How to unlock your AT&T phone or tablet


WhistleOut
12 October 2017

If you own an AT&T device but want to take it elsewhere, great news: the carrier is happy to provide you with unlocking instructions if requested. AT&T will also assisting in unlocking phones for non-customers, although the company’s fine print states that it may charge a fee to help phone owners not on the AT&T network.

Here's what you need to know to free your phone or tablet from the AT&T network: which devices are eligible, the info you'll need, and how to unlock for international and military use.

Before you unlock

If you're hoping to use your unlocked AT&T phone on T-Mobile, you should have no problems. Both carriers run their networks on GSM technology, so once your phone is unlocked, just pop in your new T-Mobile SIM card and you'll be up and running. AT&T and T-Mobile both use Band 4 for their LTE service, so 4G LTE devices should be able to access the network without issue.

Although Verizon uses the CDMA standard and not GSM, you still may be able to use your AT&T 4G LTE device on Verizon's LTE network, as they both run on the same spectrum; so LTE data should, theoretically, work fine. However, it's unlikely that you will be able to make or receive calls and texts, or access data over Verizon's 3G service.

Sprint is also a CDMA carrier, but runs its LTE network on a different band of spectrum than T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon; it may accept selected AT&T devices on its plans, but you'll need to check first.

If you're looking for a prepaid or less expensive plan, and are happy with AT&T coverage, you can always take your unlocked device to one of the carrier's MVNOs.

Unlocking checklist

  • The device itself must not be reported as lost or stolen, and can’t be associated with fraudulent activity.
  • If you bought your phone on a two-year service plan with a subsidy, you’ll need to have fulfilled the requirements of your contract with no outstanding bills or fees.
  • If you’ve purchased your phone in instalments through the AT&T Next upgrade plan, you need to have paid off its total cost and have no remaining payments left for that particular device.
  • If you’ve just upgraded and want to unlock your old device, you’ll need to wait 14 days before an unlock will be granted.
  • Customers on postpaid plans will need to have an account that has been active for the past 60 days, while prepaid/GoPhone users must be on an active plan for six months before unlocking.

Info you'll need to request an unlock

AT&T allows customers to apply for an unlock via their my AT&T account, or through the AT&T website. With the below info in hand, go to att.com/deviceunlock and fill out a Device Unlock Request Form. Once it’s submitted, you’ll receive a confirmation email to confirm your request, but expect to wait around two business days for the actual unlocking instructions to arrive.

You'll need:

  • The account number attached to the device (and the account holder's name)
  • The account holder's password, or the last four digits of their social security number
  • The IMEI or MEID number of the device. You can find this either by checking under the battery cover or, in the case of some iPhones, on the back of the device. You can also find it by dialling *#06# on your device. The number itself will be either 14 or 15 digits and appear onscreen after you dial and press Call or Send.
  • The phone number attached to the device
  • If you're requesting an unlock for military deployment, your deployment papers

Military personnel and non-customers

AT&T does make exceptions for deployed military personnel, provided your account is paid up with no overdue bills and you can provide deployment verification. However, AT&T reportedly may limit the number of unlocks it grants per account holder.

If you’ve never been an AT&T customer, but have an AT&T device, you can also ask for an unlock (again, provided the device hasn’t been reported lost or stolen).

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About AT&T...
iPhone SE

AT&T in one of the big four cell phone carriers in the United States with a massive customer base and huge network footprint across the U.S. 

  • Where to Buy: Online, in-store, over the phone
  • Bring Your Own Phone: If you have an unlocked GSM phone and your phone supports AT&T's LTE bands, you can bring your own phone to AT&T
  • Locations: AT&T's network and services are available nationally. AT&T's headquarters are in Dallas, Texas
  • Tethering: Customers can use their AT&T plan as a mobile hotspot, though usage is specific to each plan. Unlimited plans on AT&T have a hotspot cap of 10GB per month. 
  • Network: 4G LTE network using band 17 and band 5 (700Mhz, 850Mhz), band 2 and 4 (1900Mhz, 1700/2100Mhz). Many MVNOs (smaller carriers) also use the AT&T network. AT&T also supports HSPA (3G) & (3.5G) HSPA+.
  • Coverage: AT&T consistently ranks #2 in network coverage tests.
  • Prepaid: AT&T's pre-paid brand is call GoPhone -- AT&T also owns Cricket Wireless.
  • Taxes & Fees: AT&T will charge state taxes and fees on top of your monthly cell phone plan cost.

Fact: With over 147 million customers in the US and Mexico, AT&T is one of the largest wireless providers in the world. AT&T also owns Cricket Wireless. Take a look at AT&T's current wireless dealsAT&Ts phone line-up, or our review of AT&T


Original locked phone image via Shutterstock


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