T-Mobile’s reputation as the ‘uncarrier’ means most people would expect unlocking to be an easy process. However, there’s still a few things customers need to know before deciding to take their T-Mobile handset to a new network.
T-Mobile currently limits how many unlocks each customer can have per year, per line of service to two – although this should be more than enough for most users. You’ll also need to have been actively using your device on T-Mobile’s network for at least 40 days before the company will okay an unlock.
Before you unlock
If you're hoping to use your unlocked T-Mobile phone on AT&T, you should have no problems. Both carriers run their networks on GSM technology, so once your phone is unlocked, just pop in your new AT&T 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 T-Mobile 4G LTE device on Verizon's LTE network, as they both run on the same spectrum - so LTE data should, theoretically, work fine. However, you may not 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. The company does accept certain 4G LTE devices from T-Mobile, but you'll need to check with a retail rep first.
Don't forget - you can also use your unlocked device on one of T-Mobile's prepaid brands or MVNOs.
- The device itself must not be reported as lost or stolen, and can’t be associated with fraudulent activity.
- If your phone was purchased on a two-year contract, you’ll need to have made at least 18 consecutive months of on-time payments, or be prepared to switch your account to a monthly Simple Choice plan. Either way, you’ll need an account in good standing, with no overdue payments.
- If your phone has been financed via the Equipment Installment Plan, T-Mobile JUMP!, or JUMP! On Demand, you must have paid off the device completely (and for On Demand customers, the Purchase Option Price) and again, have an account with no overdue bills.
- If your device is prepaid, T-Mobile requires that it be active on its network for at least 12 months before granting an unlock. Less than one year, and your account must have had more than $100 in recharges since you first activated the device (not including activation payments).
As long as you’re all paid off and there’s nothing shady happening with your device, you can ask for an unlock by contacting T-Mobile’s customer service. If approved, you’ll receive an unlock code which should enable you to take your phone to another network.
T-Mobile will ask you for the following information when you ask for an unlock code:
- 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
T-Mobile does allow deployed military personnel to unlock early, provided their account is in good standing. You'll need to provide proof of your deployment first, and your device must be 'eligible' for unlocking.
If you’re not a T-Mobile customer, but have a T-Mobile device, you can also ask for an unlock (again, provided the device hasn’t been reported lost or stolen).
Original locked phone image via Shutterstock