If you’ve been looking into the used smartphone market, you’ve probably come across the term “unlocked phone.” As a seller, having a phone that is unlocked is a great feature to note as it draws more potential buyers and can even demand a higher selling price! On the Glyde marketplace, we offer a wide selection of unlocked phones at a variety of price ranges.

But what exactly is an unlocked phone, and how can you know if your phone is unlocked or not? Keep reading to find out!

What is an unlocked phone?

Quite simply, an unlocked phone is one that is not contractually tied—i.e. locked—to a specific mobile carrier network, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and other carriers on the market.

When you purchase a phone through these service providers, it’s common for them to “lock” your phone into their network so that it won’t work with any other carrier. These service providers often sell the phones at a discount, so this is to discourage customers from getting a discounted phone and switching to a new network or selling the phone without paying their bill. 

Unlocked phones allow users to switch carriers easily since they’re not bound to any one single carrier. This is especially important if you want to sell your phone, as having an unlocked phone opens up your pool of potential buyers to people who prefer using other carriers.

So how exactly do you find out whether your phone is unlocked? The process is actually quite similar between iPhones and Androids—with only slight variations—as outlined below.

How do I know if my iPhone is unlocked?

First, think about how you got your phone.

If you bought your phone directly from Apple without establishing a contract with a service provider, then your iPhone is probably unlocked. On the other hand, if you purchased your phone from your carrier, then there’s a good chance that your phone is still locked if you haven’t paid off your device or are still under contract with them. 

With that in mind, use the below methods to confirm if your phone is unlocked:

Check if your iPhone is unlocked with a SIM card

This method requires you to have a SIM card from another carrier, but it’s an easy way to figure out if your phone is unlocked. These are the steps to check:

  1. Power your phone off and remove the SIM card. The location of the SIM card slot varies by phone, but it’s a panel on the side of your iPhone with a small hole in it. Pressing on this with a tool or a paperclip will cause the tray to open.
  2. Put a new SIM card in your phone – from a different carrier – and power your phone back on.
  3. If your phone meets you with a message to enter a SIM unlock code, then your phone is locked to your carrier.
  4. To double-check, try making a call with the new SIM card in your phone. If the call doesn’t go through, your phone is locked.

Check Your Settings

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Click on Cellular.
  3. Look for the Cellular Data Network option. Some iPhones, such as AT&T phones, will have it displayed once you tap on Cellular Data Options.
  4. If you see Cellular Data Network, then your phone is probably unlocked. Check for the ‘Cellular Data Network’ option where the red arrows are pointing below. If you don’t see it, your phone might be locked.
  5. This method isn’t foolproof, though; you could have an unlocked phone and Cellular Data Network still might not show up.
iphone unlocked phone screenshots with red arrows
One of the easiest ways to check if your phone is unlocked. Check for the ‘Cellular Data Network’ option where the arrows are pointing below. In this instance, the option is not present.

While this method is the most simple, it’s not always accurate. If you want to be 100% sure, the best way is to directly ask your carrier.

Contact Your Wireless Carrier

Your wireless carrier will be able to tell you if your iPhone is unlocked. If your phone ends up being locked, then they can also initiate your request to unlock it if you meet the requirements. Customer service will likely need your account information so have that handy when you give them a call:

  • AT&T: 1 (800) 288-2020
  • T-Mobile: 1 (800) 937-8997
  • Sprint: 1 (800) 382-3312
  • Verizon: 1 (800) 922-0204
  • Metro by T-Mobile: 1 (888) 863-8768
  • Cricket Wireless: 1 (800) 274-2538
  • Mint Mobile: 1 (800) -683-7392
  • Straight Talk Wireless: 1 (877) 430-2355

How do I know if my Android phone is unlocked?

Like with iPhones, it helps to begin with noting how you got your phone. 

If you bought your phone directly from the manufacturer (i.e. Samsung, Motorola, etc.), then your iPhone is probably unlocked. Logically, it makes sense that manufacturers would sell unlocked phones that they can be used on most networks. Alternatively, if you purchased your phone through your carrier, then there’s a good chance that your phone is still locked.

Of course, it’s important to verify if your Android phone is unlocked, which you can do with the methods below:

Check Your Settings

There are countless different Android phones out there, all with different Settings configurations. The most common flow would be:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Click on Connections > Mobile Networks > Network Operators.
  3. Press Search Now.
  4. If multiple networks show up, your phone is probably unlocked.
android unlocked phone screenshots with red arrows
A simple way to check if your Android phone is unlocked!

Again, this method is not 100% foolproof. The most accurate method would be to go through your carrier’s customer service to ask whether your phone is unlocked. You can also try the next method if your phone doesn’t have the above Settings configurations.

Contact Your Wireless Carrier

Your carrier would be able to tell you whether your phone is unlocked, as well as what you’d have to do if you want to unlock it. Have your account information ready and give them a call. Customer service numbers for the major carriers are:

  • AT&T: 1 (800) 288-2020
  • T-Mobile: 1 (800) 937-8997
  • Sprint: 1 (800) 382-3312
  • Verizon: 1 (800) 922-0204
  • Metro by T-Mobile: 1 (888) 863-8768
  • Cricket Wireless: 1 (800) 274-2538
  • Mint Mobile: 1 (800) -683-7392
  • Straight Talk Wireless: 1 (877) 430-2355

Network compatibility: GSM vs. CDMA

It’s important to note that while an unlocked phone is not locked to just one carrier, this doesn’t always mean that it is compatible with every carrier. 

There are two major types of cellular networks: GSM and CDMA. Of the major US networks, AT&T and T-Mobile operate using GSM technology, while Verizon and Sprint use CDMA networks. Most newer phone models are compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks, while older models may be restricted to just one of the two.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb for knowing whether your unlocked phone is compatible with GSM and CDMA networks, or just one of the two:

If you have an iPhone X or newer

If you have an iPhone X – or a newer iPhone model – your unlocked phone will be compatible with both GSM and CDMA carriers. The vast majority of all new phones have this capability. Your carrier may still lock your phone when you purchase it, but once it’s unlocked, it will be compatible with all networks.

If you have an iPhone 8 or older

Older iPhone models, starting with the iPhone 8, are more likely to be locked to strictly GSM or CDMA carriers. For example: if you purchased an iPhone 6S from T-Mobile or AT&T, odds are that the phone is GSM-locked, which means that it’ll never be compatible with Verizon or Sprint. Unlocking that iPhone 6S would free it from an exclusive lock to one carrier, but it’ll only work on GSM networks.

If you have an Android phone

There is a wide range of manufacturers that produce phones to run with Android software – the easiest way to check if your phone is GSM or CDMA compatible (or both!) is to follow the steps below. However, Android phones that have been released in the past few years are likely to be compatible with any carrier. All Google Pixel phones are also compatible with any carrier.

How to check network compatibility on your unlocked phone

Your phone’s About settings should show you what types of network your device is compatible with. If you see an IMEI line, then your phone works with GSM. If you see a MEID or ESN line, then your device requires CDMA. If you see both, then your phone supports both GSM and CDMA and is compatible with any carrier!

On an iPhone

  1. Go to Settings > General > About.
  2. Scroll down and look for the IMEI or MEID (or ESN) number.

On an Android

  1. Go to Settings > About phone.
  2. See the IMEI or MEID (or ESN) number.

You can also check directly with a particular carrier to see if your device is compatible.

Knowing whether your phone is unlocked is crucial if you’re in the market to buy or sell a used phone! An unlocked phone can greatly affect the types of buyers you can attract and the price you can sell your phone for. Luckily, it’s quite easy to find out if your phone is unlocked, either by going through your phone’s settings or simply calling up your carrier and asking.

buy used unlocked iphones with blue button
1

Write a Comment