When you get new or pre-owned iPhone or cellular iPad, it’s good practice to verify if it’s locked or unlocked. An unlocked iPhone or iPad is not limited to a particular carrier. It connects to your mobile carrier of choice.
There’s a big difference in the price you pay as unlocked iPhones and iPads are generally more expensive those locked to a particular carrier. Unfortunately, you cannot tell just by looking at an iPhone whether it is locked or unlocked. Unlike other mobile phone makers, Apple does not allow iPhones or iPads to be branded by mobile carriers.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some steps so you confirm before purchase that your iPhone is indeed unlocked.
So without further ado, check the following to confirm iPhone unlocked.
Check Settings for iPhone Unlocked
The simplest way to check if your iPhone or iPad is unlocked is to head to the Settings>Mobile or Settings>Cellular.
If you see the option Mobile Data Network or Cellular Data Network, then your iPhone or iPad is unlocked. This option is absent in a carrier locked iPhone.
This method, although simple, is not a surefire way to check for iPhone or iPad unlocked.
Using SIM Card to check iPhone Unlocked
A more reliable way to check if the iPhone is unlocked is to use a SIM card. This test will work on iPhones only since it requires you to make a phone call. Please note, that for this test you will need two SIM cards from two different carriers. So ask a friend or family member if you can temporarily borrow their iPhone’s SIM. Once you have two SIMs, follow these steps:
- Switch off your iPhone using the Sleep/Wake button
- Eject the current working SIM card using the ejector tool that comes with your iPhone or a paper clip
- Now insert the other SIM card
- Switch on the iPhone
- Check if the new carrier SIM works on your iPhone (you’ll see the name of the carrier on the top left corner)
- Make a call now to confirm if the current SIM works
- If you successfully make a call, your iPhone is unlocked
- If unsuccessful, your phone is locked to the carrier of the first SIM card
Using IMEI Number to verify iPhone Unlocked
Another method to check the lock status of your iPhone or iPad is to use the IMEI number. Your IMEI is basically the serial number of your iPhone or iPad. It communicates with Apple servers and provides all the information about your iPhone or iPad.
This method is the most reliable and secure way to verify your iDevice. You find the IMEI number in the following ways:
- From the back of the iPhone
- (Settings > About), here you can find the IMEI number
- By connecting your iPhone or iPad with a computer and launching iTunes
- When using iTunes go to Device Summary
- For iPhones, click on the phone number and you will see the IMEI serial number
- For an iPad, click Serial Number to find the IMEI
- If you still have your device’s original packaging, check the barcode for the IMEI
- For certain iDevices, look at the SIM card tray, the IMEI is printed there
Once you have obtained the IMEI, go to any CTIA-Accredited IMEI checker such as Check IMEI, CheckMend and others. Some of these CTIA-Accredited IMEI checkers are free while others charge a fee. And some marketplace sites, like Swappa and Orchard, include a IMEI Checker that run through both GSMA blacklist check and whitelist check and detect any carrier activation issues.
Many wireless carriers also have IMEI checkers for consumers to use. AT&T has their own IMEI checker as does T-Mobile. So check with your mobile carrier and see if they offer their own IMEI Checker. These checkers provide you all the details about your iDevice including its lock status. And using them helps ensure your transactions are safe.
So once you decide on your IMEI checker, input your specific IMEI number. And take a look at your results. Some of our readers report they got errors or insufficient data. So if one IMEI checker provides no information or is incorrect, try another.
The GSM Blacklist
Before you visit any mobile carrier, find out if your locked iPhone is on the GSM blacklist. The Blacklist is for all iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices reported as lost or stolen. Once reported, the iPhone or iPad is put on this GSM blacklist and identified via its unique IMEI number. IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity and its how your phone or other mobile device is recognized by manufacturers and mobile carriers.
Blacklisting also occurs if the user of a device is no longer able to pay for their contract or if the device was acquired through fraud. The GSM Blacklist is maintained by mobile carriers and includes national and global databases to share devices listed as lost or stolen.
Since the creation of these blacklist databases, it’s easy for consumers to check the status of any device with the proper tools. This helps everyone make their own informed decisions as opposed to blindly purchasing a used device.
Tools to Identify Blacklisted Devices
- Any CTIA-Accredited IMEI checker: These IMEI checker reveal if a phone is blacklisted. If you’re looking to buy a pre-owned or new iPhone or iPad from a stranger, always ask for the device’s IMEI. Use an IMEI checker to make sure the phone wasn’t stolen or reported lost
- Apple Activation Lock Status: Apple’s official tool determines if a device is still protected by Activation Lock. Simply enter the IMEI or serial number of any iPhone, iPad, iPod or Apple Watch, then Apple tells you if Activation Lock is still enabled on that iDevice
- Wireless Carriers: If unsure about using any of these services or if getting mixed results, call any wireless carrier. They should answer any questions about an iPhone blacklist.
If the iPhone or iPad is blacklisted, it’s often very difficult to get it iPhone unlocked. Mobile carriers are the only ones who have the power to reverse a blacklisted iPhone. If you know the carrier associated with the iDevice, contact them directly to ask about IMEI status.
If you discover that your iPhone is locked AND NOT on the GSM Blacklist there are ways you unlock it. Contacting the phone’s current mobile carrier is usually the first route to get the iPhone unlocked. They should unlock it for you.
It’s really important to know if your iPhone is locked or unlocked. This is especially true if you purchase a pre-owned iPhone/iPad or if you purchase a new iPhone/iPad from ebay, craigslist, or from any local or online reseller. Prior to purchase, ask for the IMEI. If the party is unwilling to provide it, best to move on and find a reseller who does provide you the IMEI before you purchase the iPhone or iPad.