How to SIM Unlock Your Android Smartphone or Tablet

Christian Cawley 19-10-2015

You want to change networks, but your new SIM card What Is a SIM Card and What Does It Do? What is a SIM card and why is it so important? It connects you to your carrier network, stores contact information, and more. Read More won’t work in your phone. Baffled, you call the new network, only to learn that your smartphone is locked to the first network, and there’s not much you can do about it.


Of course, this isn’t strictly true. If you’re using an Android device (we’ve already covered SIM card unlocking for iPhones Everything You Need To Know About Unlocking iPhones If you bought your iPhone direct from Apple, you've got an unlocked phone that's good for use with any network. But what if you bought it through your mobile carrier? Read More ), there’s always something you can do.

A SIM Unlock Is Not Rooting

Before we proceed with our look at unlocking Android phones, let’s briefly look at what unlocking the network/SIM is, and what it is not.

It’s simply the process by which you enter a specially-generated code into your phone’s keypad in order to break the restriction placed on the device by the network that shipped it. This enables you to insert a compatible SIM card from a different network and connect to their service.


Unlocking the SIM does not root your phone; that would be unlocking the bootloader The Complete Guide to Rooting Your Android Phone or Tablet So, you want to root your Android device? Here's everything you need to know. Read More , which is a different thing entirely. Both types of unlock are legal, although a SIM unlock often requires help from the network/carrier.


Is Your Phone SIM Locked?

Not all phones are SIM/network locked. To find out if yours is, you can begin by checking the documentation for the device. If the word “unlocked” appears on the initial receipt/invoice, you can be largely certain that it is not locked to a particular carrier.

You can, of course, contact your carrier to ask if the phone is locked to their network, or you can just try another SIM card with the phone. If you pop in a SIM from a different carrier and it doesn’t work, you know it’s locked.

Phones bought directly from a manufacturer or third-party retailer like Motorola, OnePlus, or Amazon for an unsubsidized price (usually $500-$700) are more likely to be unlocked than phones purchased from carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T for subsidized prices (usually free to $200).

But if you’ve discovered that your Android phone is locked to a particular carrier/network, how can you unlock it?


SIM Unlock App Scams

The first thing you should not do is head to Google Play and look for SIM unlock tools. These services have very poor reputations and are more than likely scams. At best, they don’t unlock your phone for you.

Steer clear!

What you should also avoid are downloadable “phone unlock tools” that are prominent on download sites and the Bittorrent network. These are more often than not laced with Trojans and other malware, and are very rarely suitable for the phone you’re trying to unlock (contrary to the download’s description).

Safe, legal means exist for unlocking your smartphone’s SIM/network relationship.


While you should be cautious of SIM unlock app scams, there are some helpful apps on Google Play to help you manage your SIM card 7 Useful Apps to Manage Your SIM Card on Android You probably don't think much about the SIM card on your Android phone. These apps let you manage your SIM and do more with it. Read More .

Ask Your Carrier to Unlock Your Device

Amazing as it may seem, you can get in touch with your carrier about SIM unlocking your phone or tablet — and this really is your best option.


Since February 2015, it has been possible for American cell phone owners to ask their networks to unlock their devices to switch carriers, bringing the USA in line with the European Union (and reversing an unpopular law passed in 2013). Carriers must also inform customers via a notice on the monthly bill whether the device is eligible for unlocking.


Begin by finding out if your phone can be unlocked. There is an eligibility clause on smartphones bought on contract, and if the initial two-year deal isn’t yet up, then you’ll need to pay an early termination fee to break the contract, get the unlock code, and be free to use another SIM.

For those of you who bought your phones outright, usually you’ll need to wait a full 12 months from the time of purchase, and ensure that your bill is paid up to date before the network will give you the unlock code.

How to SIM Unlock Your Android Phone

To break the network/SIM lock, you’ll need to confirm the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity, a unique code used to identity your phone What Is My Phone's IMEI? Here's What You Need to Know You might have heard the acronym “IMEI” and know it relates to the identity of your phone, but what exactly is it for? Read More on any network) number of your phone or tablet.


In Android, the IMEI number can be quickly found by dialing *#06# or by opening Settings > About phone > Status > IMEI Information. With this 15-digit string handed over, the network should be able to provide you with a PIN code to enable your device to use the new network’s SIM card.

(Note that the full process can differ across networks, and your new network may require you to input a specific code to work with that carrier.)

This is particularly useful if you’re travelling overseas, for instance, and don’t have a dual SIM device.

While American carriers are not permitted to charge for this service, in the UK and Europe your network may charge a small administrative fee for unlocking your phone.

Meanwhile, if you have trouble with the “SIM not provisioned MM 2” error How to Fix the "SIM Not Provisioned MM 2" Error Problems getting your new SIM card to work? The "SIM not provisioned MM2" error message is frustrating, but simple to fix. Read More , we’ve offered some tips to help.

Find a Reputable Smartphone Unlock Service

If your network is not accommodating requests to unlock your phone, then you can try one of the reputable online smartphone unlock services. However, finding such a service can be difficult.

We would advise that you only use such a service if you’re absolutely desperate and there is no way that your network will unlock the device. These sites, which require your IMEI for creating the unlock code, are unregulated, and while there is a certain amount of protection afforded from making a payment via PayPal, they’re not always reliable.

A couple that we have tried are and, but there is no guarantee that these services will work for your smartphone or tablet.

Did You Unlock Your Device?

SIM unlocking your smartphone or tablet isn’t ideal for everyone. We would recommend that you spend a good deal of time weighing up the pros and cons of this process, and what you hope to gain from such a move.

Is the target carrier offering a better deal on connectivity? If you live in a city or large town, local Wi-Fi (secured with a VPN) might be a better 8 Useful Tips to Reduce Mobile Data Usage and Save Money Want to get the most out of your mobile data plan? These apps and tricks can help you squeeze out every last megabyte. Read More (and almost certainly cheaper) option.

Have you unlocked your Android device? How did it go? Tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credit: JAKRAPHONG via, Brian A Jackson via

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  1. Seanfitzy1234
    April 20, 2019 at 1:23 am

    By far the cheapest way is to use ebay. If seller is online you will get your code instantly , if not can take up to 48hr though ive never waited longer than 24 hrs (code came next day via email/ ebay msg) usually most android phones can be unlocked for around £2 ! Much cheaper than anywhere else . Simply add your imei number and current carrier, e.g. Vodaphone , to a msg to seller when making purchase.

  2. Dean
    January 26, 2018 at 4:03 am

    Hey Christian,

    Came across your page while checking out my options for unlocking a dual sim tablet. This has been purchased on eBay , as it is a present for a friend in Jamaica, I didn't think to check the listing, for it being unlocked (my bad) , still hopefully I will not need to.
    But if I do , then at least I now have some options.
    Thanks for the article, keep doing what you do...... And to put it simply f@#* them disrespecting you and what your trying to do here.
    Good luck man.

  3. Jean Storme
    June 12, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Like @Jeremiah, i successfully unlocked my phone with
    5min, 4,5€

  4. Carlos
    March 11, 2017 at 12:34 am

    Will rooting and installing custom roms relock the phone? I want to buy an international unlocked Samsung phone because US carriers lock their bootloaders.

  5. Jeremiah
    January 24, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks, worked!

  6. Dan G.
    January 21, 2017 at 4:57 am

    Blah, Blah, Blah.
    Not useful at all.
    Try again.

    • Christian Cawley
      January 22, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Really. Do tell us how we could improve it.

      • Mel
        February 14, 2017 at 7:57 am

        You could improve the article by having a chapter about updating Android. For example my cell is unlocked and purchased thru ebay and i want to update to nougat but i hear conflicting stories about updating may relock a phone. I no longer have the sellers info so if i update and get locked what can i do? This info can improve the article, thanks.

        • Christian Cawley
          February 14, 2017 at 8:43 am

          SIM unlock is not the same as bootloader unlock. Updating should not lock the SIM and your ability to use a different network once this has been unlocked.

          (I've been using Android since Donut in 2009, and this has not happened to me at any time since.)

  7. Joe Reagan
    January 14, 2017 at 3:03 am

    My problem is with a DOOGEE T5 which has 2 SIM card slots and the current phone setting as purchased new is SIM 1 - Data only (with 4G showing next to signal strength) and SIM 2 which connects to the GSM network for calls. I need to free SIM 1 up for calls as well-can you help with this.

  8. Greg
    November 23, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    What an absolute garbage useless article

    • Christian Cawley
      November 23, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      Hey Greg, thanks for your comment. It was garbage and useless, but hey!

  9. Nitsan
    October 17, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    What about the option of doing a 5-minute call via a European carrier? That's supposed to be the proper way to unlock it, and after you can switch back to your carrier.

    I haven't done this, but assuming this works my question would be - can you do it from the US with a European SIM that has roaming? Can you do it by calling a European number with such a SIM?

    If anyone has any knowledge of this 5-minute call method, that would be great.

  10. Swati
    September 30, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Hi sir but no calling option my t mobile tablet how to possible unlocked my tablet

    • vishal
      October 3, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      Hi swati if you got answer or solution pls share with me. I also needed this method.

  11. Esau
    August 6, 2016 at 6:54 am

    When you get a code where do you put it?

    • Christian Cawley
      August 26, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      You should be prompted for a code when you try to use a new SIM card.

      • swati
        September 30, 2016 at 11:54 am

        Ya I am trying new sim but network loked option show my tablet plz tell me code

    • swati
      September 30, 2016 at 11:51 am

      No code

  12. Lee
    July 29, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Bought code from optus website and I don't know where to input it, I have an oppo f1 optus locked and on.their website they have no instructions on how to do it, I put a non optus sim and when I turn it on it says network lock and I either press dismiss or emergency call, nowhere to put my $80 code, please help

    • Francis
      August 3, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      just swap out the sim card and when u reboot your phone they will ask you for the unlock code

  13. Sofala
    June 12, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    I was given two codes from my network provider, neither work. It's a Moto G what are my options, can you unlock the phone without codes?

    • Christian Cawley
      June 12, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      I would suggest speaking to them again.

  14. mohammed pasha
    May 3, 2016 at 11:12 am

    imei missing

    • Andrea Baker
      June 8, 2016 at 10:56 am

      If anyone is having a problem with their code or is looking for a place to get a code to unlock their phone, I would suggest giving a go. It doesn’t cost at all, you just need to complete a short survey (I know, one of those!) but it worked for me so.. it’s worth trying out.

      • Moi
        August 5, 2016 at 8:28 am


  15. Anonymous
    October 20, 2015 at 5:43 pm


    • rick
      April 16, 2018 at 12:31 am

      no such place