If you’ve recent bought a phone new or used through Verizon, chances are it has been SIM-locked. iPhones and Samsung phones, among others, are sold either in Verizon stores or approved retailers locked to prevent you from using your phone with other networks. It’s a popular weapon used by carriers in the battle for your business.
The good news is that there are several options for consumers who want to unlock their Verizon iPhones, Samsung, Android or even Prepaid Phones. And we’re here to walk you through it.
To Lock or Unlock?
If your cell phone is locked, you’re not alone. Most cell phones are still locked, but unlocked phones are gaining prominence.
In 2018, there were about 38 million unlocked phones in the United States, according to a study by the NPD Group. Just two years later, in July 2020, another NPD report noted 50.1 million unlocked phones.
SIM-locked phones prevent your phone from working with other carrier networks, according to PC Magazine.
A SIM lock, short for Subscriber Identity Module lock, says PC Magazine, is used on GSM phones to limit you to using a specific cell carrier that the SIM card identifies. It’s a pretty foolproof way to get you to stay with a certain carrier, such as Verizon, especially through your contract.
When you unlock your phone, it disables software that would otherwise make it difficult for you to activate your device on another carrier’s network, says the Houston Chronicle.
When a phone is SIM unlocked, you’ll be able to put a SIM from any carrier into your phone if its hardware supports it. That means you will then switch between providers easily, according to Android Authority.
Often companies will unlock your phone for you when your contract is over or you’ve paid your phone off, but what if you want to unlock your phone earlier?
First, let’s take a closer look at Verizon’s unlocked phone policy.
Unlocked Phones and Verizon
Verizon takes its policy concerning unlocking phones on its network very seriously.
When you buy a phone from Verizon, it is automatically locked for 60 days after you buy it and the phone is activated. The same policy goes for phones from Verizon you buy at another retail location. After 60 days, Verizon says it does not lock the phone at any time, according to its policy.
That policy also applies to prepaid Verizon devices bought at either a Verizon store or through the company’s retail partners.
There are some exceptions. The lock period may be different for a 4G phone bought at a retail store, the company says.
Members of the military who are deployed can also have their device unlocked if they chose to before the 60-day period if they are relocated outside of Verizon’s coverage area.
So You Want to Unlock Your Phone…
If you have your mind set on unlocking your Verizon phone, you need to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons — and also if it’s even a possibility with your phone.
Unlocking a phone is particularly popular with those who bought their phone second-hand to save money on the newest phones on the market. The issue: the second-hand phone may not be connected to the same carrier you currently use.
Unlocking the phone solves this issue. It can also help if you want to switch carriers and also improve your phone’s later value if you want to sell it.
But before you unlock, there are a few things to determine, advises Informr.
If you have a GSM phone, there is a unique number tied to your device — the IMEI — that you’ll need to unlock. The same goes for CDMA phones — such as those offered by Verizon — and that number is called the MEID.
To get your IMEI and MEID numbers, you can usually enter *#06# and the number should display.
You’ll also need to check your device’s settings. If you have an iPhone, go to “Settings,” then “General,” then “About” then “IMEI/MEID” and the information should appear.
If you have an Android phone, such as a Samsung phone, go to “Settings,” then “About Phone” and “Status” and you should see your number.
There are other options to find the IMEI/MEID, says Informr. Some iPhone models display it on the back of the phone, and sometimes the number is printed on the phone’s SIM tray or also under the battery if your phone has a removable battery.
And if you’ve kept your phone’s original packaging, you can often find the IMEI/MEID on a label.
How to Unlock Your Phone For Free
Verizon’s 60-day policy not only applies to prepaid and postpaid phones — it covers both existing and new customers.
On all Verizon plans, you typically qualify for your phone to be unlocked after that 60-day period, the company’s policy says.
With a postpaid phone you bought at a Verizon store, the 60 days starts when you buy it, but if you got your postpaid phone from a retail partner, the 60 days starts when you activate it.
For prepaid phones, the 60 days always starts when you activate them.
To get it unlocked from Verizon for free, you must be in good standing with the company, which means you’ve paid your bills on time and haven’t had any fraudulent activity tied to your phone, says Verizon.
Unlocking with a Third-Party Service
If you don’t want to wait for 60 days to unlock your Verizon phone through the company (or if you don’t officially qualify for an unlock) there are alternatives options you can take.
These companies offer to unlock your phone usually with a money-back guarantee in order to help you use your phone with any carrier.
Typically on these third-party websites, you’ll select your phone, fill out a form with basic information and the company will email you an unlock code for you to enter for SIM unlocking.
Each company is a little different. You have to send your IMEI to most, like UnlockBase, and prices vary depending on your device (many services will require you to pay them up front), but they can run upwards of $50 or $60.
Some offer services for just a few dollars, but the average seems to be about $30 for Apple phones and $25 for Samsung, for example. You can find and compare the top 10 third-party Verizon unlocking companies here.
The Bottom Line: Unlocking Verizon
Among carriers, Verizon has some of the most stringent unlocking rules, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait the full 60 days if unlocking your phone is a priority.
Whatever the reason for unlocking your phone, do a bit of research beforehand on the pros and cons of unlocking — and price compare if you decide third-party unlocking services are for you.
The power is in your hands to determine the best unlocking process for you and your cell phone.