(Updated testing results for 2019)
Summary: There are three methods available to unlock your iPhone 6/6s, or 6 plus/6s plus – software unlocking, hardware unlocking, and IMEI unlocking.
Software unlocking is a scam and doesn’t work, and hardware unlocking can ruin your device and will void your warranty.
The only safe way to get your iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus, and 6s Plus unlocked is with an IMEI unlock. An IMEI Unlock will get your phone added to Apple’s global database of iPhones that is available to use on any carrier. This means you can change to any carrier, whenever you want, without paying any extra fees.
Of the 11 IMEI unlock providers, we’ve tested the three top rated service providers and concluded that due to the nature of IMEI unlocking, the best iPhone 6 series unlock service to use depends on the location of the service provider.
If your iPhone is locked to a carrier inside the USA, UK, or Canada, use iPhoneIMEI. They’re cheap, fast, have great support, but have a limited range of unlocks available.
If your iPhone is locked to a carrier outside the USA, UK, or Canada, use DirectUnlocks. They have a HUGE range, responsive service and support, but are a little more expensive than UnlockBase.
Getting your iphone 6 s unlocked has become increasingly popular since fed-up consumers discovered they didn’t have to put up with sub-standard phone reception and service.
With the rise in demand, the range of unlocking options has also increased. The initial software hack that was so effective and popular on the iPhone 3 expanded into hardware unlocking and then into IMEI unlocking.
So, what do you use? There are now three options on the table, which one is right for you? And which unlocking service provider should you choose once you’ve decided which method you’re going to use?
These are the questions we’re going to answer today. First of all, let’s start with the unlocking options.
Get your iPhone 6 unlocked – Type 1: Software Unlocking
(Do not use it)
Sounds great and simple in theory, except the loophole used by hackers to unlock your iPhone 6 was closed when Apple released the iPhone 4 and hasn’t worked since.
If you’ve got an iPhone 3, great, go ahead and download your software hack and unlock your device. If you’re using an iPhone 6s, 6 Plus, 6, or 6s Plus, this won’t work for you. Stay away from software unlocking as you’re just wasting your time.
Type 2: Hardware unlocking
(It can work, but it’s dangerous)
Hardware unlocking is where you have to alter the physical hardware of your iPhone to redirect calls through an alternate path inside your device and hopefully allow you to use the sim card of a different carrier.
To do this, you pay some dodgy looking guy in the back alley of a shady area of town to physically crack open your device and fiddle with its internal workings.
Yes, it’s as dangerous as it sounds. Best case scenario is you pay $200+ unlocked iphone 6 with a completely voided warranty, that’s been exposed to dust, dirt, greasy fingers. That’s the best case.
Hardware unlocking works in about 30% of cases. Worst case (and typically more common) scenario is you pay $300+ for a broken iPhone with a voided warranty and end up in a heated argument with an angry looking Russian with large friends.
So yes, it can work, but is it really worth risking destroying your device just to make calls from another provider? No, I didn’t think so either. The bottom line is: stay away from hardware unlocking.
Unlocking Type 3: IMEI Or Network Unlocking
(The only safe unlocking method for iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus)
The final, and only that actually works, is IMEI or Network Unlocking. This is far simpler than downloading dodgy software or paying an even dodgier guy to play around with your phone’s internal workings.
Every iPhone 6 ever made has a unique identifying code called an IMEI (short for International Mobile Equipment Identifier) which is stored on Apple’s database, along with other details about your device, including the year it was produced, the memory size, the colour, the model number, and also, whether or not it’s unlocked.
IMEI Unlocking is where someone who has access to the IMEI database changes your device status from locked to unlocked. No software to download and no physical work to do. They click a button, you reset your device, and you’re free to go to any carrier you want.
Obviously, this is the only iPhone unlock method you should use. There’s no software to download, and no-one has to change the internal mechanics of your device. All they need to do is change the status from locked to unlocked, and you can change to any carrier you want, whenever you want.
It avoids all the potential problems the other methods pose and lasts for the lifetime of your iPhone.
Steps needed to unlock your phone. Its takes less than a few minutes.
1. Find your IMEI code. This is the unique identification for your iPhone 6 that the 3rd party services need to unlock your device. Its easy to find:
- Method 1: Dial *#06#
- Method 2: For iPhone 5 or newer, your IMEI is located on the back of the device
- Method 3: For non-activated devices, there is a little “i” button on the activation screen, click it and you’ll see the IMEI on the screen
Choosing the right IMEI unlock provider
Like any service, not all IMEI unlock providers are created equal. Some have cheap prices, but can’t deliver the unlocks in the time frame they’ve quoted. Some have a unlocks for a huge number of providers but no customer support. And, worst of all, some are just plain scams.
To make sure you end up with the right provider, we’ve gone through a process of vetting and testing the various providers available.
But, before I get into that…
Click here to skip the methodology and go straight to the reviews
Why I’m qualified to tell you this
As you can probably guess, there are no formal qualifications for iPhone unlocking or any related fields, but there is a better reason than tertiary qualifications to trust me: I’ve been unlocking devices for almost 8 years.
I grabbed an iPhone 3G back in 2008 and immediately regretted signing up with AT&T. Their service was lousy and their customer support was even worse.
My online research yielded software unlocking and I was away. From that point on, I was the guy my friends came to when they needed advice about unlocking their device.
I lost an iPhone 4 to hardware unlocking in early 2011 and have been sold on IMEI unlocking ever since.
So no, I don’t have a degree or anything like that, but I’ve made every mistake you can when it comes to iPhone unlocking and so can at least tell you how to avoid the same ones I made.
IMEI Unlocking Test Methodology
The process for testing the unlock providers was simple. I started with a Google, forum, and blog search to create a list of all the iPhone 6 Unlock providers available. I found 11.
The next step was to put each of these service providers through their paces. I put a call out to my mailing list for anyone who had an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus who wanted them unlocked and got 68 responses. Of these, I chose 9 iPhone 6’s to unlock. These were chosen to cover the represent the three different unlock categories:
- Out of contract with no money owing
- In contract with no money owing
- In contract with money still owing
We tested each of the 3 IMEI unlock service provider in each of these three categories with an iPhone 6/6 Plus and iPhone 6s/6s Plus.
How we judged their performance
Each unlock service provider was judged on the following 6 categories:
Category 1: Range of unlocks
Not every unlock service provider can unlock iPhones from every carrier. Some have an extensive list in North America (AT&T, Sprint, Telus) but can’t do anything in Australia (Vodaphone, Telstra, Optus).
Some are great in the UK (O2, Orange, T-Mobile), but have nothing available in Japan (KDDI, Softbank). A solid unlock service provider will have a wide range of unlocks available.
Category 2: Price
Like any service, the prices between services providers vary greatly. Some are cheap whilst others will charge an arm and a leg. Price is taken into account when reviewing these providers, but only as a factor. Success, support, and speed are also critical.
Category 3: Payment methods
What good is a great range of unlocks at cheap prices if you can only pay by Western Union bank transfer? None. Payment methods are taken into account but weren’t a deciding factor in our test. Every provider had a wide enough range of payment options available.
Category 4: Customer service
Some people are jerks — that’s a fact. And no one likes dealing with jerks. To make sure you weren’t dealing with a bunch of jerks, I tested each company’s customer service three times: once before placing my order, once after placing my order but before the unlock was complete, and once after the unlock was complete.
Category 5: Success
And now the critical category: were they, or were they not able to unlock the iPhone? Unfortunately, we had more ‘No’s’ than we thought were possible for a well-reviewed service provider, but it was better we find this out now than you having to go through it.
Category 6: Speed
The Top 3 IMEI Unlock Services For iPhone 6/Plus & 6s/Plus
After 2 weeks of collecting and reviewing data, testing, and waiting for results, we finally were able to judge the service providers against each other.
Here’s how they turned out:
#1. iPhoneIMEI.Net– 9.5/10 (Use if you’re inside the USA, UK, or Canada)
iPhoneIMEI are my #1 recommendation because the do the one thing we paid them to do: unlock the phones. Yes, I know that sounds like an obvious benefit of paying someone to do something for you, but after reading hundreds of reviews of other services, this is actually a rarity in the market.
But that’s not the only reason they’re #1. They did other things right as well.
PROs: First of all, and most importantly, they unlocked all three iPhones. And not only that, they did it in the time frame they said they would. Amazing. I know that if you haven’t tried to get an iPhone unlocked before, you might struggle to see just how amazing this is, but this is a rarity.
Their unlocks start at around $19.99 and go up from there. You can pay by credit card without any drama and it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg.
Thirdly, their support is great. You can email them anytime, day or night, and their response is usually never more than a few hours away. Our pre-sale question was answered in 2 hours and 11 minutes, our post-sale but pre-unlock question was answered in 3 hours and 18 minutes, and our post-sale post-unlock follow up question was answered in 3 hours and 9 minutes.
CONs: The only drawback with iPhoneIMEI is that they have a limited range of unlocks. If you’re in the US, UK, or Canada, you should be able to find your carrier on their list (some of the more obscure carriers are missing), but outside that, you might struggle.
OVERALL: Overall, iPhoneIMEI is my #1 choice because they do what they say they’re going to do, when they say they’re going to do it, at a reasonable price, and are willing to answer your questions along the way. What more could you want? And in an industry renowned for dodgy operators, this makes them a winner.
If you’re in the US, UK, or Canada and need to unlock your iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus, go to iPhoneIMEI.
#2 DirectUnlocks – 9/10 (Use if you’re outside the USA, UK or Canada)
Official iPhone Unlock are the #2 rated unlock provider we found. Just like iPhoneIMEI, they were able to unlock all three iPhone unlocks we sent, but they’re behind enough to make a difference in who you should use.
PROs: Just like iPhoneIMEI, they tick a lot of boxes (they wouldn’t get a 9/10 rating is they didn’t).
Firstly, they have the biggest range of unlocks on the market. Is your iPhone locked to Softbank in Japan? Great. They can unlock it. T-Mobile in Poland? Done. Claro in Panama? Problem solved. Their range is SUPER impressive, and they carry unlocks that no-one else has.
Secondly, their support is excellent. Unlike iPhoneIMEI, they not only have email support but phone support as well. You can call them anytime you want, day or night, and there’ll be someone there to answer your questions.
We called for our pre-sale question and spoke to one of their support agents within 7 minutes. Our post-sale but pre-unlock question and post-sale post-unlock questions were both sent by email and answered in less than 2 1/2 hours.
Thirdly, they’re fast. The majority of their massive range of unlocks are completed in 24 – 72 hours, with only some of the rarer unlocks taking longer than that.
CONs: There are two drawbacks with DirectUnlocks, and one of the reason them ranking behind the competitor iPhoneIMEI.net. Firstly, they’re a little more expensive than iPhoneIMEI. It’s not much, only 15%-20%, but it’s enough to make a difference to your bank balance at the end of the day.
And secondly (and this is more of a pet peeve than anything), their prices are all in Brittish Pounds. It means that you don’t actually know exactly what you’re going to pay until your credit card is charged. Yes, you have a vague idea (you can find up-to-date exchange rates here), but you don’t know exactly until your bank decides on what rate they’re going to charge you.
I guess that’s the price you pay for being able to unlock your iPhone from just about every carrier in the world, though…
OVERALL: If you need your iPhone unlocked and you use DirectUnlocks to do it, you’re not going to be disappointed. Yeah, their USA, UK, and Canadian unlocks are a little pricier than iPhoneIMEI and their prices are in British Pounds, but they have a range or unlocks you just can’t beat.
If you’re outside the USA, UK, and Canada and need your device unlocked, go to DirectUnlocks.
#3. IMEI Codes (5/10 – Not very impressive)
IMEI codes are the last pick on my list, and the results led me to believe their online reviews might have been a little dishonest. They failed to unlock two of the three unlocks we tested and we had to file chargebacks to get our money back for the other two.
Not a great way to make a solid first impression.
PROs: I like to think of myself as a positive person, but there’s very little positive to write about IMEI Codes. Sure, they unlocked one of the three IMEI’s we sent them, but they made life difficult in just about every other area.
CONs: For starters, they’re very expensive When I compared their prices, they came in 50% more than DirectUnlocks and 70% than iPhoneIMEI for iPhone’s locked to carriers in North America. And look, the higher prices would be justified if they offered something that the other guys didn’t, but they don’t.
Their customer support is sloppy. They eagerly and enthusiastically responded to my presale question (obviously have a good sales team), but I didn’t hear back to my post-sale but pre-unlock question till 4 days after my unlock was due to be completed. And even when they did respond, their English was terrible, they didn’t answer the question, and they were rude about it. That’s not the level of support I expect from what’s claimed to be a premium service.
Like I said, they were only able to unlock one of the three phones and their lack of customer support meant we had to file a chargeback to get a refund for the other two. I don’t recommend you deal with them.
OVERALL: If you can’t find your unlock on iPhoneIMEI or if DirectUnlocks is down, then you could try IMEI Codes, but I would definitely only use them as a very last resort if you’re in an emergency situation.
If you want to know more about IMEI Codes, you can visit their website here.
To wrap it all up…
There are three different kinds of iPhone 6 and 6 plus unlocks available.
- iPhone 6 software unlocking is simply a scam
- Hardware unlocking can occasionally work, but can ruin your iPhone and void your warranty
- IMEI or network unlocking is the only way to unlock and keep your warranty intact
We reviewed 11 IMEI unlock providers and tested three providers with 3 unlocks each. Our test results show:
If you’re outside the USA, UK or Canada, unlock your device with DirectUnlocks. They’re a little pricier, but they have every unlock under the sun and the speed and support to back it up.
Have fun with your unlocked iPhone!