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Can I unlock my mobile phone?

Harriet Meyer / 12 May 2015

Some network providers lock your mobile phone so you are unable to use the handset with a different SIM card. Harriet Meyer explains that unlocking your mobile phone is perfectly legal and the various ways to do it.

Mature lady using smartphone
Unlock your phone for greater network freedom

Unlocking your phone gives you the freedom to use any network, instead of being tied to the one you signed up with.

This means that if you wish, you can switch to another network to access a different package while keeping the same handset, giving you greater choice of deals.

Alternatively, you may wish to use your phone abroad and for this you’d also need to get it unlocked.

Chances are, your phone is locked, but there are various methods available to unlock it. Remember, it’s perfectly legal. However, beware of unlocking a pricey handset as doing so will invalidate its warranty.

Here we consider some of the common unlocking methods...


Find an online code

A quick online search will show you whether you can unlock your phone using codes generated for free on the web. If you can use this method you can unlock your phone anywhere, provided you have internet access.

However, if you have a newer model, this option may not be available. There’s lots of useful information available at Giffgaff’s Unlockopedia, including the makes and models that allow this method, and how to go about it.

For starters, you’ll need the brand model and number, network and IMEI code. To find out your phone’s IMEI, type *#06# into your handset, and a number will appear.

Follow the steps when getting the code to unlock your phone. Make sure to type the correct code in, and if you need letters or symbols check online how to type these. Often this involves pressing one key number several times in a row. You’ll only typically have five attempts to get the code right.

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Ask your provider

If you can’t get a free online code, ask your provider for help. Networks have different policies for unlocking phones.

Some will only agree to do this after a particular time period, while others will unlock the phone for free.

You may be surprised and find it’s already unlocked. If not, ask your provider how much it’ll charge for an unlock code.

Any fee should be reasonable, at between £10 and £20, although you might get a cheaper deal by going to a high street phone unlocker.

Beware it could take a week or more for your code to be generated by your provider, so you may need to be patient.

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Use a high street unblocker

There are plenty of shops around that offer to unlock phones. However, make sure to compare prices and shop around to find the best deal.

These shops know that it can be a hassle to unlock your phone yourself, or send it off to an online unlocking service, so may charge a higher price.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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