How to network unlock your mobile phone

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Thinking of switching carriers? Be sure to check if your mobile phone is network unlocked first.

Back up your data

Before attempting any of the following unlocking processes, remember to backup the data from your phone to an SD card, iCloud, Dropbox or a computer. Some of these methods involve hard resetting your phone which formats your smartphone's internal memory. If not saved elsewhere you will almost certainly lose all the data on your phone.


Thankfully, most Australian mobile carriers have stopped network locking their phones. However, this is not always the case and unlocking your phone from your prior carrier can be become quite a hassle, especially if you’ve already ported your number across to your new carrier.

We’ve researched each carrier's network locking policies and provided clear instructions on what to do if you do find you find yourself with a locked device.

Step 1: Retrieve your IMEI

Most handsets will have the IMEI displayed on the back of the phone, under the battery, or on the SIM tray. However, if you have trouble finding this on your handset, you can also dial *#06# on just about any device to retrieve your IMEI on-screen.

Step 2: Confirm your phone is locked

It's very rare that an Android (Samsung, Sony, HTC etc.) or Windows Phone sold after 2012 would be locked to any Australian mobile carrier – but it's not impossible. Before you attempt to unlock your phone from the network, try the basic troubleshooting steps below.

  • REMOVE SIM Remove SIM card and insert it again
  • REPLACEMENT SIM Request a replacement SIM card from your carrier
  • HARD RESET Backup the data from your handset and perform a hard reset on your device. This can be done by holding the power button and tapping volume up button. When your phone resets, it will boot up at the "System Recovery" screen. Here, select "wipe data/factory reset". This will restore your phone to factory settings. Again, please make sure you have backed up any valuable data before attempting this.

Step 3: Unlock your device with these steps

The process to unlock your phone depends on your mobile provider. We've broken down the process for the four biggest networks below:

How do I unlock a Telstra or Boost prepaid handset?

    1. Call 125 8880 from your Telstra handset, or call 13 22 00 from a non-Telstra handset and say "Pre-Paid".
    2. Follow the prompts to submit an unlocking request.
    3. Enter your IMEI code when requested.
    4. You will be advised of any fees involved in unlocking your phone, and payment instructions will be provided to you.

Telstra often charge a fee for unlocking pre-paid or mobile broadband devices. For phones and modems activated for less than 6 months, the fee is $80. For phones and modems activated between 6 months and 2 years ago, there is a $25 unlocking fee. If you’re a prepaid customer, these payments can be made using your existing credit.

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How do I unlock my Optus handset?

  1. Visit the Optus Network Unlocking page
  2. For all postpaid phones, there is no particular unlocking fee, although for iPhone, MotoBlur and BlackBerry handsets there are steps laid out you have to undertake. For iPhone devices it's either a question of upgrading to at least iOS 7, or backing up and restoring your phone, at which point the carrier settings will update and unlock your phone for you.
  3. If you have a Prepaid Mobile Phone (you recharge monthly with an upfront payment) there may be a fee involved depending on the type of phone and when you purchased it. For iPhones there is no associated charge but as with postpaid phones you may need to update your iOS version or perform a factory reset. Remember to back up your iPhone first!
  4. For other prepaid smartphone models. you may be asked when you purchased your phone. You have two options, Before 3rd September, 2012 or After 3rd September, 2012. Select the appropriate option.
  5. For phones purchased before 3 September 2012, there is no associated fee. For phones purchased before that date, there is no fee. If you purchased your phone after that date, the fee will be waived if you've recharged to a level of at least $80. If you haven't yet reached that recharge tier, the fee is $25 if you've had your service running for more than 6 months, or $80 if it's less than six months.
  6. Once you've made your selections, you'll need to click on the Request Network Unlock link. You will need the device’s IMEI, your Optus Mobile Number, Where you purchased the device from and your contact details.
  7. Next you should be given a timeframe that your phone will be unlocked within (usually anywhere between 48 and 72 hours)
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How do I unlock my Virgin handset?

Usually, Virgin mobile handsets are not locked to the network. If you do happen to own a locked Virgin handset, however, you’ll have to contact the Virgin team on 1300 555 100. Before calling Virgin, you’re going to need your IMEI, Phone Manufacturer and Phone Model.

The Network Unlock team at Virgin will provide you with an unlock code and step-by-step instructions on how to enter your unlock code.
In some cases, it may take Virgin up to five business days to get your code to you.

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How do I unlock my Vodafone handset?

  1. Retrieve your IMEI
  2. Visit Vodafone’s Handset Unlocking page
  3. Enter your IMEI in the appropriate field
  4. Click 'Next'
  5. Next, you should be presented with an unlock code and instructions on unlocking your handset.
  6. If you experience any further issues, contact Vodafone’s customer support team on 1300 650 410.

Note: Unlocking some devices through Vodafone will incur a fee. Unlocking online automatically saves you $25. For postpaid phones there is no fee, but prepaid devices will incur a fee of $25 if you've had the phone for more than 6 months, or $75 if you've had it for less than six months.

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How do I network unlock my Apple iPhone?

If you’re the owner of an iPhone 5 or later, your phone should already be unlocked from most Australian carriers. But, if you do run into trouble with your iPhone 5 or above (or own anything below the iPhone 5) there’s probably no need to contact your carrier. Before getting yourself stuck in the infinite abyss known as ‘call waiting’ attempt these simple steps.

  1. Open iTunes and click the 'iTunes' tab in the task bar at the top of the window. Click 'Check for Updates…' If there are any updates available, then continue download and install the latest software version
  2. Once the update is downloaded and installed, restart iTunes
  3. Connect your iPhone to your computer via a USB cable
  4. Now to backup your iPhone. In the Summary screen (which should automatically launch when the iPhone is connected) click the 'Backup now' button
  5. Wait until the Backup finishes (this could take up to a number hours depending on how much content you have on your phone)
  6. Click on 'Restore iPhone' from the same Summary screen and follow the prompts (if your iPhone’s software isn’t up to date it will begin to download at this point
  7. Once the Software Update has completed downloading, your iPhone may restart and return to factory settings
  8. Upon restarting, you may see a message indicating that your iPhone is unlocked (though, this only applies to some carriers). If this is the case, select 'Continue'
  9. At the Summary screen, select 'Restore from Backup'. Again, this may take just as much time as Backup process.
  10. Once restored, your iPhone should be unlocked (If possible, it’s best to trial out a foreign carrier's SIM before porting your number out. This should save you from getting caught without a compatible SIM)

If this process fails, then follow the directions above for your carrier to have your handset unlocked.

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Get a better plan for your unlocked device

Now that your phone is unlocked, you can use it on the carrier of your choice. Remember that some handsets have restrictions on what frequencies they work, so you may need to do a spot of research on your phone's support. It's definitely worth reading our guide on how to switch networks and keep your number.

After that, it's time to buy a new SIM card and change networks. If you're looking for a better deal, filter the below plans to suit your requirements:

Image: Shutterstock

Brodie Fogg

Brodie is the Assistant Publisher at finder.com.au for everything tech and telco. When he's not drooling over the latest comic book releases or grinding away at the newest time-devouring RPG, he's helping people choose between Australia's streaming services, suggesting better broadband plans or comparing the latest mobile plans.

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8 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    DanielDecember 7, 2018

    Hi look like you have lots of experience with phones can you unlock iphone 6 japanese softbank ..not blacklisted or stolen ..?

    • finder Customer Care
      JohnDecember 11, 2018Staff

      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you fore reaching out to finder.

      Though we have a page that assists users in unlocking the network with your mobile device, we are a comparison website that helps in financial decisions. You may try the instructions provided under “How do I network unlock my Apple iPhone?” on the page and see if that works. If not, you may need to contact an Apple specialist for further assistance. Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Reggie

  2. Default Gravatar
    Sm-g950fAugust 18, 2018

    Want to unlock sm-G950F from telstra service free

    • Default Gravatar
      JoelAugust 18, 2018

      Hi there,

      Thanks for leaving a question on finder.n

      There is no option to unlock phones for free unless you research about it and do the steps yourself. This option might brick your phone so you may have to do this on your own risk.

      The safest option would still be via Telsta customer service for a small fee. To do this, please follow these steps:

      1. Call 125 8880 from your Telstra handset, or call 13 22 00 from a non-Telstra handset and say “Pre-Paid”.
      2. Follow the prompts to submit an unlocking request.
      3. Enter your IMEI code when requested.
      4. You will be advised of any fees involved in unlocking your phone, and payment instructions will be provided to you.

      Telstra often charge a fee for unlocking pre-paid or mobile broadband devices. For phones and modems activated for less than 6 months, the fee is $80. For phones and modems activated between 6 months and 2 years ago, there is a $25 unlocking fee. If you’re a prepaid customer, these payments can be made using your existing credit.

      Cheers,
      Joel

  3. Default Gravatar
    AmandaAugust 12, 2016

    I bought a iPhone 6 online and have discovered it’s locked to a carrier and I have not been able to identify which one it’s locked to . I have however found it is Not locked to Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Boost. Not sure which others it could be locked to. Can you Help? Please

    • finder Customer Care
      BrodieAugust 12, 2016Staff

      Hi Amanda,

      The network unlock process for iPhones is the same across every network. Just follow the steps above to restore your iPhone to factory settings.

      Thanks,
      Brodie

  4. Default Gravatar
    Sal23April 18, 2016

    Hi
    I want to buy a cheap Android phone brand new outright that’s Optus network locked (well the advert says it is anyway), can you please give me guidance if you know how I would unlock this so I can use my post paid Vodafone sim?
    Thanks

    • finder Customer Care
      LouApril 19, 2016Staff

      Hi Sal,

      Thanks for your question.

      Some phones can be unlocked by basic troubleshooting, while others need to be unlocked from the network. You could find the instructions how to do it on this page. Please note that it could take between 48 and 72 hours for your phone to be unlocked within.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

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