AT&T to allow unlocking of off-contract iPhones

AT&T to allow unlocking of off-contract iPhones

Summary: Unlock your old iPhone and find a better deal with a different carrier.


Have you got an old SIM-locked AT&T iPhone that's no longer on contract? If you do, I have some good news for you.

Information on how to go about getting your AT&T iPhone unlocked can be found here.

Starting Sunday April 8, AT&T will allow handsets that are no longer part of a contract to be unlocked so they can be used on other networks. No jailbreaking or third-party SIM unlocking required.

The change in policy was revealed in a statement to MacRumors:

Beginning Sunday, April 8, we will offer qualifying customers the ability to unlock their AT&T iPhones. The only requirements are that a customer's account must be in good standing, their device cannot be associated with a current and active term commitment on an AT&T customer account, and they need to have fulfilled their contract term, upgraded under one of our upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee.

Prior to this AT&T has been very resistant to unlocking iPhones. Last month it seems that Apple CEO Tim Cook had to wade in to a disagreement between AT&T and a customer to get an off-contract iPhone 3GS unlocked. Did this intervention encourage a change in policy over at the carrier? We'll never find out, but whatever the reason for the change, it's good new for customers.

Unlocking your handset will allow you to take that old iPhone over to a carrier like T-Mobile which offers cheaper plans and no data overage fees (but sadly no unlimited plan). Alternatively, take a look at Straight Talk which also offers some good deals and, depending on your location, may offer you better signal coverage than T-Mobile.


Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, AT&T

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Wow, the value of older iPhones just increased significantly.

    Well cared for 3GS and 4 models just got a lot more re-sale value.
    • Works for me

      When the iPhone 5 comes out I'll more than likely upgrade from my iPhone 4 and this just helped to increase the resale value of it... I've had it for a year and a half and it still looks brand new.
  • whats the Secret

    Ṁy frienď'ś śtep-ṀotĥeŔ ṁakeś $81 an ĥour on tĥe coṀputeŔ. Śĥe ĥaś been out of Work for 8 ṁontĥś but laśt ṁontĥ ĥeŔ incoṀe Waś $8830 juśt WoŔking on tĥe coṀputer for a feW ĥourś. Ŕeaď ṁore on tĥiŚ Web śite...
  • AT&T to allow unlocking of off-contract iPhones

    It is really a great news. I am so very happy now that I can use iPhone 3GS in India without jail Breaking.
  • I work for At&t Wireless

    We found this article interesting at work today. I work for At&t wireless. No one knows anything about this. Not even the regional manager. Where are you getting your facts dude?
    • AT&T deny knowledge

      Seems to be the case...I just called them and spoke to tech rep (Tina). Said their team have been told nothing about unlocking iPhones and refused to do it. Suggested keep calling back 'if I am convinced the AT&T statement was true'!
    • SAD

      Just sad
  • How do European providers make a profit?

    I'm an expat living in Rome; I have an unlocked iPhone (the only kind here) with unlimited data, including 3G, for 2.5 euros per week and pay .09 euro per minute for outgoing calls, incoming are free. This pay as you go plan is very common here. It is much better than anything I had when I lived in the U.S. In effect, unlimited data for $13 per month and the providers show a profit. I am returning in a few months and don't look forward to the U.S. market. I don't think I will be able to get over the feeling I am being ripped off.
    • Agree, American consumers are truly being fleeced

      It is truly shocking the rates and nonsense Americans must put up with their US companies. I say companies because telephone operators aren't the only ones. How dare an operator not allow me to unlock my phone after having paid for it? In fact, why did it take so long to be able to buy a phone cash not connected to any operator at all?! I paid 25 dollars a month for unlimited surf for 3 years including the phone and now its paid off just 15 dollars a month, still totally free surf. Not a dime up front for the phone. Not to mention the ridiculous system where the person receiving the call pays, not the caller!

      Business in America is about ripping off your customers because they know you don't have much choice and if you leave, another schmuck will come.
      • Well, yes but....

        If Americans weren't so crazy about their shiny new toys and so susceptible to the buy now pay later mentality (usually and ridiculously referred to as "subsidies"), NO carriers could get away with it. You CANNOT sell ANYTHING the consumers will not buy.

        Therefore the American consumers have only themselves to blame. If you feel sorry for yourselves (Americans), too bad. Smarten up and take back control.
      • Not much choice

        Americans know they are being fleeced, but to whom do they turn? All of the carriers have essentially the same policies and prices. The choice is to not have a phone, or else pay the high prices. You have always been able to buy your phone and not be under contract. However, it didn't save you anything on the rate. So if you are forced to pay the same rate, then why buy the phone when the price of the phone is included in the rate? So, you see, the phone is only the excuse for the high rate. Unlock an AT&T iPhone and take it to Verizon. You won't have to be under a two year contract, but you will still pay the same rate, so what difference does it make?

        The real question is why do no carriers offer a reduced rate for those who buy their phone? One would think that a smaller company would do so to gain that market share. Collusion? Unfair trade practice? The US FTC doesn't seem to care. The same people who got M$ for embedding IE in Windows will do nothing about AT&T, Verizon, etc. embedding the cost of THEIR phone in the usage rates.
      • RE:...being fleeced

        That happened [b]from day 1.[/b]

        The bullsh!t flung by the telcos that the FCC `bought into` at the beginning of digital cell service is what now causes this problem.

        Back in the analog days, you could easily jump carriers, and keep the same phone. [i]But when the FCC allowed the carriers to [u]determine the technology to be used with their systems,[/u] [b]customers got screwed[/b].[/i]

        Had the FCC mandated a specific technology, things would have been different; but, no, we have [b]the Best Government [/b][i]telco[/i][b] Money Can Buy![/b]

        That will not change as long as big corporations can [s]bribe/buy influence[/s] provide campaign contributions for politicians; and potential [u]post government jobs[/u] for bureaucrats. Thank You, Supreme Court.
      • RE: Well, yes but...

        That's not true. Communications is a utility and there's no way anyone can do anything without a telephone. It's like water/sewer and electricity/gas. Unlike pay TV you can't hold a job without telephone access. And pay phones are being phased out in most places.

        Even though it's a group of various companies they basically run like OPEC. Maintaining the prices at a specific limit. Less of their money goes into service and more into advertising and lobbying the government to maintain a degree of deregulation like they enjoyed before anti-trust laws killed their landline fleecing years.

        If people stopped using phones society would basically shut down. The phone companies here have written and paid for the FCC rules that permit them to fleece the people and a simple boycott won't cripple them at all. Circumventing the current system would require a satellite-based technology that could be economically implemented and span across borders - no towers or cables - and accessible to all companies willing to pay satellite usage fees. I'd hate to add but such a system might be too complex for regular investors and might require government infrastructure ownership - like water and sewer services.
    • Being ripped off

      You will be. :)
    • RE: How DO European providers...

      It goes back to Ma Bell. That vestigial tail once belonging to National Bell, later AT&T is alive and well on K Street. It was a "regulated monopoly" where instead of the government fostering enterprise and innovation it was decided to simply enjoy in the vast profits allowed by one company to rule them all... telephones, I mean. Long after the dragon was cut into pieces those talons remain in the backs of regulators and congressmen. It provides AT&T and it's so-called competitors cart blanche to make up their own rules. Sometimes it seems these phone companies act as if they were part of a Communications Guild.

      Because Europe's "states" are actually sovereign nations it's difficult to recreate the US system. The individual nations are eager to break up any corporation that tries to monopolize the system. Nationalism probably helps along each state's eagerness to limit corporate expansion.

      The phone companies got to start from scratch when we went mobile. All the rules that applied to landline service were not carried over into mobile service. So we're back to square one.
  • Not good enough

    They should be legallyforced to do it, like in almost every civilized nation
  • StraightTalk

    That would be quite an interesting hardware hack to get your AT&T iPhone to work on a StraightTalk plan.
    • straight talk

      Any AT&T phone works on a Straight talk plan without unlocking
      • Not really.

        Not true. Straight Talk is actually both CDMA and GSM, but for GSM phones, you still have to unlock the phone.
  • Straightalk SUCKS AND LIES! I went to T-mobile from Straighttalk instead!

    This article is wrong, why would someone make an article if they don't really know what they are talking about? I registered just to comment on this story because it is VERY VERY WRONG! First of all, Straighttalk is the WORST cellphone company ever, they LIE that they have unlimited plans, BUT, if you reach 2GB in a month, or go over a certain amount of minutes, they will cancel your account and refuse to give you any refunds if you just paid your bill, AND you will lose your phone number.

    I then switched to T-Mobile, MUCH MUCH better than straighttalk, actually, T-mobile is WAY better and WAY cheaper than At$T and Verizon. AND I have better coverage. ALSO T-mobile has TRUE unlimited plans too, not the lies other phone companies say. T-Moblie is also WAY faster with their 4G LTE network which is actually bigger than AT$T and Verizon's.

    Anyways, I suggest T-mobile for the best value and true unlimited plans.