly from the iPhone. Check out my iPhone unlock tutorials for step by step instructions.

What If Something Goes Wrong?

Although unlocks can sometimes mess up your settings a little bit, they are constantly improved to fix errors and bugs. If something goes wrong, you can always restore your iPhone to factory settings.

In Short…

I case you’re still not really sure you understand the difference between jailbreaking and unlocking, let me put it in very simple words. Jailbreaking an iPhone means that 3rd party applications can be installed on it (ie. apps from other developers than Apple). Unlocking an iPhone means that any SIM card can be used on it.

If you have questions or anything you want to say, feel free to leave a comment below or start a new conversation in the forum.

  • Mitesh

    good information

  • salim

    if i do it jail break,is it possible for me to use another service providers sim card?

    • Jonathan

      read the darn information! its very clearly written. The short answer is no unless you unlock it too.

  • Foster

    I m actly new to this apple world. I gt iPhone4 frm USA wid at&t nd now I m using this in India.. I just wanted to know if I jailbreak my fone , wll I b able to connect it wid iTunes ??? nd update maps nd all??

    • Appleguy

      You will be able to connect it with iTunes (and sync it and stuff). However, if you do a SOFTWARE update, then you’ll probably have to re-jailbreak it.

  • Jessica

    I just want to double check. If I jailbreak and then unlock an iphone, (which you claim is easy enough for a beginner to do) then I can get a SIM card in Tanzania and use my phone there with their pay per use system?

    You are a life savior if this is true!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    1 other questions- Does it matter if I download apps before or after this whole process?? Will they work in Tanzania just the same as the US?

  • Kate

    Does anyone know if you can unlock a AT&T Iphone 3G to run on Verizon? I recently came into an old Iphone and was told no by the techy at the phone shop.

  • shirtboy

    still dont tell me if is jailbreaking the same as unlocking

    • Cappa

      I aint the same thing.

    • Appleguy

      agree w/ cappa. not the same thing:
      • jailbreaking=the possibility of tweaking your iphone/ipod in many more ways n installing 3rd party apps (cracked apps etc.)
      • unlocking=being able to use iphone on t-mobile and others instead of the usual at&t network

  • Jen

    My phone was unlocked and jailbroken and is now not working at all. I have the apple logo on the screen constantly

    • Dody

      @ JEN – are you located in INdia, if YES you cud call me and I cud help you get out of this.
      Maybe your Apple Iphone have been tethered unlocked , which means – ” everytime you switch off your Iphone , it has to be turned ON using a specific version apple device software ” depending on the firmware for ur iphone.
      As of now I know that there is no unlock available for ver 4.3.* . Mine too is a tethered unlocked .

      Dody –

  • Jen

    I am in the US. I got it unlocked at a tmobile store at the mall.

    • Dody

      @ Jen : Oh k ..then I guess it wud be best to walk upto them and have it started .
      If your Iph is showing an apple logo on screen an nothing beyond that -its called screen of death and can be brough back to normal through the recovery mode .It’s just a 5 mins process , and all ur data and other stuff wud also be as it is .

    • Kenny

      @Jen- you got the iphone unlocked at a t-mobile store in US? I didn’t know t-mobile also carry iphone. how much does it cost to unlock it? because i want to get that done too so i can travel with my phone.

      • Jen

        T-mobile does not carry them. I had one from when I had AT&T and had them unlock and jailbreak it. I paid $30.00 to have them do it

  • Jen

    I tried that…it won’t restore

  • I had my iphone G3 jailbroken and unlocked before going to Europe. When I arrived there several service providers attempted to help me but I have ended up with only telephone service and the ability to use WiFi, but no one was able to provide internet service through any other carrier such as Vodafone etc. Language barrier prevented really good verbal communication, but I was told it needed to be taken back to USA and “repaired” before they could establish continual service with a local carrier. Any idea what that means???

    • John Prochazka

      Yes you lost your data plan. Lets say your data plan for your internet and MMS (pictures) is through Cingular here in the USA. When you go to Europe you have to change your APN information (Access Point Network) so that it will point to a carrier in Europe. Your data plan would not work there because it’s pointing to Cingular and they are on Vodafone. Next time in a foreign country purchase a SIM card for their country. Put it in. Go to General>Network>Data Package>APN settings. Change your APN settings so they match what is on the card you got with the SIM or they match another Iphone from someone living there. Turn your phone off, turn it on, and you should have internet.

  • 2

    Since to unlock the iphone, you have to jailbreak it, what happens to the unlock if the jailbreak is reversed?

  • TC McMaster

    I have an 8 gig iPhone 3g (I think) that was given to me. It had already been jailbroke and unlocked. I used it for a couple days and then it froze up while a call was coming in. After that I couldn’t get it to do anything and ended up with a white screen. I decided to try to restore it to factory settings (reset and restore). iTunes recognizes the phone when it’s plugged in saying its “detected an iPhone in recovery mode and must be restored before it can be used with iTunes”. I click OK, start the restore process and after a while I get an error message saying.

    Nevermind, I shut off my firewall and the restore went thru. Yippee, now I have to jailbreak and unlock it again.

  • Heng Sean

    Hi, I have a iPhone 4 and was on 4.11.8 I just updated to iOS 5 now it was error and doesn’t accept SIM and I always try to down grate it but can not. do you why? and how I can I make it accept SIM or down grate? Can you help ?

  • Pompo

    Hi – I have an AT&T iphone 3 that has been unlocked and am using it in Europe.

    When it was unlocked the person told me to never updated the firmware via iTunes as it would mean it couldn’t be unlocked again as the unlock was a ‘one time only’ procedure.

    Could this be true?


  • Hesam Hosseinian

    so thanks now I know many thing about unlocking and jailbreaking

  • helloo sir, am living in india.. my question is if i buy a iphone from an apple store online with a contract, will i be able to unlock it so that i will be able to use it as a sim free phone.. Will i have to p[ay monthly for the contract??

    • John Prochazka

      Yes you can unlock it, and yes you will still have to pay monthly for your contract. Better to search for an unlocked phone on the internet first.

  • Waitt so can i delete cydia after ive unlocked it ?

    • John Prochazka

      Yes, but I wouldn’t. You may need it in the future, plus they have some really cool apps that you have access too like flash player for movies that you won’t have access to if you remove it!

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I am not well know with iphone and electronics. i nearly bought iphone which was not unlocked. I tried to unlock it through jealbreaking and i failed . without knowing the Consequence i restored the iphone. Now i am having problem of activating. can you please tell me what i can do?
    thank you

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I am not well know with iphone and electronics. i nearly bought iphone which was not unlocked. I tried to unlock it through jealbreaking and i failed . without knowing the Consequence i restored the iphone. Now i am having problem of activating. can you please tell me what i can do?
    thank you

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I am not well know with iphone and electronics. i nearly bought iphone which was not unlocked. I tried to unlock it through jealbreaking and i failed . without knowing the Consequence i restored the iphone. Now i am having problem of activating. can you please tell me what i can do?
    thank you

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I am not well know with iphone and electronics. i nearly bought iphone which was not unlocked. I tried to unlock it through jealbreaking and i failed . without knowing the Consequence i restored the iphone. Now i am having problem of activating. can you please tell me what i can do?
    thank you

  • Anonymous

    I have two questions and would apprecite any help.
    1) If you jailbreak an i-phone, can you then use a prepaid card rather than a monthly phone contract?. I use mostly data and not the phone so much. Paying $50 a month is a waste of money for me.
    2) If I buy a two year contract, and I don’t want to renew the contract, does the i-phone become useless or can I use it as an i-touch without any contract?



    • John Prochazka

      1. Yes, you can use a monthly card verses a monthly contract.But you will still have to pay off your contract if you are in one. 2. Yes, if you don’t want to renew your contract, you can still use the phone over a WIFI signal as an I-touch. But you could always go the route of paying the unlimited data plan for $45 and still use the phone anywhere you like. If you are not going to renew, you will need to call AT&T and have them remove the Lock in their computer system and then turn your phone off and on for the changes to take effect!

  • I currently own an iPhone 4 version 4.2.1(8C148), Modem firmware 03.10.01 which is unlocked with the Gevey Sim but not jailbroken because Cydia is not installed. I need to know what to do, I want to install Cydia (jailbreak) and if possible unlock the phone without the Gevey sim (tired of dialling 112 when the phone goes off). Please help

  • Imran Miyanji

    if you have and iphone 3g can you unlock it and put a sim card in it without paying data plan charges of att

  • Imran Miyanji

    if you have and iphone 3g can you unlock it and put a sim card in it without paying data plan charges of att

  • Anonymous

    now i know the difference, thanks man really appreciate your help

  • That really cleared it up for me … Thanks!!!

  • I bought 3gs 32GS and jailbroken and I don’t know if it is unlocked. How would I find out if it is unlocked? If already jailbroken, what do I need to do to unlock it?

  • My 3gs 32GB 5.0.1, firmware 05.16.05 with serial QR136 is jailbroken. What do I need to unlock it?


  • Thank you very much. Somebody has finally taken the time to explain in non geek terms (OK I’m an idot from the dinosaur age) what the diff is!!

  • I use iphone 3gs, 06.15.00. i recently bought it for second-hand from a person belonging to UK. one day, i saw two notifications on my cydia. i went to cydia and updated the two updates(mobile substrate and ultrasn0w). after the completion of the updates I lost the signal. I one again went to cydia and removed those two. still, there is no change in the signal. it only shows one bar and sometimes no service. i use tata docomo sim and i stay in India. i cannot connect to internet and also couldn’t call to anybody. once i dail a number, it says call failed. please help me. weep weep.

  • OMG could’t you just write Jailbreaking is jailbreaking and unlocking is sim card reader unlocker!?!?!?!

  • Anonymous

    dear Sebastien,
    Could you explain for me what does mean iPhone software update and firmware
    I saw in my 3GS at Setting / General / About like this : Version 4.3.3 ( 8J2 ) ; Modem Firmware 06.15.00

    • John Prochazka

      Your phone is like a radio, operating at different frequencies. It has set frequencies that it transmits at so that the various cell phone towers can pick up your signal. That’s the reason why you can be right next to a cell tower and have no bars. That tower operates on a different frequency band than your phone. Your modem firmware is like the computers inner workings that allow your computer to communicate with other computers over the various frequencies of the phone. Your Iphone is a mini computer. Firmware update is an update to the hardware that runs your phone. The software update is the update that comes for all the applications that are run on your mini computer phone. If you have a Firmware update for your phone you can almost be assured that it will affect your jailbroken phone.

  • Hi,
    Will unlocking an iphone make it work with any sim worldwide?

    • no not really it just will make it work any celluar provider like (at&t, t mobile, sprint,etc….)

    • Yes you can use any sim by unlocking ur iphone… But to unlock, u have to install custom IPSW

      • what is the program that installing IPSW?

      • valdrin fetoshi


  • if i jailbreak and unlock my iphone do i still need a 3g sim card with data plan or can i use a reg sim card that was in my pan tech ease with unlimited text and call?

    • John Prochazka

      As long as your SIM card from your pan tech ease fits into your Iphone and it is jailbroken and unlocked you should be able to switch with no problems. You will have to change you APN setting on your phone so that they point to your carrier that you had the data plan on the pan tech ease. If you don’t change your APN, it will point back to AT&T or T-Mobile and you won’t be able to get internet or send pictures over your phone.

  • my brother is planning on getting me a 4s from us next month.
    its 199$ there.but there is also a 2 year contract we are talkin about.if he gets it here for me and i jailbreak it and use it, will it cause my brother any further issues with the apple after he goes back to the us? and also,will the at & t/verizon still charge the monthly deductions as per the contract from his account?
    i agree i am a noob because i stay in india and i obviously dont noe bout the at & t contract there in the usa.
    so i would be grateful if u help me on this..reply samrazzzz@gmail.com

    • John Prochazka

      For the price of $199 your brother is locked into a two year contract. Even if you jailbreak and unlock the phone for use in India, he will still have to pay monthly or face about a $700 fee for breaking the contract. I did, and I had to pay!

  • ismaeel KevinBoy

    Great! Now I “literally” understood the difference btw jailbreaking and unlocking.
    Good work, keep up 🙂

  • Anonymous

    if how ,any how.. jailbreak and unlocked phone can be wrong after a long time?

  • Hanieh S

    Thanks for the clear info 🙂
    My question is does unlocking the iphone 4s work on the verizon versions too? I need to know if i do that can i use my iphone 4s out of the us or inside under different carrier? and does that void the Warranty for apple store?

  • i am satisfied with my carrier and do not want to deactivate anything related to my cellular provider. i pay monthly for cellular and data coverage. i don’t want to ‘open a whole new can of worms’ as they say. i am simply looking for flash capabilities. So, if i understand this correctly, and forgive me because i’m new to this, if i jailbreak and not unlock my iphone i will retain all usage and service as i have been with my provider along with the newly added benefit of locating and using additional non-approved apps. perhaps including flash. is that right?

    • John Prochazka

      Yes that is correct, but if you update using itunes it will remove your Cydia App and your Flash Player App and you will have to start over from scratch on your jailbreak. Apple is constantly updating there software to make it harder for you to jailbreak your phone so if you get it jailbroken, do not upgrade in Itunes when prompted!

  • tommy Lim

    my iphone 4s cannot be unlock after i used gevey ultra sim cannot be unlock cannot cannot

  • Thank you

  • Anonymous

    It should be law that phones are automatically unlocked so that people can use the provider they choose to do. Can you imagine the cell phone company that would make this offer how much the sales would increase on people purchasing phones by them.

  • Hi im using iphone 4s which i bought from uk with 3 mobile carrier and i want to unlock my iphone which is on ios 5.1 currently.. can any one let me know how can i get the it unlocked.

  • how can I unlock an Iphone 4 with baseband 5.1.1 and firmware 4.12.01? Im stressing about this and cant seem to find a solution anywhere. Any Help would be greatly appreciated

  • My friend in another country wants me to purchase an iphone for him(i have an upgrade with verizon) So do I go buy the phone have them transfer everything from the phone i have then go back later and tell them i lost it or something to have them switch everything back to my original phone, while keeping the iphone i just purchased…? Does the phone have to be active in order to unlock? I’m confused and trying to figure out the easiest way to do this. Please help! Thank you!

  • i am looking to buy a used i phone 4. want to use it in the states and in israel. should i look for a factory unlocked phone. if i get the factory unlocked does it mean it is automatically jailbroken or do i have to jailbreak it to work overseas?

    the other option is to buy an unlocked at&t phone and jailbreak it and then unlock it correct? need to buy one asap leaving the us in a week thanks

  • zaid

    pleasr help…phone stuck with apple on front of my iphone 4 model number a1332…please call my house and ask for me….zaid….please ive been u[p for 3 days trying to jailbreak it and its stuck…error 23 on itunes…ssh on redsnow…5.1.1…..my number is 7039889972…please dude like who ever is reading this and knows how to help me out please call…the apple keeps blinking…t mobile is what i have…i have no cell at the moment

  • If I bought my iPhone unlocked, must I still jailbreak it?

    • John Prochazka

      No. The purpose of the jailbreak is to get the phone into a state that it can use other programs. When it’s unjailbroken it is stuck to the ITunes store for Apps. If it’s jailbroken it opens it up to many other applications. The whole purpose for the Unlock is so that you can use any carrier you want. Enjoy your phone!