Unlocking your iPhone

I’ve had several inquiries about carrier unlocking iPhones lately and I thought I should clarify a few points for all of you out there looking to do the same. I should start by saying that there are a lot of scams out there so be weary of sites offering unlock services or codes especially those that claim “quick” or “permanent” because they most certainly will fleece you.

Let’s cut through the fog, shall we? There are currently only 3 methods of unlocking iPhones: Jailbreak, Gevey SIM and factory/carrier IMEI release. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Jailbreak/Cydia

Jaibreaking your iPhone is to install modified software on your device that uses exploits to bypass security limitations and allowing you to then install third-party applications not approved by Apple. On Android devices, this is called “rooting” your phone. It’s called jailbreaking because you are breaking the device out of its “jail” of limitations. Once your iPhone has been jailbroken, you can then install third-party applications such as Cydia that allow you to unlock your phone from your current carrier. As this method relies on vulnerabilities in various baseband and IOS releases, Apple attempts to patch or block these exploits with each new IOS update. It’s a cat and mouse game.

The facts about Jailbreaking:

  1. Once your iPhone is Jailbroken you void your warranty as you are breaking your license agreement with Apple. In some cases, you are able to revert your phone to original factory condition. In other cases, you risk bricking your phone.
  2. Generally, you can not update your phone (ie. via iTunes).
  3. Exploits are free so you should never pay a site for “unlocking” services since they simply give you tools and instructions that are freely available on other sites such as iClarified.com.
  4. To my knowledge, there is currently no carrier unlock available via jailbreak for iPhone 4S with IOS  above 5.1.1 . So while it is possible to Jailbreak iPhones with IOS 6+ using the evasiOn/redsnOw exploits, chances are slim to none that you will be able to unlock your phone regardless.
  5. Jailbroken phones can be glitchy at times. Issues with freezing, rebooting, some services not working properly, etc… are not uncommon.

Bottom line? If your moderately tech savvy and are still running an IOS 5 version, Jailbreaking will work. Otherwise, you are likely wasting your time and money.

Gevey SIM

There are products available on the market, namely the Gevey brand SIM mods, that allow you to unlock your phone without having to Jailbreak it. These mods will not void your warranty and are completely reversible by simply removing the mod chip from your SIM tray.  These mod chips cost between $15-$40, are easy to use and simply sit in your SIM tray along with your SIM card. While this is a cheap, reversible and easy to implement unlock solution, it’s not without its drawbacks. Current Gevey chips for IOS versions prior to 6 may impact battery life and reception. There is a Gevey chip for IOS 6+ but currently not all MMS features are supported (ie. texting, picture messaging may be affected). Still, since it’s easy and cost-effective, in my opinion it’s a much better option than Jailbreaking. You can find out more at AppleNBerry.com

IMEI Unlock

By far the best solution, an IMEI unlock doesn’t require hacking your device or using a mod chip. Your phone is permanently unlocked from your carrier. While the other 2 options are cheaper, they are not permanent and may stop working at any time. To get an IMEI unlock code, you typically have to approach your current carrier to request it as they need to release your IMEI from their network. They don’t like to do this and depending on your carrier may not do it at all but if your contract is up it doesn’t hurt to ask. It can be a bit pricey…between $40 – $170.  If your current carrier will not accommodate you, there are third-party services that have access to carrier databases and can provide you with unlock codes. Typically, it may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. I’ve had good success with these guys in the past: http://www.iunlox.co.uk/networks.php

There is a fourth option which is simple, really. Sell your carrier locked phone on Kijiji or eBay. There are always people locked into contracts that may have lost or broken their phones and are looking to buy a second-hand phone to finish up their contract. You may not get top dollar but used iPhone 4S are fetching $150+ and this frees you up to either purchase a factory unlocked phone or look into a new contract.

So, in answer to your questions, can I unlock iPhones…yes, I can. Do I? Not typically and the reason for this should be fairly evident from what I’ve explained in this post. I don’t do it simply because if you are looking for a cheap unlock, available options aren’t permanent and you may likely encounter issues somewhere down the line. As much as I hate to turn away business, I don’t like to hang my reputation on hacked software or mods that may stop working at any time…makes me feel like a thief, which I am not. Furthermore, you don’t need me for any of the above options.

I hope this helps!