When you want to know how to unlock AT&T iPhone handsets, it pays to do a little bit of reading. To make things easier for you we’ve compiled everything you’ll ever need to know in a single comprehensive guide. That way you’ll be able to choose from a range of different network providers so that you get the best deal for you. Ideal for having the choice your hard work deserves.
Let’s unlock AT&T iPhone handsets!
The issue with network providers locking handsets to their networks has been a thorny one with users for some time. There are so many better options out there if you can find a way around this unjust restriction, so it’s understandable that you’re making the jump!
Follow every step of this guide, and you’ll be able to break the chain and see what else is out there on the market. Perfect for ensuring that you have the freedom to choose the right deal for you. Before you get started you should round off Step 1 by making sure you can tick off all of the following:
- Have you paid any outstanding amount owed to AT&T for the use of their network? If not then they won’t allow you to unlock AT&T iPhone handsets. Make sure the balance is cleared, and you’ll be able to work your way through the rest of this guide!
- If you’ve bought your handset from a friend or online seller, you need to make sure that it hasn’t been reportedas stolen or been linked with any illegal activity. If it has, then it will blocked, and you won’t be able to use it no matter what you do!
- If you have recently upgraded your handset and now want AT&T unlockiPhone codes, you’ll need to wait for 14-days before going ahead. It’ll be worth the wait!
- Check the AT&T terms and conditions if you have any issues during the unlocking process. They are helpful and should be able to answer any network-specific queries or problems you encounter.
There are 3-keyways to get the job done. You can ask AT&T for help (more on that in a minute) but if you want to be fast, then take a look at these more advanced options:
- The Software Method– A loophole that closed years ago
- The Hardware Method– High-risk,low reward option that kills iPhones
- Advanced IMEI Unlock Options– #1 option for everyiPhone user
Introducing the IMEI Number – You’ll need it for my #1 method!
The next step is to obtain your IMEI number. If you’re not familiar with this term, then it is super important that you understand it before you proceed.
An IMEI is a unique identifier that tells Apple and the network which specific handset you have in your hand. It contains far more information than merely the make or model of your iPhone; it’s effectively your iPhone’s fingerprint.
Finding the IMEI Number – Make sure you find it!
Fortunately, obtaining the IMEI is the easy bit. All you have to do is follow the simple steps below, and you’ll have it in seconds:
- Turn on your iPhone
- Go to Settings > General > About
- Note down your IMEI number in a safe place
Now that you have your phone’s unique identifier, your next step is to contact AT&T. Read on and see how to unlock AT&T iPhone handsets whose contracts have recently expired.
Contacting AT&T – this may take a while.
Sure you don’t want to skip to the IMEI unlocking section below?
Knowing how to unlock AT&T iPhone handsets is all about knowing the right person to talk to. The problem you often find is that you’ll be pushed around from call center to call center and never get to speak to the same person twice. Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be able to accelerate the whole unlocking process in no time at all:
- Always ask for the name of the person you’re speaking to.
- Make notes and save themto the Cloud for ease of access.
- Always ask for a time frame in which you can expect action or a callback.
- If you don’t hear back within the timeframe, don’t be afraid to chase them up.
The Unlocking Process: When Your Contract Has Expired
Now that you know how to deal with AT&T when you contact them, you’re ready for the specific steps you need to follow. Don’t worry if you have issues or AT&T decline to help you with the following steps, we’ll cover plenty more options later on that should unlock your handset.
- The first thing to do is open your browser of choice. You can do this from your iPhone itself or on a secondary device. Often it’s easy to do it on your laptop as you may have to reset your iPhone during the process.
- Next, you will need to sign into your AT&T accountby visiting: com/deviceunlock
- Take enough time to read through all of the eligibility documentation. It can be a lengthy process, and you may think that it’s designed to be confusing but stick with it and it will be worth it. If in doubt refer to the simplified eligibility requirements listed earlier on in this guide.
- Complete all of the details on the unlock request form before submitting. Just because you’re not sure whether or not a specific field applies to you, don’t leave it blank!
If you do that, then your application will most likely never be processed as they will assume you applied in error or they won’t know what to do. Always assume that AT&T will never do anything unless you give them exactly what they need. Remember that they don’t want to lose you as a customer, so it’s doubtful they will chase you up for missing information so that they can accelerate the processing of your request to be unlocked from their network.
You’ll have seen by now if you had the patience to deal with AT&T, that they are pretty hit or miss. If only there were a whole host of others ways you could free your phone from their limitedservice…
Here’s a quick rundown of the other methods that we’re going to cover:
- The Software Method
- The Hardware Method
- Advanced IMEI Unlock Options
The Software Method: A loophole that may already be closedto you
If you are lucky enough to own an iPhone 3G on AT&T, then this is an old-school option that’s still open to you. If however, your device is an iPhone 4 onwards then Apple has already shut this one nice and firmly.
What is it?
There was an unintentional loophole in the hardware of the iPhone 3G which enabled users to unlock it without having to consult Apple or their network provider. While it is a neat little trick, I’m going to gloss over it because it’s so unlikely that you’ll have an iPhone of that vintage which is still tied to an AT&T contract.
On to option 2: the hardware method.
The Hardware Method: A high-risk option that will invalidate your warranty
Thisis very much a brute force method to a thinking man’s problem. As you’ll have probably guessed the issue with taking this line of approach is that it can do plenty more harm than good. Precisely what you don’t want when all you’re trying to do is give yourself more choice when it comes to monthly contracts!
What is it?
The exact nature of the hardware method will vary depending on who is doing it for you; needless to say they won’t be particularly transparent or forthcoming with the details.
The main issue here is that the ‘expert’ you hire will be getting a lot of money upfront for little if no positive outcome. They won’t be a trained professional, and they certainly won’t have the skills, expertise and special tools that you need if you’re going to start fiddling around with the internals of something as complicated as an iPhone.
They’ll probably try and get their soldering iron or homemade programming modules on the case. That will cause all manner of havoc with such a carefully crafted piece of kit that it’s just not worth doing. Just remember; if it sounds too good to be true that someone can open your iPhone and unlock it for you, then it probably is.
To make sure you don’t fall foul of these misguided experts take a quick read of the risks to remind yourself of the dangers:
- The hardware approach involves working with a shady character who doesn’t know what they’re doing
- The fact that they don’t know what they’re doing will probably mean that they do more harm than good
- When someone does more damage than good in exchange for money, you always end up paying out even more money to put right what they’ve done
- Because they weren’t trained, qualified, or authorized to carry out the work on your iPhone, they will have invalidated your warranty
- When your warranty is invalidated Apple are under no obligation to help you out free of charge, and you cannot reasonably expect them to replace your now faulty handset
- All in all, you’d have saved more time, money, and effort, if you’d have just sat there on your restrictive monthly contract. At least you’d still have a working iPhone to text and call your friends with.
I think you’ve got the picture that the hardware method is never a sensible way to proceed by now. Let’s round this guide off by talking you through the final unlocking method.
IMEI Unlock Options from iPhoneIMEI.net and OfficialiPhoneUnlock
Ok, so you’ve already obtained your IMEI, you’ve contacted AT&T and worked through all the steps above, but they were unwilling or unable to unlock your iPhone. It’s no consolation to you that the person the other end of the phone has tried their best because you’re still lockedto a network and a monthly contract that you don’t want to be paying for.
The software approach isn’t open to you because you’re not running with the vintage iPhone 3G, and you’re too sensible to try the hardware option. That leaves you with the IMEI unlock approach. Fortunately for you, this is the securest one of them all so you shouldn’t have any problems, provided you follow the hints and tipsthat are to come.
What is it?
Remember we said that your IMEI number is the unique identifier that allows you to tell your provider precisely which handset you’re using? Well, now you can use this precision to your advantage by having a specialist third party reallocate it. Confused? Read on.
The Factory Unlock
The IMEI unlock issuch an effectivemethod that it’s also referred to as the Factory Unlock in the trade. Thistells you that it has the power to get you onto any network you like, but how does it work?
When you hire a specialist third party company, they will be able to view Apple’s master database that stores the IMEI for every handset they have ever sold. It lists everything from your storage size and model to the color and whether it is locked or unlocked. By accessing this database, they’ll be able to reassign your handset from ‘locked’ to ‘unlocked.’
Why is it so successful?
Unlike asking permission of AT&T or trying to exploit hardware loopholes that had been closedyears ago, the IMEI unlock approach is a permanent and 100% safe solution. Here are the pros that you need to know about it before you decide to go ahead:
- It’s a reliable, safe, and legal approach that is used by millions of iPhone users every year
- Some trusted third-party experts will be able to carry it out for you
- You’ll be able to read testimonials on their websites from thousands of previous customers so that you know you’re dealing with an expert
- Because it doesn’t involve any hardware alterations, it won’t invalidate your warranty which means you will still get full support from Apple down the line
- You’re paying an expert to get the job done the right way which means that you’re paying for a permanent solution that won’t fall through
How to find a factory unlock expert?
To decide on iPhoneIMEI.net vs. OfficialiPhoneUnlock, I actually ran a battery of rigorous tests on a range of handsets locked to different networks. Take a look at my judging criteria below, and then I’ll tell you the results of my tests!
Are they substantially cheaper than the competition?
If so then the chances are you’re either dealing with an unreliable business who’ve had to cut their prices to try and get more business. Or possibly a startup business who may not be up to the job.
Do they give a timeframe for unlocking your iPhone?
Most reputable third-party contractors will unlock your iPhone within 5-days; the best will make great strides in 48-hours or less. If no timeframe is explicitly given, then make sure you ask the question before placing your order.
If you forget to do that, then you may find that you’re waiting for quite some time for what turns out to be quite an underwhelming result. There’s also the distinct possibility that you’ll be leftwith an iPhone you can’t do a whole lot with, in the meantime.
Do they have a list of regions and providers?
It’s important to know preciselywhat an unlocking contractor can offer. If they have a comprehensive list of the regions they serve and the networks they can get you on then, that’s a fantastic resource. Make sure you make proper use of that.
Some companies will offer lots of options if you live in North America or Europe, but a lot less if you live in other parts of the world. Make sure the company you go for has plenty of network options in your region, and that they have a track record of getting people reassigned to those networks.
Anything else to consider?
Any reputable third-party IMEI unlocking company will talk you through the process and should be able to free your iPhone from AT&T within five working days. To make things a little bit easier for yourself why not take a quick look at our final checklist so that you can sleep with the peace of mind that you have everything covered:
- Make sure you check which payment methodsthey accept. You want the security that they accept card payments or PayPal. If someone asks you for cash or a payment method you’re not familiar with, don’t be afraid to walk away. You’ll be glad you did once another company unlocks your handset!
- Always ask for turnaroundtimes and make sure you’ll have unrestricted use and access to your iPhone’s full suite of functionality in the meantime.
- Always steer clear of companies that ask you to send your iPhone to them, or ask for other log-in and financial details. There’s no need for them to have this information to get the factory unlock taken care of.
The Verdicts – 3 Unlocking companies, only one winner
iPhoneIMEI.net – Perfect for North America and the UK
Of the threecompanies that I put to the challenge,they were the only ones who were able to unlock all 12 handsets. Thisis a feat in itself and one that certainly caught my attention. A 100% success rate isn’t something you can better, sothey have my vote in this respect.
The only thing I would say that slightly counts against them is that if you live outside of the UK or North America,then you don’t get quite the same level of choice. That said, they market themselves as experts in these regions not worldwide.
OfficialiPhoneUnlock – The leaders when it comes to the rest of the world and a creditable second
These guys do so much right that they were only just edgedinto second place. Their unlock rate only dipped below perfection due to one tricky curveball I threw at them.
They did struggle to unlock one of my handsets, andthere’s just no getting away from that, unfortunately. To be fair to them,they said this would likely be the case when I placed my order, butthey did have the option of canceling it. They struggled valiantly but to no avail. Credit where credit is due, their customer service was excellent throughout the whole process.
I don’t want you to think I recommend every IMEI unlocking service without much thought, so I also had a look at these guys. They’re known to be a bit hit or miss, sothey were a useful yardstick to measure the performance of the other two against.
They unlocked half the handsets…eventually…
The phones that were unlocked took twice as long as with the other two unlocking services. Plus their customer support was vague and noncommittal.
If you want to get AT&T to unlock your handset for you,then there’s every chance that you’ll be waiting forever and a day for it to happen. I strongly recommend the IMEI unlockroute as it’s the most universal and comprehensive way to free your iPhone from restrictive networks.
If you’re in North America or the UK,then use iPhoneIMEI.net
If you’re anywhere in the rest of the world,then I strongly suggest using OfficialiPhoneUnlock