How to get AT&T to unlock your off-contract iPhone

How to get AT&T to unlock your off-contract iPhone

Summary: The best way to approach AT&T is either in-store or using the online customer care chat facility. Telephone support is the worst way.

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Yesterday AT&T began to offer customers who have an off-contract iPhone the opportunity to unlock the handset so that it can be used on other carriers. It seems that quite a few of you jumped on the chance to have this done and have reported back to me with your tales of success (and woe).

From what readers who've approached AT&T to get their iPhones unlocked are telling me, the worst way to contact AT&T for an unlock is via phone. Here is seems that most support representative are either unaware of the new unlock procedure, or are just plain unwilling to do it.

'I just called to have my 3G unlocked,' wrote a reader in an email to Hardware 2.0, 'and the tech rep said they have no knowledge of any decision to unlock iPhones. She confirmed I was through to the right department and said I should just keep calling back. She refused to even consider unlocking it.'

So don't waste your time on the phone talking to support. One person did tell me that they were lucky and managed to be transferred to the right person, but he said that 'it took some persuasion' to make it happen.

The best way to approach AT&T is either in-store or using the online customer care chat facility. All AT&T needs is the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number of the handset which you can find by going Settings > General > About and then scrolling down until you get to the 15 digit code.

'It was easy,' wrote another reader. 'It took a few minutes.'

Once AT&T has received your details and checked that the contract has indeed come to an end, your information will be passed to Apple and you will receive the unlock code via email within a week (some people are being told a week, others anything ranging from 24 to 72 hours ... your mileage may vary). Some customers claim to have received their email confirmation within minutes, while others are still waiting.

Once you receive email confirmation, the handset then needs to be connected to iTunes and a backup and restore carried out to complete the process.

Note: If your handset is jailbroken then this will remove the jailbreak. If you are running a jailbroken iPhone 4S then you will need to wait until a jailbreak is available for iOS 5.1 is you want to keep the jailbreak.

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.

Image credits: ZDNet | AT&T

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

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21 comments
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  • Throttle me once, shame on me...

    Throttle me twice, move to Sprint.
    Pete&Pete
    • LOL

      Yeah. Unlimited 2G from Sprint!..........I'd rather be throttled.
      whatcity225
  • TF&ITW

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  • Bad ESN

    I have an iPhone 4 with a Bad ESN would this allow me to use the phone again? Right now I use it just as a iPod Touch, but it would be nice to have the phone function correctly.

    Also it constantly says it is trying to activate. Would this make that message go away?
    ryanmc
  • Bad ESN

    See info @ http://reviews.ebay.com/BAD-ESN-Carrier-wont-activate-the-phone-What-2-Do?ugid=10000000007584227
    R.T.F.M.
  • What about Android phones?

    Will AT&T allow me to unlock an off contract Android (Captivate) or BB (Torch 9800)?
    rick27607
  • People lie..........

    How do you even know whether your "reader" was or had been an att customer? If you can't verify your info, don't post it.This is going to bring alot of weasels out of hiding. Active or not, you have to have an att account in good standing and the thing can't be reported as lost or stolen. Don't expect to buy one off eBay from some stranger or from a pawn shop, etc and expect to be welcomed with open arms, if you can't verify the account information.
    whatcity225
  • If jailbroken, no restore required

    Just run redsn0w with the "deactivate" option, then plug into iTunes to receive your unlock.
    PepperdotNet
  • You purchaced the phone with the contract

    You purchased the phone and they "allow" you to unlock it and use it elsewhere after the contract runs out, how magnanimous of them! Extra sweet that big brother Apple needs to be involved too!
    wally_333
  • Im traveling alot.

    I did call the at&t customer service and told them Im traveling out of state next month and asked them is there any way to use my iPhone 4S with internatinol SIM card and lady at the customer service told me they can unlock my iPhone in 5 business days. After the phone conversation at&t send me a text message. I believe my iPhone 4S will be unlock in few days :)
    jeffsezer
  • t-mobile

    I am on an unlimited plan with international calling. So yes T-Mobile does have unlimited.
    jchristensen@...
  • Unlock

    Good day.
    Help with unlock (Unlock) Apple iPhone 3GS, 4, 4s tied to the company AT & T.
    All the details in the: unlockatt76 (x) gmail com
    unlockatt76
  • NEW unlock procedure

    They no longer allow the chat support to unlock the phone, It's easy now, they have a web page for it. Here is what they chatted me.
    "I understand that you want to unlock your iPhone and I can help you with that. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, however, our process has recently changed and we no longer complete these iPhone unlock requests manually through Chat nor Customer Care.
    Carolyn Langille: After you complete the online form, an order confirmation email will be sent to the address you provided. Once the unlock is completed, you will receive an order completion email with instructions to tether to iTunes to back up and restore your device to complete the process. If the iPhone is ineligible, you will receive a notification email with detailed reason(s) why the device does not meet eligibility requirements. The web address is www.att.com/deviceunlock ."
    So just go to http://www.att.com/deviceunlock and fill out the form after agreeing to the terms of the first page.
    drakezaber
  • Don't Overpay

    We unlock all AT&T iPhones for $15.
    http://theunlocker.co
    TUnlocker
  • For Those Needing Help Unlocking

    So what about those that are still in contract? Looks like your only option then is to figure out how to do it yourself. With all the tutorials out there, it should be easy enough, but what about those that are not tech savvy? I finally decided it wasn't worth the hassel and I found an unlock provider to do it for me. I went to http://iphoneunlockgroup.com, and for $29 I got an unlocked phone that now works like a charm.
    JillieDee
  • Unlock iphone

    Factory unlock iphone through IMEI easy and world cheapest price
    Uk O2 & tesco within week, EMEA instant
    Usa All network and any carriers
    unlock iphone 2G/3G/3GS/4G/4GS and iphone 5 also.,.
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    Contact us on skype: ummara.zaheer1
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Order-Online-Shop/172207136286070
    Maya Ali
    • Cheaper AT&T unlock tool

      I hope this unlock is the best ever since, no unreliable software or iOS jailbreaking required and if you dont mind waiting till AT&T aprove you unlocking request use http://att.imei.org/ tools service for any iOS baseband and iphone firmware version
      Sam Chise
  • iPhone

    I ended up checking this site called unlock fusion.com , found that they did their iphone in 24 hrs or less. I wasnt sure about this site , then I placed my order. Just like magic I got an email from them within couple hours to let me know it was already completed. I used a coupon code - fusion . hope this helps.
    Freddy Tavarez
  • Re: Tips to track your iPhone if it is lost or stolen

    These guys can find stolen/lost iphones using IMEI https://www.facebook.com/Iphonetrace and their main site http://www.iphonetrace.com/
    krissschuk
  • For ATT people

    talking about unlock, we are mostly refering to unlocking the carrier lock, and if you have trouble unlocking your iphone, you can check out attiphoneunlocking, which unlocks ATT iphones
    fakagg99