We just retired my wife’s iPhone 4 as she finally upgraded to the iPhone X. After making sure she had backed up every picture of our beautiful children, I got in touch with AT&T so they can unlock the phone. As we explained before, the AT&T unlocking process is fairly simple, and before I got off the phone, the Customer Service Rep I was talking to notified me that the phone had been unlocked. Talk about being fast!
Before listing the phone for sale on Craigslist, I wiped it off clean by performing a restore. During that time, I went to Starbucks for my daily dose of overpriced caffeine, and when I came back, my wife’s iPhone was as good as new. I had missed something though. I hadn’t seen the screen telling you that your iPhone has been unlocked, which made me doubt: is this iPhone really factory unlocked? How can you tell the iPhone has been factory unlocked for sure?
There used to be services that offer to check your IMEI against a database of unlocked devices, but these services aren’t free anymore, and are of questionable use.
The best way to check if your iPhone is unlocked
Personally, the best solution I have found to check if one of my iPhones is unlocked or not is simply to pull out the SIM card, and put one from a different carrier inside.
I understand most people don’t have an extra SIM card handy, but chances are, everybody has a friend who uses a different carrier. If you’re on AT&T, maybe you have a friend who is on T-Mobile. Ask that friend if you can use his SIM card for a few seconds to check if your iPhone is unlocked.
Another solution I used a few years back, before I had an extra SIM card from a different carrier lying around, was to simply walk into a carrier store and asked them if I could borrow a SIM card temporarily to test if my device was unlocked. Your mileage may greatly vary with this solution, but in my case, the folks from the T-Mobile store down the street from my house were very accommodating and didn’t think twice about letting me try one of their SIM cards. It just took a few seconds.
Unlocked or not?
When putting a SIM card from another carrier in your iPhone, it is recommended to reboot the device. After rebooting and entering your passcode, you will typically get signal right away and see the name of the carrier in the upper left corner of the screen.
If you see the carrier name, then congratulations, your iPhone is unlocked. If you see No Service, and you know the carrier does have coverage in your area, it most likely means your device is not unlocked. In that case, you may want to contact your carrier to get it unlocked, or just use a third-party unlock service.