Phones come in two ways, locked or unlocked. If a phone is locked, then you can only use it with one provider, such as T-Mobile or Cingular/AT&T. If it is unlocked, you can put a sim card in from another carrier, and use the phone just as normal. Phones are locked because a carrier typically gives you the phone for cheap, and in return you need to stay with them for a certain amount of time. Reasons you might want to have an unlocked phone include: using your phone on a separate carrier, international travel and using a country’s native GSM network, and fetching a higher “unlocked” phone price at auction.
Different phone models have different ways of being unlocked. With Nokias and SonyEricsson, as far as I know, you can generate an unlock code based on the IMEI (Unique identifier) of the phone. These generators can be found for free around the net, just ask google or other trusted source.
Motorola phones are different, they require a unique number that is apparently stored on a secure database which you need to pay to gain access to. I’ve typically found these online services for about $25 per phone.
If you are with T-Mobile, you are in luck. They have one of the most generous unlocking policies for their phones. I’ve heard experiences with other providers are hit or miss. T-mobile has a clearly spelled out policy:
T-Mobile branded phones operating on the T-Mobile network may only use T-Mobile SIM cards. To use a T-Mobile branded phone on another wireless carrier’s network with a non-T-Mobile SIM card, you must first request a “SIM Unlock” code from T-Mobile. Conversely, if you have a phone from another North American wireless carrier, you may need to request a “SIM Unlock” code from that carrier before being able to use a T-Mobile SIM card on the T-Mobile network.
SIM Unlock Requests:
T-Mobile customers must meet the following eligibility requirements before contacting Customer Service to request your SIM Unlock code.
The following restrictions apply to all account types:
* T-Mobile can provide SIM Unlock Codes only for handsets sold by T-Mobile USA, with the exception of Danger Sidekick devices. T-Mobile can obtain SIM Unlock Codes for companies acquired by t-Mobile USA (VoiceStream, Aerial, Omnipoint, SOL, Digiph, PCS One, and Powertel).
* SIM Unlock Codes will only be provided after your account has been active for 90 days. Only one unlock code may be provided per customer every 90 days.
* No SIM Unlock Codes will be provided within the 14-Day Buyer’s Remorse period. Customers who purchase phones in CA California or via Amazon.com are granted a 30-Day Buyer’s Remorse Period.
* SIM Unlock Codes are not always available from the Manufacturer. However, T-Mobile will make a dedicated effort to obtain the SIM Unlock code. Note: Other restrictions may apply depending on account type.
To get your Motorola phone unlocked, simple call T-Mobile Customer Service. Tell them you’d like to unlock your phone, and then they will ask for the make and module, and verify that you are eligible for the unlock code (you must have been an active customer for 90 days). They will then have you tell them the IMEI number on your phone, and provide an e-mail address. They may also ask the reason you are requesting the code – I felt bad telling them I was moving to Cingular, so I said I wanted to use my phone internationally. The reason you normally do this internationally, is that rather than
Within 24 hours, you should receive an e-mail that looks similar to the following:
T-Mobile Sim Unlock Request
Sim Unlock Reference: 095XXXX
Unlock Code: 54907825
Thank you for taking the time to contact T-Mobile. Below you will see the Instructions for unlocking your Motorola device.
Before you start you must have a foreign (non-T Mobile) SIM card entered into the handset. If the display reads “Enter Special Code”, enter the unlock code and press “OK”. If the display does not ask for Special code, please enter the instructions below.
1.Press the Menu key on the keypad, and then quickly press 073887*.You should see the Enter Security Code screen.
2.Enter 000000 and select OK.
3.Scroll to Unlock SIM select it.
4.Enter the SIM unlock code and select OK.
5.Press the End key to return to the main screen.
NOTE: If the phone displays, “Please wait to enter special code” or “Contact service provider,” you will have to wait for it to change back. Please be aware that the phone must stay powered on to do this. If the battery is low, be sure to plug it in. It could take 15 minutes to an hour to change back. If the phone does not change back, the handset will need to be replaced.
Sim Unlock Department
T-Mobile USA, Inc.
This e-mail will change depending on your model of phone.
To sum things up, if you have been with T-mobile more than 90 days and wish to unlock your phone, give them a call! T-mobile has the best customer service around, and if they had good coverage in my area I would definitely be staying with them.