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How do I know if my phone is unlocked?

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You’ve probably seen the term ‘unlocked phone’ before, especially if you’re looking to switch phone plans — but what does it mean? And if you do have a locked phone, are there ways to unlock it? While locking phones to a particular telco is not as common a practice as it used to be, this doesn’t mean every phone is guaranteed to be unlocked.

The telco industry is extremely competitive, with smaller MVNOs offering a variety of plans at different prices. To ensure you have the most flexibility, it may be worth ensuring that your phone is unlocked. So, you might be wondering, how do I know if my phone is unlocked? Read on to find out if your phone is unlocked and if it is, how to unlock it.

Prepaid phone plans you might like

The following table shows a selection of sponsored SIM Only plans on Canstar Blue’s database with links to referral partners.

What does it mean for a phone to be ‘locked’?

Also referred to as SIM locking or network locking, a locked phone means it is tied to its original mobile network carrier (eg. Telstra, Optus, etc.) and unable to be used with another provider. This means that SIMs from other providers won’t work.

While locking phones isn’t as common as it used to be in Australia like it is in other countries such as the US, prepaid phones are generally locked. This is why you might be wondering how to tell if your phone is unlocked.

Do I need an unlocked phone?

Having an unlocked phone essentially gives you the freedom to switch providers if you find a better deal elsewhere. Of course, if you bought your phone on a plan then you will have to pay off the remainder of the contract before you can switch.

If you’re happy with your provider, your phone doesn’t need to be unlocked. However, you might find down the track that there may be a plan out there that offers more value for money than the one you’re currently on and you might want the freedom to switch plans as needed.

Do I need an unlocked phone for overseas travel?

Another reason that it may be useful to have an unlocked phone is if you’re planning on any overseas travel. International roaming can be expensive, especially if you’re going for an extended period of time, so it can be more cost effective to pick up a SIM from your destination.

Unfortunately, if your phone is locked to an Aussie telco, then the alternative SIM won’t work without unlocking your device first.

How do I know if my phone is unlocked?

If you’re wondering how to check if a phone is unlocked, there are a couple of ways to check if a phone is unlocked. If you bought your phone outright, it will most likely be unlocked. If that is not the case, the easiest way to tell is to contact your telco directly and just ask them.

If you have an iPhone, you’ll be able to find the status of your phone in Settings. Otherwise, you could try putting in a SIM card from another provider — if it doesn’t work then chances are your phone is locked.

Do I have to stay with my provider?

Your phone being locked is not the only thing that could stick you with a provider. If your contact has a minimum period, or if you’re paying for your phone on a plan, then trying to leave early may incur a fee, or at least having to pay out the remainder of your repayments in full.

Looking for a new phone plan? Compare SIM-only plans

If you have an unlocked phone and you’re looking for a new SIM-only plan, the following tables show a range of postpaid and prepaid phone plans from a range of providers. Switch between the tabs to compare prepaid and postpaid plans.

Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 20GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Try using our mobile phone plan comparison tool to see a wide range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data each month, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. If you want to compare a larger range of offers from other providers, use our phone plan comparison tool. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

How do I unlock my phone?

This process can differ between telcos, but if you find out that your phone is locked, contact your provider. You will likely need your IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) device serial number, which can be obtained from your phone’s settings.

This information will be located in the ‘About’ section which would also contain details such as model and storage size.

What if I can’t find my IMEI number?

Dial *#06# on your device. The first 15 digits to appear are going to be your IMEI number.

Once you have this number, you’ll be able to get in touch with your provider to request your device be unlocked. Depending on which telco you’re with, this may incur a fee, so make sure you check in advance.

Can I unlock my phone online?

Some telcos, such as Vodafone or Optus, offer online unlocking tools if you don’t want to give them a call or visit in store. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Find the IMEI number for your device
  2. Either call your provider or check the website for an online unlocking tool
  3. Pay the unlocking fee if applicable
  4. Enter in your unlocking code to your phone if prompted when you insert the new SIM

For more detailed information about locked phones from Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, you can read our brand-specific guides:

Is my phone unlocked now?

Once you’ve gone through the above steps, it may take some providers up to 72 hours for your phone to unlock.

If you have an unlocked phone and are looking for a better deal, our free phone plan comparison tool is a great place to start, showing you a variety of phone plans and providers to help you find a phone plan to suit your needs.

 

Emma Bradstock
Telco Specialist
Emma Bradstock has been an authority on consumer phone, internet, technology and streaming markets in Australia for over 5 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Media from Macquarie University and has over a decade of professional writing experience in print and digital media.

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