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How to unlock your phone

Started ‎06-05-2013 by
Modified ‎27-07-2017 by

If you’ve having trouble with your SIM being recognised, it might be that your phone is locked to your old network. You will need to free your phone and get it unlocked so you can join 48. If you’re not techie this might sound like a total head wreck, but it needn’t be!


Check out our Unlock Guide where we have free, impartial advice to help you unlock that phone.


You can also tell us about your unlocking experience by leaving a review in the guide to help other members identify the best unlocking services for them.


Frequently Asked Questions

Want to find out more about unlocking and how the different options work? Check out our FAQs below to find the right option for you and the things to watch out for.


If you've already unlocked your phone, don't forget to pop a review in our unlocking guide for the service you used.


What is mobile phone unlocking? 


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Unlocking a mobile phone is simply removing its SIM card restrictions, allowing the phone to use virtually any SIM card from any network in Ireland or anywhere in the world.


When you buy your phone, in most cases, it will be locked to that mobile network. This means you can only use it with a SIM card from that mobile operator.


If you decide to switch to another mobile network and want to keep your handset you will need to unlock your handset so it works with the SIM card for your new mobile provider.


There are different ways that you can get your handset unlocked. You can ask the mobile network provider you bought the phone from or, if you are out of contract or were given your phone by someone else, you can use a number of unlocking service providers.



Is my mobile phone locked?


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A phone is network locked if it doesn't accept SIM cards from every mobile company.


There's a variety of error messages you get when inserting an incompatible SIM such as "incompatible SIM", "enter network unlock code" or "enter subsidy PIN".


If you see one of these messages when you put your 48 SIM into your phone then your phone is locked.


Before switching your number to 48 it is important to find out if your handset is locked or not. If you have an active 48 SIM pop it in your phone and check if the 48 network symbol appears. If not, or if you get one of the messages above, your phone is still locked.


If you don’t have an active 48 SIM contact the mobile operator and should be able to tell you if the handset is still locked.



What information do I need to get my phone unlocked?


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You will generally need four basic pieces of information to unlock your handset: the make, the model, the IMEI and the network it is locked to.


You can usually find your phone make and model on the box it came in, the instruction manual, or on the back of the phone, sometimes behind (or even on) the battery.


There are too many models and variations to give a general rule. If you can’t find the model there are sites such as list most models of phones along with handy pictures to help you identify yours.


Your IMEI is a 15 digit number which is a unique device identifier. In order to find your IMEI, just type *#06# into your keypad when the phone is switched on. As simple as that. You can often also find it on the box your phone came in, but this varies from brand to brand.



How much does it cost to get my phone unlocked?


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Unlocking your phone can cost anything from €0 to almost a hundred euros. Of course, how much you pay depends on a number of factors such as what your phone is, what network it is locked to, what method you use, and how quickly you need your phone unlocked.


As a rule of thumb, unlocking your phone from a network operator won’t cost you. However, if you are on pre pay they will require that you have topped up by a certain amount before they will give you the unlock code.  If you are bill pay, and still in your contract term, they will require that you pay the remainder of your contract before they will give you an unlock code.


The cost when using an unlocking site or in a shop will vary. For example, it can cost €20 to unlock a Samsung Galaxy Ace online but you will usually get the code in a matter of hours. It can cost anything from €15 to €70 to unlock an iPhone.


Online sites should give you a quote before you order your unlock code. Shop around but be aware that if the price sounds too good to be true it could be a scam.



Can mobile phones be unlocked?


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The majority of phones can be unlocked and although there are a few exceptions, there are too many to mention individually. Typical examples include operator-exclusive phone models.


A good way to figure out whether your phone can be unlocked is by phoning your operator. In some cases, your operator won't be able to unlock your mobile, yet a professional high street unlocker will. Pop down the road and talk to your local unlocking shop for a near-definitive answer.



Can I unlock an iPhone?


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Since Apple released iOS7 Apple have added more security to iPhones.


When unlocking an iPhone you have to activate it using iTunes after it has been unlocked.


iPhones with new iOS7 can only be fully activated after unlock if the user knows the iCloud Account Details of the iPhone, or if the iPhone has not been registered to iCloud yet.


iF your iPhone is running iOS7 and is tied to an iCloud account, you must know the icloud user details of the iPhone


You should perform the following checks before unlocking your iPhone:


  • Is the iphone you are unlocking using iOS7
  • Is the iphone you are unlocking using iCloud?
  • If yes, does the user know their iCloud email address and password?


Without these details you would not be able to activate the iPhone, even after the unlock is completed.



Unlocking through your mobile operator


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On the face of it, this is the most "legit" option. Who better to unlock your phone than the people who got it locked in the first place?


Some mobile phone companies are better than others in this respect. Their terms also depend on whether you're a pre-pay or post-pay customer and how long you have been with them.


The method for requesting your unlock and the length of time it take can vary by operator.


For more detail on each how to request an unlock code from your mobile operator and their requirements simply select your mobile operator in the list above this FAQ.


Some customers have reported not being able to unlock phones with their operators if they didn't buy the phone themselves (for example, if they bought the phones on ebay). If this is the case, you might need to get in touch with the previous owner to get authorisation, or look into one of the other methods.



Unlocking using online websites


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If you are out of contract or been given your phone by someone else, an increasingly popular option is to buy a code online. There are a number of companies out there that provide this service. Although their prices are not generally cheaper than the high street, they offer an alternative that doesn't involve handing your phone over for days on end.


Some of the best companies offer reasonable customer service and will give you full instructions on how to perform the procedure. However, prices are variable.


How do these companies get their codes? Much in the same way that operators get theirs. They are sourced indirectly from mobile phone companies and handset manufacturers.


While many of these companies are reputable, be careful as there have been reports of scams and fraudsters so do be careful. As a general rule, if you shop around and you get a price that's too good to be true, it generally is.


In this category are also included companies that advertise their services online and then ask you to call a premium-rate number to get your code. Our advice is to stay clear of these as they only stock a limited number of codes which are freely available elsewhere, meaning that the majority of customers are left poorer but none the wiser.



Unlocking in high street unlocking shops


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You may have seen phone-repair outlets, computer shops and even key-cutting businesses that offer this service, typically marked by a neon display and a range of phone accessories.


Let's face it: many of them look rather shady. The perceived illegality of unlocking no doubt partly derives from the jungle of cables and screwdrivers that one is confronted with when dealing with these vendors.


Professional unlockers use a combination of methods to unlock phones, using cables, clips, codes and even online forums to help them find the right solution for your handset.

Costs vary and begin from as little as €10, though are reported to go over €70 for some new handsets such as iPhone 5s.

You can expect to have to wait between 15 minutes and one week to get your phone back from high street unlockers.


While this solution involves leaving the house and handing your treasured phone over to a stranger, it remains a popular option due to the convenience of not having to worry yourself with complicated instructions and technically challenging procedures. Prices also tend to be reasonable.


Make sure you ask what method they use as this could affect your warranty. Some use a SIM card that they put in your phone that reads the phones information and updates it. This method will definitely void your warranty.



Will unlocking affect my warranty?


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Yes. Almost certainly.


Mobile operators have been known to refuse to fix phones that have been unlocked (though this is not always the case).


If this happens there are other options to get your phone repaired. Many computer repair shops also repair mobile phones. You can ask other 48 members if they have used any that they can recommend.



Is mobile unlocking safe?


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Phones are designed with unlocking in mind. Having said this, not all methods used to unlock handsets achieve this in the way the manufacturers intended.


As a rule of thumb, if you're typing in a series of codes to unlock your phone this is likely to be a safe method.


As soon as you connect your device to a machine or software built by a third party you run the risk of changing settings deep within the phone which may affect its usability.


Finally, using a special SIM to unlock your phone may involve physical damage to your SIM and your phone, rendering them unusable or in urgent need of repair/replacement. While unlocking is not illegal, some methods may be dangerous.



Is mobile phone unlocking legal/illegal?


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Locked phones mean customers have less choice. In the Ireland, ComReg (the telecoms regulator) allows companies to lock mobiles because they often come subsidised at point of sale.


This means that mobile operators absorb part of the cost of the mobile, so they expect you to stay with them until they make back this cost (and beyond, as many of you have discovered!)



Have you used any of these unlocking methods yourself? If so, let the other members know how it went and what you thought of the services. You can review some of the online services in our unlocking guide here

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