SUMMARY: There are three ways to unlock your iPad: Software unlocking, hardware unlocking, and IMEI unlocking. Software unlocking doesn’t work on tablets and hardware unlocking is dangerous and will void your warranty.Of these three processes, the only safe and reliable method is IMEI Factory Unlocking.
If you have an iPad locked to a particular carrier, the only safe way to unlock it is with an IMEI Factory Unlock. This is safe, will protect your warranty, and give you the freedom to use any carrier in any country, whenever you want.
Of the 11 IMEI Unlock providers I reviewed and three I tested, the best provider is iPhoneIMEI. They have the cheapest prices, fastest unlocks, best customer service, and most importantly, were the only unlock provider who actually completed all three unlocks I sent them.
IMPORTANT: This article will teach you how to unlock your iPad from its phone service carrier. If you need to unlock your tablet from its iCloud account, go to our iCloud Unlock service provider review here.
If you’ve done any amount of research into unlocking, you’ll know there are two important things you need to keep in mind before you purchase an unlock:
- That you’re using the right method (there are three different methods)
- That you’re using a legitimate provider
I know both of these are critical because I’ve been stung by both. Not only with my iPad, but also with my iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re unlocking your iPhone or iPad, you have to watch out for the same scams. Here’s how to avoid them.
Which iPad Unlock method should you use?
As I’ve said, there are three types of unlocks available on the market. But, as with any choice in life, there are pros and cons of each. And if you’re going to unlock your iPad and still both keep your warranty and make sure you tablet is still working, you need to know the difference.
Method 1: Software Unlocking
(Hasn’t worked since 2009)
The first unlocking method developed was the software unlock. This involved downloading hacking software from an anonymous source somewhere in mother Russia, installing it on your phone so that it could hack into your iOS operating system, and then hoping it worked. Which is sometimes did, but other times didn’t.
Unfortunately, Apple became aware of the loophole this hacking software was exploiting to free their iOS devices and closed it before the release of the iPhone 3G. This was in 2008; well before the release of the first iPad.
So, if you read about people unlocking their iPad with hacking software, laugh at them for still owning an iPhone 3 and not knowing the difference 🙂
Method 2: Hardware Unlocking
(Dangerous and will void your warranty)
The second unlocking method to make its appearance on the market, and the first that was available on iPads, was hardware unlocking. Hardware unlocking is where you find some dodgy looking guy in an even dodgier looking back alley to physically open up your device, fiddle with its circuits, install new wiring, and close your it up.
And before you ask, yes, it’s as dangerous as it sounds. Best estimates put the success rate of hardware unlocking at around 30%, with the other 70% leaving with a broken device and angry stares from large, angry men. The worst part about this method is that even if hardware unlocking works for you, your warranty is voided and you’ll have to pay for any future repairs to your iPad.
Does a 30% chance of success with a guarantee of losing your warranty sound like a sound choice to you? No, me neither. That’s why you should stay WELL away from hardware unlocking.
Method 3: IMEI or Factory Unlocking
(The only safe method for iPhone SE Unlocking)
The growing demand for iPad unlocking, and the unreliability of software and hardware unlocking, meant that there was a big demand and no solution. That’s when some clever soul worked out that there’s another way to unlock: IMEI or Factory unlocking.
An IMEI is a unique serial code attached to every iPad. Apple keeps a database of all the IMEIs in the world and alongside that, stores information about that iPad, including the model number, memory size, production date, and most importantly, whether or not that tablet is locked to a particular network or unlocked and available to use on any network.
IMEI or Factory Unlocking is where someone with access to the Apple database changes your devices status from locked to unlocked based on your IMEI. There’s no software to download and no-one has to open up and play with your iPhones circuits. All they have to do is change your iPad’s status and you’ll be free to use your tablet on any network in any country.
IMEI unlocking is the only safe method and the only one you should use.
Which iPad IMEI Unlock Provider Should You Use?
The surge in demand for iPad IMEI Factory Unlocks has resulted with the market being flooded with providers. And with all markets, some of these providers are better than others. And when I say that, I mean that some of these providers are complete scammers and some of them will actually free your iPad.
To make sure you got the device unlocked you needed, we’ve road tested these providers to let you know which ones are legitimate and which ones are a scam.
Why I’m Qualified to Tell You This
As you can imagine, there are no formal qualifications in iPad unlocking which means I obviously don’t have a university degree in unlocking. But what I do have, which is even more important than any piece of paper stuck on my wall, is experience.
My first unlocking experience was back in 2008 when I first encountered AT&T’s sub-standard service and decided I needed to change carriers in a hurry. Since then, I’ve lost an iPhone 4 to hardware unlocking and unlocked over 30 iPhones and iPads through IMEI unlocking.
I’m as much of an expert as you’ll find in this space and that’s why I’m qualified to tell you this.
iPad IMEI Unlock Provider Testing Process
The process I used to test IMEI providers was simple.
The first step was to create a list of every provider who claimed they could perform the service on iPads. This left me with a list of 11 providers. Once I had that list, I went through various review websites, such as TrustPilot and Ripoff Report to eliminate obvious scammers. This left me with only 3 providers who appeared to be able to legitimately unlock iPads.
The next step in this process was to test these providers to see which one performed the best and which one was simply posting fake reviews. To do this, I needed iPads. You can’t test a service provider without using their service, so I put the call out to my mailing list to find anyone who needed an iPad unlocked. Of the 51 people who responded, I chose 9 to test. They were:
- iPad 2
- iPad mini
- iPad mini 2
- iPad mini 3
- iPad air
- iPad air 2
- iPad Pro (12.9 inch screen)
- iPad Pro (9.7 inch screen)
This gave me three devices per IMEI Unlock provider and allowed me to test all the different iPad versions.
How I Judged Their Performance
There are 5 criteria I used to judge the performance of the various providers. They were:
Criteria 1: Range of Unlocks
The first thing you need when you’re choosing a factory provider is that they have your unlock. Obvious, right? Because of this, the first criteria I judged these providers on was their range of unlocks. The more carriers they could unlock you from, the higher they scored.
Criteria 2: Price
No-one wants to spend more money than they have to, this is obvious. Because of this, the second criteria I judged these providers on was the cost of their unlocks. The cheaper, the better… mostly. P
rice was used more as a tiebreaker if more than one provider ha
d the same range, success rate, and speed because there’s no point in being cheaper if you can’t deliver 🙂
Criteria 3: Customer Support
What’s the point of a huge range of unlocks at a great price when there’s no-one there to respond to your email messages asking ‘What’s going on?’ To make sure these providers not only can unlock your iPad but also talk you through any challenges along the way, we contacted each provider three times over the course of the service process.
The first contact we made was before we placed our orders to see how responsive their pre-sales team was. The second contact we made was after we’d purchased our order but before the unlock was completed to test their customer support. And the final contact we made was after the service was completed to test just how committed they were to giving us a good customer experience.
This was done for every attempt and every provider was scored on the average of their responses.
Criteria 4: Success
The 4th criteria is the most important: success. Did they or did they not unlock the iPad? Simple as that. If they weren’t able to unlock any, they failed. If they managed to complete some, then they got a conditional pass. And if they unlocked all three, then they were winners.
Criteria 5: Speed
The final criteria is speed: how quickly did they complete the service? Obviously, the faster the better.
Steps to expect when using an unlock provider
1. Have your IMEI code available. This is the unique number for your iPad that the 3rd party provider needs to unlock the correct device. Its easy to find the IMEI number:
- Method 1: Dial *#06#
- Method 2: On your iOS device, Go to Settings > General > About and then scroll to find your device’s IMEI
- Method 3: Look on the back of your iPad (cellular models), and you’ll find the IMEI number near the bottom. If you have the packaging , look for the IMEI number on the barcode label.
- Method 4: For non-activated phones, there is a little “i” button on the activation screen, click it and you’ll see the IMEI on the screen
The Top 3 iPad Unlock Providers
After purchasing 9 iPad IMEI factory unlocks from 3 providers and waiting for the results, here is the list of the top iPad providers.
#1 DirectUnlock.com – 9.5/10 (The top choice to unlock your iPad)
Of the all the providers we tested, DirectUnlock.com are our #1 choice. Here’s a breakdown of how they performed.
PROs: First of all, and most importantly, they were the only unlock provider who unlocked all three iPads. If the success of your unlock is a high priority (and I’d be concerned if it wasn’t), then this should be enough of a reason for you to choose them.
But that’s not the only reason they’re #1 on the list.
The second reason they’re #1 is that they’re also fastest provider I tested. The average time it took them to unlock an iPad was 3 days. When you consider the number of iPad unlocks they’re processing and what they have to go through to get this done, 3 days is remarkable.
The third reason they’re #1 on the list is their customer service. The average response time to the pre-sale, post-sale but pre-unlock, and post-unlock emails I sent them was an hour and twenty minutes. That’s more than good enough for me.
And the final reason they’re #1 is the price. You’d expect the only unlock provider who can deliver on what they promise, in the fastest time, with the best support, to charge a premium for their services, but UnlockBase.net don’t. Their prices are between 10% and 30% cheaper than their competitors.
CONs: I struggled to find anything to put in here. I like to try and be very even-handed with my reviews to make sure that people know exactly what they’re getting themselves into, but I couldn’t find something I would list as a serious con.
The only thing that could be a slight con for some people is they don’t accept Paypal as a payment method. If you’ve got a Paypal account but no credit card, this might be an issue, but if you have a credit or debit card, they can process your payment.
OVERALL: UnlockBase are the #1 unlock provider we reviewed because they were the only one to successfully complete all three iPads. But, to make this victory more comprehensive, they also did it with the best prices, the fastest unlocks, and the best customer support. You’re welcome to try another iPad unlock provider but to be honest, you’ll just be wasting your money.
If you need to unlock your iPad, visit DirectUnlock now.
#2 iPhoneIMEI – 7.5/10 (Use if UnlockBase aren’t available)
The #2 provider on our list is iPhoneIMEI. They’re our most recommended choice after iPhoneIMEI but they do have some drawbacks (most notably: not completing all three unlocks we purchased). Here’s a breakdown of their performance:
CONs: Unfortunately, we need to start the review with the cons, because they’re significant. Of the three unlocks we purchased, they were only able to complete two of them. Yes, they refunded our purchase straight away and were very apologetic about their failure, but there’s no getting around the fact that they failed to complete the service we purchased.
The other con is that they only display their prices in Brittish Pounds (£). This means that in order to work out how much the unlock’s actually going to cost you, you need to use a currency converter.
This doesn’t necessarily make the unlock any more expensive, but it does add additional time and effort to purchasing their unlock.
PROs: Despite the fact that they only completed two of the three unlocks and only display prices in British Pounds, there’s actually a lot to like about iPhoneIMEI. They have a huge range of unlocks, which is great if your iPad is under contract with a more obscure carrier and can’t find it anywhere else.
They also have excellent customer service, which includes phone service. This means you can actually speak to someone about the unlock status and get someone to talk you through any issues you’re having.
The two unlocks they were able to process were unlocked in 4 days, putting them a little longer than DirectUnlock, but not too far away to damage their rating.
OVERALL: DirectUnlocks have a great range of unlocks, can process them quickly, and have great customer support to back their service up. They only managed to complete two of the three unlocks we purchased, but they were very apologetic and gave us an immediate refund when they failed. If DirectUnlock aren’t available and you need your tablet unlocked, Official iPhone Unlock is a good choice. Visit their website here:
You can visit their website here: iPhoneIMEI
#3 IMEICodes – 5/10 (Not recommended)
The final iPad provider we tested is IMEI Codes, and before you get any further, I need to warn you that I think they’re a scam site. Despite what their online reviews said, they didn’t come anywhere near close to being able to deliver on their promises.
CONs: Let’s start with the cons once again.
First of all, they failed to unlock any of the device IMEIs we sent them. Not one. Zero. Nothing. To make things worse, their customer support is also so poor that we didn’t know if they’d completed the unlocks until well after their promised completion date.
But this isn’t the end of the problems. They continued to claim that they’d unlocked our iPads when they hadn’t, and so refused to give me a refund.
At the end of the day, I was stuck with three locked tablets and three chargeback requests with my credit card provider.
PROs: Their pre-sale sales team is excellent! 🙂 Other than that, there’s nothing nice to say about these guys.
OVERALL: Stay away from them. They’ll take your money, give you nothing in return, and you’ll have to fight them through your bank to get your money back.
If you’re crazy enough to check out their website, you can do it here: IMEI Codes
To Wrap It All Up…
Of the three iPad unlocking methods available, the only safe and effective method is IMEI Factory unlocking. It will allow you to use your iPad on any carrier in any country, without voiding your warranty or putting your iPad in any harm.
Of the 11 iPad IMEI unlock providers we reviewed and the 3 we tested, the only provider who completed all three unlocks was iPhoneIMEI. They also had the best prices, fastest unlocks, and the best customer service.