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What Does Sim Locked Mean and How to Unlock It featured image

What Does SIM Locked Mean and How to Unlock It?

Are you trying to switch to a new network on your phone only to find the sim locked? What does Sim locked mean, and why is it preventing you from switching networks on your phone? And most importantly, how can you fix it– if that‘s possible?

In this article, I’m going to answer all these questions and more, so you can start using your phone and sim the way you like. Let’s get started.

What Does SIM Locked Mean?

A SIM lock often refers to a network lock, carrier lock, or subsidy lock. Mobile service providers incorporate this technical constraint into GSM and CDMA mobile phones. It restricts the use of phones in specific countries and networks.

From time to time, you may have noticed that certain mobile service providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, offer bundled deals that include a cell phone and a prepaid or postpaid connection. Here, the company sells the smartphone for a somewhat lower price. 

A provider offering a bundled connection may impose software constraints and other restrictions on cell phones. Their sole purpose is to keep the client with them. 

3 Possible Reasons Why Your SIM is Locked

If your Sim card is locked, you have probably entered an invalid PIN (personal identification number) more than 3 times. Alternatively, you may be trying to use a non-registered or incompatible SIM on your phone.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of why your SIM may be locked:

1. Android System Error

While it’s quite rare, sometimes, problems with the Android software running on your phone may cause SIM card problems. The android system may unexpectedly show a SIM-locked error. 

2. Carrier Lock

When you buy a phone from a mobile carrier, they place a SIM lock on your phone to encourage you to stick to their network and to prevent you from switching. So, the more likely case is that your phone is locked to its original carrier, prohibiting the use of other SIM cards with it. If you use a SIM card from another provider, texting and calling won’t work.

3. Region Lock

Sometimes, your service provider may restrict your phone’s use outside a particular area/region– depending on the country you are in and the provider you choose. For that, they may put a region lock on your phone, so you cannot use it outside a predefined area.

How to Check If Your Phone is SIM-Locked?

To check if your phone is SIM-locked, try inserting a SIM card from a different service provider into that phone. If it doesn’t work, your phone is probably SIM-locked, as such phones only work with their service provider SIMs. 

Follow these steps to check if your phone is Sim-locked:

  1. Take your phone to a cell store or ask a friend with a different carrier’s SIM card.
  2. Turn off your phone and remove the SIM. You can find the SIM container on the top of the right side. If you have an old handset, remove the case and battery to find the SIM Card holder. 
  3. Replace the original SIM card with the temporary SIM card.
  4. You will see a pop-up message to enter the unlock PIN if your phone is SIM-locked– it means your phone is SIM-locked.
  5. In case you don’t see any prompt, dial a call to anyone with your phone. If the call is connected, you have an unlocked phone. Otherwise, you will see an error code. 

Note: The alternate method is to insert SIM into a different carrier phone and follow the same steps.

How to Remove SIM Lock?- 2 Effective Methods

You can remove the SIM lock by entering the correct SIM PIN. Or else, you can reach out to your service provider and ask for a SIM unlock key.

But for your convenience, we have explained them step-by-step.

1. Use Your SIM PIN to Unlock SIM Lock

  1. Go to Settings > Cellular > SIM PIN on an iPhone or Settings > Mobile Data > SIM PIN on an iPad to enter your SIM PIN. In Android, navigate to Settings > Biometrics and Security > Other Security Settings > SIM PIN
mobile phone settings on sim locked devices 1
mobile settings to remove mobile phone sim restrictions and sim lock
sim lock status on locked and unlocked phones
  1. Enable your SIM PIN or deactivate it by toggling the Lock SIM card option on/off.
remove sim lock with sim unlock code
  1. If prompted, give the default SIM PIN provided by your carrier if you’ve never used one. Only attempt to guess the default SIM PIN if you know it. Check the paperwork with your carrier’s wireless plan or the customer support page, or get in touch with your carrier.
  2. Tap Done.

2. Get PUK from Your Carrier

Never try to guess a PUK or SIM PIN code, as doing so can lock your SIM card permanently. If that happens, you’d need to get a new SIM card issued for yourself, which can be a lot of hassle. Here’s what to do if your device requests a PIN or code you don’t know:

  1. Contact the SIM card provider. Disconnect your iPhone SIM card or iPad SIM card and look for the carrier’s name or logo on the card if you need help finding which carrier to call.
  2. Request help from your carrier in unlocking your SIM card using the PUK or default SIM PIN.
  3. Request a replacement SIM card if you cannot unlock it with the provided SIM pin or PUK code or if an alert shows that you have reached the PUK limit.

3 Reasons Why it is Important to Unlock SIM

It is important to unlock your SIM as it prevents you from using your smartphone with another provider’s SIM. So, you can’t use it with a different sim when you go somewhere your mobile carrier doesn’t provide service. Additionally, it makes your phone hard to sell.

Some essential benefits of unlocking SIM are:

1. Use Different Networks

When the SIM lock is turned on, the phone cannot recognize any other SIM cards. As a result, you are compelled to adhere to the current plan and the current mobile service provider. So, when your phone is no longer Sim-lock, you can switch to and use any network you like.

2. Change SIM Anywhere

If you travel to a region with a SIM-locked phone, where your mobile carrier doesn’t provide service, you’d be in big trouble. You won’t be able to use another SIM, and your phone will become useless there. On the other hand, when your phone is no longer Sim-locked, you may take it anywhere, purchase a prepaid SIM card, and use it. So travelers particularly benefit from Sim-unlocking. 

3. Better Resell

Nobody wants to buy a locked handset because of the restrictions it poses. As a result, a Sim-locked phone becomes harder to sell or gift. It also largely undervalues your phone. So, if you want the best resale price on your phone, make sure to get it Sim-lock free.

Are SIM Unlocking Online Services Legit?

No, SIM-unlocking online services are typically not legit. For one, your mobile service provider would most likely not provide them with the unlock code, which is absolutely necessary for removing the SIM lock. Once they have your money, they temporarily or never unlock your phone. So, if you want to remove the SIM lock, you can only trust your original mobile carrier.

Basically, most websites that claim to remove SIM locks are scammers. For instance, there can be two cases:

  • If you pay them, they pay the cell phone provider 10% of what you paid them, and the phone is then legally unlocked, but they effectively stole 90% of your money.
  • Some consumers claim services never unlocked their phones or reimbursed money after paying for the website.

In reality, they are getting your IMEI number. They can use your IMEI number illegally in other regions for fraudulent activities. Therefore, it is always better to contact authorized services like your SIM card service providers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does SIM Lock Affect your Phone Service?

No, the locking does not affect your current phone service. A SIM card prevents unauthorized use of the subscription associated with it, which requires you to enter an unlock code/PIN each time you turn on your device or insert it into any other phone. 

Is SIM Unlocking Temporary or Permanent?

It depends on the procedure you have followed. SIM unlocking can be temporary and unsafe if you have used a third-party service. Only the original service provider can unlock your SIM permanently. You should always go through the legal process to unlock your SIM, as it requires your IMEI number.

How Can I Tell If my SIM is Locked or Not?

You can tell if your SIM is locked by restarting your phone with that SIM. It is locked if it asks for a PIN. Otherwise, you probably have an unlocked SIM. 

Is Phone Locking and SIM Locking the Same Thing?

Yes, phone locking and SIM locking are broadly the same things. Well, they are less similar and more interrelated. The phone and SIM lock means you cannot use any other network on the same phone or the particular phone with any other network.

What does SIM locked mean?

A SIM locked device is a mobile phone that is locked to a specific carrier or service provider. This means that the phone can only be used with the SIM card from that particular carrier or service provider it is locked to and cannot be used with SIM cards from other carriers or service providers.
Such a lock is typically put in place by the carrier or service provider to ensure that the device is only used on their network.

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