Unlocking a phone using the IMEI number is a relatively simple process.
What is imei
IMEI is a 15 digit string that includes information on the origin, model, and serial number of the mobile device,
For the majority of manufacturers unlocking a handset simply involves inputting an unlock code into the phone.
This unlock code is generated by using your phone’s unique IMEI number and can be provided by either the network carrier the phone is currently locked to,
or via a 3rd party unlocking service, many of which can be found online.
With Apple devices the process is a little different. Apple maintain a database that controls the locked/unlocked status of it’s phone’s, once again using the IMEI number. If you submit a request to genuine unlocking company, its status is simply changed from locked to unlocked on this database. Once this has happened, the first time the phone is synced in iTunes, the database is checked, and if the status of the phone has changed from locked to unlocked, the handsets iOS is modified and message pops up that handset has been unlocked (this is either in iTunes or on the handsets itself, depending upon if you are performing the process in iTunes or on the phone via Wi-Fi).
I have found a video that shows this unlocking process taking place in iTunes in real time. The video is a few years old now, but the process has pretty much remained unchanged. It’s a bit boring (and the music is very annoying so I’d recommend turning the sound down!) but it does show how the process works in iTunes. You can fast forward towards the end of the video to see the unlock message that pops up in iTunes.
locating the imei
f you decided to go ahead with getting your phone unlocked, you will need to locate the phone’s unique IMEI number,along with the exact make and model of phone, and also the network/carrier the phone is currently locked to.
The IMEI number of your phone can be found by typing *#06# into the keypad in the phone app. It can also be found in the following locations:
in the phone go to
- iPhone: Settings > General > About
- Android: Settings > About device > Status
- On older phones where the battery is accessible, it’ll be printed in the space underneath.
If you are unsure of the exact make and model of phone you have, there are a few online services you can use to find out
One important point to note is a handsets can be blacklisted, preventing it from being used to make or receive calls or access mobile data. A phone is typically blacklisted if it has been reported as lost or stolen, or there is an outstanding unpaid balance owing to the original carrier/network. If a phone has been blacklisted it will not function in the country it has been blacklisted (it may however, be used outside of that country and “should” work without issue). A handset is blacklisted by the network it is locked to and it is illegal for any party other than the original network carrier to remove a blacklisting, so if you see an organisation offering a blacklist removal service online, stay well clear!
As touched on above, if a handset has been blacklisted in one country, it is possible to have that handset unlocked and then use it in another country without an issue. So for example, if you purchased a second-hand iPhone from eBay and it was blacklisted by AT&T in the USA, you could, in theory, unlock this phone and use on TNT in the Philippines without issue. It won’t, however, be able to be used on any network in the USA, not just AT&T unless AT&T agree to remove the blacklisting.
Once you have the Make, Model, IMEI number and network your phone is currently locked to (and in which country) and established if it is blacklisted or not, you should then be able to unlock it so it may be used on any GSM network in any country.
The best (and possibly least costly) place to start the unlocking process is to ask the network the phone is currently locked to if they will unlock it for you. Typically they will do so (for a minimal fee) if you are the original owner (your name is on the contract), you have fulfilled your contractual obligations, and there is no money owed to that network. If you do not conform to this criteria then you will be out of luck. Unfortunately many people that buy used handsets find themselves in this position through no fault of their own.
The next option is to try either your local independent phone store or one of the many third party unlocking service providers that can be found online. But do be warned, there are unfortunately a large number of scamming website in this niche that will simply take your money and do nothing.
Take the obvious usual precautions when selecting a provider for such a service – ensure they are a registered business and they list their business address and registration number on their site. Also make sure they provide contact details and finally that they have a security certificate in place (you see a green padlock to the left of the site in the address bar) to ensure your personal details are secure.
The vast majority of these IMEI unlocking services are performed remotely, meaning you do not need to send you phone away to have it unlocked. You simply order an unlock and you should receive an unlock code (or in the case of Apple, notification to complete the unlock in iTunes) in anything from a few minutes to a few weeks. Delivery times do vary considerably, as do prices. As a rule of thumb, the newer the phone, the more it will cost to have it unlocked.