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How to Unlock a Phone

If you are travelling out of the country and will be staying for a long period of time, one of the first things on your mind will be how you will stay in touch with family, friends and business contacts. The internet is normally your best option, unless of course like most people, you absolutely can’t live without your cell phone.

When reviewing your choices you will see that international plans that will allow you to roam or call home from another country, are very costly and are not the smartest option for a stay longer than a few days. The next consideration will be to get a cellphone in the country you’re staying in.

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The only problem with this is that 1) you are probably accustomed to your own phone and 2) you may not be staying long enough for the purchase of a local phone to be worth it. The best option is to take your current phone and buy a new sim card and be able to used your own familiar phone.

Most phones however are locked to a particular service provider and will need to be unlocked before you can use them with another network locally or overseas.


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To unlock your phone, you will initially need to identlfy if your phone is able to be unlocked, there are two types of cell phone networks: Gobal System for Mobile communication (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). If you have a CDMA phone, then your phone cannot be unlocked. If you have a phone that is on GSM network then you may be able to unlock it.

In North America, T-Mobile and AT&T phones are GSM, while Verizon and Sprint are CDMA. Most European phones are GSM. To determine if you phone is locked, ask a friend who is on a different network to loan you their sim card. Place it in your phone and try to make a call.

If you are able to, your phone is unlocked. If it can’t make a call then you can try any of the following:

Search for the unlock code for your phone

  • This is the code that your service provider has and will give you once your contract with them is up. If you request it prior, you may be charged a fee. Most phones only need this numeric code to be put in once to unlock them. The codes are also obtainable from third party websites that charge somewhere from $5-$25.

Send your phone to a third party

  • More complex phones, may also require that you unlock the data portion (internet browsing etc.) of the network.
  • You will have to send your phone to a third party and have them unlock it for you. This is how you can unlock a phone.

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