How to unlock your mobile phone

Unlocking your phone takes minutes and lets you pick the best SIM-only deal on the market. Here’s how to unlock your mobile phone.

What is an unlocked mobile phone?

An unlocked phone means it’s not tied to a mobile network or operator and you can use any SIM card with it.

If you’re out of contract, your network won’t charge you to use unlock your phone, but if you’re still in contract or on a prepaid plan, they may.

Why unlock your handset?

It’ll allow you to choose a SIM-only deal from any provider, not just the one who sold you your phone in the first place.

You’ll be able to switch to a better deal whenever your plan ends. This could make your phone bill much cheaper or mean you can get more data, calls or texts for the same price you pay now.

Get a SIM only deal with the calls, texts and data you need for less.

It only takes a few minutes to find a cheaper deal and start saving.

Does your phone need unlocking?

Before you do anything, find out whether your phone is locked or unlocked.

Some suppliers offer already unlocked handsets, and some networks are linked and can be switched between each other. For example, Vodafone is linked with Clear Mobile, so if you changed provider, you wouldn’t need to unlock your device.

You can check if your phone is unlocked by popping a SIM card from a different network into your phone. If it works, your phone is already unlocked, and you’re good to go.

How to unlock your mobile phone

If you find your phone does need unlocking you’ve got two options:

  1. Use an online unlocking service
  2. Ask your phone provider

1. Using an unlocking service

If you want to unlock your phone straightaway, you can use an online Irish phone unlocking service.

You’ll be given a unique unlock code with instructions on how to enter it into your phone to unlock your device.

The fee for getting your phone unlocked through these services will vary depending on your handset, so check the full cost before going ahead.

2. Contacting your phone network

If you’re happy to wait, you can contact your existing network to unlock your handset for free once you’re out of contract. However, you may have to wait between 3 and 21 days from requesting your code to unlock your phone.

Most networks require you to call or email them with your request, but some let you submit your request online, including:

Some networks will only unlock handsets bought directly from them. This means if you bought your phone somewhere else they may decline your request.

What you need to know

To unlock your phone you’ll need to know your phone’s:

  • Make e.g. Samsung or Apple
  • Model e.g. Galaxy S22 or iPhone 14
  • Unique 15 digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number

How to find your IMEI number

  • Android phones: Enter *#06# into your keypad. A pop-up will then appear and display your IMEI number ready for you to use.
  • Apple iPhones: Go to Settings > General > About and look for the serial number on the device. Scroll down and you’ll see the IMEI number.

Unlocking your mobile FAQs

Does unlocking a phone affect the guarantee?

Yes, your mobile provider may refuse to fix a phone that’s been unlocked, so check before you go ahead.

You can get your handset repaired elsewhere if this happens, for example, via an online phone repairer or high street phone or computer repair shop.

Is it legal to unlock your phone?

ComReg allows networks to lock mobiles because it allows operators to sell them more cheaply. However, the subsidies mean that mobile operators expect you to stay with them until they recoup this cost.

Although it’s not illegal to unlock your phone, mobile operators have a number of requirements you must meet before they’ll give you the unlock code. You’ll find these in the terms and conditions when you sign up to a contract.

Get a SIM only deal with the calls, texts and data you need for less.

It only takes a few minutes to find a cheaper deal and start saving.