Want to switch your Optus mobile handset to another network, but can't get past the network lock? Here's what you need to do.
At one point in time, pretty much every mobile phone sold in Australia was locked to the network it was sold to work on. In some cases that was to do with the underlying network frequencies, but often it was also simply to lock you, the consumer, into keeping with that network. These days that scenario is remarkably rare for most handsets sold on contract through Optus, although if you do have a prepaid phone bundled via Optus it can happen.
Unlocking your Optus mobile phone is a fairly easy procedure, whether you're using a contract or prepaid phone, although in some cases a fee may apply.
How to unlock a Optus contract phone in 4 easy steps
- Identify your phone: Optus doesn't typically lock its mobile phone handsets sold on contract, with the exception of specific iPhone models, BlackBerry handsets and the Motorola MotoBlur handset. If you're not using one of those you should be fine to use a SIM from a different carrier without needing unlocking at all.
- Unlocking iPhone: If you're using an iPhone 4 or newer, all you need to do to unlock your Optus iPhone is upgrade to at least iOS 7. That upgrade process will completely remove any carrier locking in place. If you're using an older iPhone model than an iPhone 4, you should entirely back up your device and perform a full factory reset on your phone. WARNING: THIS WILL WIPE YOUR PHONE, SO PLEASE BACK UP ALL YOUR DATA FIRST. The process of resetting your iPhone 3 or iPhone 3GS will also unlock it from the Optus network.
- Motorola Motoblur: If you have a Motorola Motoblur handset sold directly by Optus, it can be unlocked online through Optus via this link. Click on it and you should be sent a network unlocking code. Power down your Motoblur, throw in a non-Optus SIM and power up. The network unlock code should unlock your phone, although you may need to restart it again after entering the code.
- BlackBerry: The process for unlocking a BlackBerry handset is essentially identical to that of the Motoblur. You need to head to Optus' unlocking page to generate an unlocking code for your handset, then power your phone down. Put a non-Optus SIM in your BlackBerry, power up and enter your unlocking code. Then power down again, fire up your phone and it should be fully unlocked.
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How to unlock an Optus prepaid phone
- Identify your phone: The process for unlocking an Optus prepaid phone differs ever so slightly depending on whether you're using an iPhone, Android/Windows or BlackBerry handset, so the first thing to do is identify the handset in question.
- Unlocking iPhone: As with contract phones, the unlocking process for iPhone users on the Optus network largely revolves around the iOS version you have installed. If you're using an iPhone 4 or better with iOS 7 (or better) already installed, then you're already unlocked! If not, upgrade to the latest version of iOS your iPhone 4 (or better) handset can handle, and the unlock will happen automatically. If you're using an original iPhone, iPhone 3 or iPhone 3GS, iOS 7 isn't available, and you'll need to fully back up and restore your iPhone in order to unlock your device.
- Unlocking Android/Windows/Nokia phone: The process for unlocking any Android, Windows or Nokia system phone locked to the Optus network involves the same procedure of going through Optus' network unlock page, but what may differ is the price you pay to generate the unlock code. If you purchased your handset before 3 September 2012 it's a free service. If you purchased on or after 3 September 2012, and your service has been active for at least six months with a minimum recharge total of at least $80, there's no fee. If you haven't recharged to that level, a fee of $25 will apply. If you've had your service active less than six months and you've recharged to a total of $80 there is again no fee, but in that case if you haven't tipped over that $80 recharge total an unlocking fee of $80 will apply.
- Unlocking BlackBerry: If you're using a BlackBerry locked to the Optus network the same unlock portal is used to generate an unlock code. If you've recharged at least $80 it's a free unlock, but otherwise an $80 fee applies to generate the unlock code.
What do I do if things go wrong?
Optus manages its unlocking facility entirely online, but even though you're (presumably) switching from them, it doesn't mean you can't seek a little support. Optus stores aren't specifically set up to handle customer complaints, so you're more likely to see results contacting Optus on the phone or online if you hit a snag.
An unlocked handset is one that can be used on any network, and that means you can take advantage of the wide range of plans available to you, especially if you opt for a prepaid phone plan. Mobile number portability allows you to take the same number with you within Australia, so you don't even have to update your contact details when you do.
That means you can take advantage of any special deals that other telcos can offer. It also opens up the phone for international roaming SIMs if you plan to travel, which can be a much cheaper alternative than paying fixed telco roaming rates.
Clearly, you need to make sure that there's enough value in the phone if an unlocking fee will be charged, because there's little point shelling out up to $80 on a phone that didn't cost you that much. Just make sure that you responsibly recycle or re-gift your handset if you're not planning to use it any more.