How to Unlock iPhone on UK Networks: O2, Vodafone, Three or EE (Orange or T Mobile)

Unlock iPhone — Free Guide

How to unlock any iPhone, including the iPhone 7, 8, iPhone X or the brand new iPhone 13.

Our free guide on how to unlock iPhone, from any of the UK mobile networks, permanently. No need to jailbreak your iPhone or any other hack — just an easy, permanent way to unlock your iPhone.

Why unlock an iPhone?

There are a lot of reasons to unlock an iPhone. Maybe a friend or family member has upgraded to a new iPhone 12 and passed you their old iPhone. Maybe you have bought one second-hand or maybe you just want to change phone networks. It is possible to switch to a cheaper SIM-only tariff, which can save you a lot of money (around £200 per year) compared to a standard iPhone contract, but to get the most benefit you will have to have an unlocked iPhone.

In this article, we outline how to unlock an iPhone from the UK’s major networks, and an alternative official method of unlocking iPhones if that isn’t an option or if your iPhone is from a non-UK network.

When you first get your iPhone.

When you first get your iPhone it will typically be 'locked' to a mobile network, such as Vodafone or O2. This means it will only work with SIM cards from that network (e.g. an iPhone locked to O2 will only accept SIM cards from O2. It will not work with SIM cards from Vodafone).

Typically, when you want to unlock any other type of phone, you take it to a local phone shop and they unlock it for you. But unlocking an iPhone is different. The status of the lock is stored on Apple’s computers, so even if you pay a shop to unlock an iPhone, it’s only ever a temporary solution. At some stage, normally when a new iOS software update is released, Apple will lock the iPhone again to the network that it was originally on.

Stop Press:

It has now become even more pain free to unlock iPhone because Direct Unlocks allows you to bypass the phone network and get your iPhone unlocked within 24–48 hours. It’s now even cheaper than before, too. This is great news if you are on EE, T-Mobile or even Vodafone. We have had feedback from customers saying that sometimes dealing directly with those networks can be “awful”, with iPhone unlocks sometimes taking more than 30 days to happen if you go directly to the network. With Direct Unlocks you can permanently unlock iPhones from these networks quickly. They can also unlock newer iPhones before any of the networks offer the same service.

Most iPhones are locked to a phone network.

Most iPhones are sold locked to a phone network, so you’ll need to unlock them first before using a SIM card from a different network. In this free guide, we’ll discuss the iPhone unlocking procedures for all the UK’s major networks. You’ll need to follow them before you can swap to a SIM-only tariff or use a cheaper local SIM card when abroad.

Quick Links to Unlocking Pages.

You should really read all this information, but I know some of you just want the juicy bits, so here are some links.

Is unlocking iPhones legal?

It is perfectly legal to unlock iPhones in the UK. In the EU, individual countries have their own laws regarding SIM locks, but EU law was used to overturn a law in Belgium, which made it more difficult to unlock phones. So, the good news is that the right to unlock your iPhone is double protected, both in the National Parliament and the European one.

Why are iPhones locked?

Mobile phone companies lock iPhones to their network because they have spread the cost of the phone over the length of the contract. In my opinion, it shouldn’t really matter what you do with your iPhone as long as you continue to pay your contract, but they claim they are 'subsidising' the price of the iPhone and they don’t want you to take their subsidised iPhone and to use it immediately on a different network.

After you have owned your iPhone for a certain period (sometimes as little as 30 days), you can ask your network to unlock it. All UK mobile networks will normally unlock it, although some charge an unlocking fee. If you want your iPhone unlocked without having to go to the mobile provider, then visit Direct Unlocks, who can unlock iPhones from any network.

What are the different ways to unlock iPhone?

In this guide, I only talk about the official ways of permanently unlocking an iPhone. You may find other unofficial methods of unlocking your iPhone on the web, such a “jail-breaking”, “Gevey Sims”, “RSIM”, “SAM” and “Ultrasn0w”, but the best advice I can give you is that it’s not worth it. These methods might offer to unlock your iPhone by offering you a code to type in or provide software that needs to be installed onto your iPhone. There’s no guarantees that these methods work: a lot of them of them are scams to take your cash and then don’t unlock your phone, whereas others could render your phone unusable. Some methods will successfully unlock your iPhone by “jail-breaking” but the unlock is only temporary. Apple regularly updates the software on the iPhone and fix these loopholes that let them be jail-broken. When you update the software on your phone, it will lock it again. At the very least, your warranty could be cancelled if you unlock your iPhone in an unauthorised way. Do some research to ensure that you fully understand what you’re doing if you choose to unlock your phone another way.

Which iPhones can I unlock?

The methods of unlocking your iPhone that are described on this page should work with any iPhone purchased in the UK. This includes the iPhone 12 or iPhone X range. As these are official unlocking methods, they will work regardless of your model and your current version of iOS.

Are unlocked iPhones really cheaper?

If your contract has finished, then you can usually save around £300 per year by unlocking your iPhone and switching to a SIM-only contract. Just make sure that the SIM-only contract has a data allowance. The “data” allowance is the amount of time that you can spend online using your iPhone.

Know your IMEI.

Before you start the iPhone unlocking process, you will need the IMEI number of your iPhone. This is like a unique serial number for every mobile phone in the world.

Three ways to get your iPhone’s IMEI number:

  1. Go to your iPhone number dialling keypad and type *#06# (star-hash-zero-six-hash). The IMEI number will appear on your screen.
  2. In the iPhone menu, go to Settings >General >About. The IMEI number should be listed on the screen.
  3. Connect your iPhone to iTunes on a computer. On the information page, click on the phone number. This tells you several pieces of information about the iPhone, one of which is the IMEI number.

It’s probably best to write your IMEI number down, (it should be 15 digits long) and make sure you provide the correct IMEI number when unlocking your handset.

How to unlock an iPhone 12

Unlock iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 launched in October 2020, in 4 different versions – The iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max. The range was further extended in March 2021 with the release of a purple iPhone 12. It didn’t add any extra features, but it looks great in purple.

With the release of any new iPhone, there are the questions about whether unlocking it will differ from the previous models. Will the mobile networks have asked for new locks to be put on?

There’s a lot of questions whenever a new iPhone comes out

  • What new features does it have?
  • How will it differ from the previous model?
  • What is the camera like? Megapixels are super important.
  • What is it going to cost?
  • Will it be faster than the previous model?
  • When does it go on sale?

And the most important question of everyone who gets trapped by the mobile networks: When will it be possible to unlock the new iPhone 12?

As usual, I don’t expect any of the networks to offer unlocking services for the iPhone 12 immediately because they like to keep people on high contracts. But if you want to unlock an iPhone 12, visit Direct Unlocks and they will do that for you.

UK Mobile Network Information

How to unlock an iPhone from O2

Unlocking an O2 iPhone is very easy. The easiest and quickest method is to visit Direct Unlocks. They won’t need you to remember your original account password etc or jump through any of the other hoops that O2 make people go through. In most cases they can unlock your iPhone the same day (Monday – Friday), and they can unlock iPhone 6 and 6s, which is something that can’t normally be done directly from O2.

If you bought your iPhone from O2 and you are a Pay Monthly customer, then you can ask O2 to unlock your iPhone, as long as it not an iPhone 6 or 6s (including the plus models) (They say that they have “no plans to offer unlocks for the iPhone 7 any time soon”.) You will have to fulfil the minimum term of your contract (so you can’t cancel your contract early just because they have unlocked your iPhone). But don’t wait until your contract is over if you plan to use O2 to unlock the iPhone. In cases where the iPhone is out of contract, even if you have paid 24 months to them, they class it as an “Non-O2” iPhone and will expect you to pay for at least 30 days of Pay-As-You-Go SIM use before they’ll begin the process.

If you have a standard O2 Pay-As-You-Go SIM card, where you need to buy top-ups, then you will need to wait 12 months before O2 will unlock your iPhone.

If you bought the iPhone from someone else, then you won’t normally be able to get O2 to do the unlocking, because you’re not the original customer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your iPhone unlocked. Visit Direct Unlocks and they should be able to unlock your iPhone in a day or so.

Unlock an iPhone from EE, Orange or T-Mobile UK

It’s not long since getting an iPhone unlocked from EE was near impossible. EE used to make people jump through hoops to get their iPhones unlocked. But now it can be done so simply, and it’s even possible to use Apple Pay so that there are no forms to fill out. Jump straight to the EE iPhone Unlocking webpage, select the iPhone type you have and enter the IMEI number. You can then pay with Apple Pay and the unlock is processed. It’s so fast & easy now. [Don’t worry if you don’t have Apple Pay set up on your iPhone; there’s still the option to pay with a credit card.]

Unlock iPhone from Vodafone UK

If you bought your iPhone direct from Vodafone and the contract has not ended, then Vodafone will normally unlock your iPhone for you. It takes about 2 weeks and they charge a fee of £19.99 on Pay Monthly or Pay As You Go. If you are on Pay As You go, make sure that you have at least £20 worth of credit on your iPhone before you ask them for an unlock, as they take the fee from your credit.

If you are not the original owner of the iPhone, for example, if you bought it from eBay or privately from someone else, then you may not be able to get Vodafone to do the unlock for you. Direct Unlocks offer iPhone unlocks for Vodafone, which can be completed in 1–3 days, even if you were not the original owner. So, if you want it done faster, or if you are not the original owner go directly to Direct Unlocks.

Unlock iPhone locked to Three UK

iPhones that are locked to Three are one of the quickest to get unlocked. On weekdays (Monday – Friday), Direct Unlocks say that they can unlock an iPhone locked to Three in a matter of hours. When you compare that to how long a network like EE takes, it’s excellent.

When using Direct Unlocks, there are no restrictions on time — so you don’t need to have had your contract for any amount of period or use a Three Pay-As-You-Go SIM for 30 days. Just click on Direct Unlocks and follow the instructions for Three.

I’ve unlocked my iPhone. What’s next?

Once you’ve told your mobile network that you want to unlock your iPhone and made the necessary payments, they need to inform Apple.

Apple maintains a central list of unlocked iPhone devices, and it can take up to 14 days for your iPhone to be added to this list. Once your device is on the list, you don’t need to do anything else. You can check if your iPhone has been unlocked just by putting a SIM card in from another network. If it has been unlocked you will get a signal from the new SIM.

Woman with orange hoodie. She is holding an iPhone in her right hand and pointing to it with her left. The word, unlocked, is on the iPhone screen along with a white tick mark inside a green circle.

How can I check if my iPhone has been unlocked?

The easiest way to test whether your iPhone has been successfully unlocked is to insert a SIM card from a different network. All the UK’s major mobile networks offer free Pay As You Go SIM cards.

If you’ve unlocked your iPhone through the methods discussed on this page, you will see a message that says, “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked”, in iTunes. This happens as soon as your unlocking request has been processed.

What about shops that claim to unlock iPhones?

Some newsagents and phone shops may offer to unlock iPhones. They will usually do this by “jailbreaking” your device. This is not a recommended method of unlocking iPhones because it isn’t a permanent unlock. You will need to jailbreak the phone every time that Apple releases a new software update. It may also invalidate your iPhone’s warranty.

The only official way to unlock an iPhone is either through your mobile network operator using the methods listed on this page, or by using Direct Unlocks. We highly recommend paying the small fee to unlock iPhone officially and legitimately. It’s the only way to be sure that your unlock will be permanent.

How to unlock iPhone for free?

Some mobile phone networks are offering to unlock an iPhone for free. Each will have their own terms & conditions; for example some will only unlock the iPhone for free if it is the original owner who is applying. You should contact your network provider for more information.

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