What’s the difference between a locked and unlocked phone?

And does “jailbroken” refer to a cell phone that’s been in the slammer?

It’s tough, not to mention confusing, to keep up with all the terms that surround technology today. Terms like “locked,” “unlocked,” and “jailbroken” – what do they even mean and how, for the love of Pete, do they pertain to your smartphone?

Don’t worry. We’ve got you.

An unlocked phone is a phone that’s not associated with a particular wireless carrier. One of the big benefits of this is that you can switch providers anytime you want – like when you find a plan that gives you all the bells and whistles the pricey wireless companies promise at half the price. (But we’ll get to that in a minute.)

On the other hand, a locked phone is a device that’s tied to a carrier like AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. These carriers “lock” your device to their network to prevent you from using it on another one.

Now what you need to know about a jailbroken phone is that it’s not the same as an unlocked phone and anyone who tries to tell you so is utterly incorrect. Jailbreaking a phone means messing around with its software and possibly installing a different operating system or tweaking the device so that, for example, apps that come loaded onto your phone that typically cannot be deleted, are deleted or hidden. It might sound like if you jailbreak a phone it would result in unlocking it, but it doesn’t. A jailbroken phone is still connected to its particular carrier. Don’t be fooled by someone offering to sell you a jailbroken phone and claiming, “It’s just like an unlocked phone!” It isn’t.


Why would a wireless company sell locked phones?

Excellent question. Locked phones are usually sold at a significant discount. You, or any consumer, sees an iPhone at a really low price at an AT&T or Verizon or T-Mobile store, and think “Wow!  What a deal!” Then you buy it – and pat yourself on the back for saving big time – but you also have to sign a lengthy contract which makes up for the price you paid. These carriers lock your phone so you can’t switch networks, get out of your contract, or sell your phone until they’ve recouped their loss. And lots of them lock your phone for two to three years. That’s rather extreme.

How can I tell if my phone locked or unlocked?

If you bought your phone from, say, AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile, and you have a monthly contract with them, your phone is most likely locked to their network. That’s just how they roll. If you bought your phone at Best Buy or at an Apple store or on Amazon, or someplace else entirely, it is most likely unlocked. They key phrase there is “most likely.” You can’t be certain until you check.

How to determine if your phone is locked or unlocked



Check your settings: iPhone

One way to tell if your iPhone is unlocked is to go to Settings, then Cellular, then Cellular Data. If the words “Cellular Data Network” appear, it’s most likely – but not definitely – that your phone is unlocked. The pricey wireless providers really make you jump through hoops.

Check your settings: Android

One way to tell if your Android phone is unlocked is to go to Settings, then Connections, then Mobile Networks, then Network Operators. While in Network Operators, click on “search now.” If a variety of wireless carries names pop up, it’s most likely – but not definitely – that your phone is unlocked. Once again, pricey wireless providers will work your last nerve.


Contact your wireless provider

You can call the customer service department for your carrier and ask them to see if your phone is locked. You can also request that they unlock it. If you’d prefer to talk with someone in person, you can always visit one of your carrier’s stores and do the same thing. For those who are more tech confident, it’s worth checking out your provider’s website to see if it offers information on how to unlock your phone. It’s important to note that, once you’ve requested your phone be unlocked, it can take your carrier 48 to 72 hours to do so. After that time has elapsed, call them to confirm that they have indeed unlocked your phone. You don’t want them conveniently – or inconveniently, for you – forgetting to do so.

Customer Service Numbers for:

AT&T: 1-800-331-0500

Verizon: 1-800-922-0204

T-Mobile: 1-877-453-1304

Cricket Wireless: 1-800-274-2538

Mint Mobile: 1-800-683-7392.

Straight Talk: 1-877-430-2355

Boost Mobile: 1-833-502-6678


Try switching SIM cards
Another way to determine if your phone is locked or unlocked is by switching out the SIM card. Don’t worry, it’s easy. Simply borrow one from a family member or friend whose service is provided by a carrier different from yours.  Then test it out in this manner:

Shut down your phone.

Remove it from the case, if it’s in one, and then remove your SIM card.

The SIM card will most likely be located on the right or left side of your device. You can pop it out using what’s called a SIM ejector tool or – why give yourself a headache? – a paper clip. Press the clip into the small hole on the SIM tray panel and it will pop open.

Next, remove your SIM card and put in the one you borrowed. Close the SIM tray.

Now, turn your phone back on.

If you get a message requesting a code to unlock the SIM, your phone is locked to your network provider. If you can use your phone like you always do, make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, your phone is unlocked.

My phone is locked. Now what do I do?

If you’d like to unlock your phone – and why wouldn’t you? It’s your phone and you deserve the freedom to make provider and plan choices for yourself – you need to contact your provider. Again, you can visit your carrier’s store or see if there’s assistance on its website, and of course you can call. If you do, be sure to have your account password and IMEI number handy. You can obtain your IMEI number by dialing #06# on your device’s keypad.

It sounds like unlocking my phone is the way to go. But what are all the benefits to it?

  1. If you want to switch service providers for any reason at any time, it’s a whole lot easier – not to mention a whole lot less expensive – to unlock your phone than to go buy a new one. Think about it. Spend a few minutes getting your current device unlocked or plunk down $600 on a new one? We spending a few minutes is the way to go and we think you’ll agree.
  2. If you would like to sell your device there’s no wondering or hoping that the purchaser’s provider is compatible. When your device is unlocked, anyone can buy it and start using it immediately. No hassles. Now down time. An unlocked phone makes that transaction nice and easy.
  3. When traveling internationally or just making international calls, an unlocked phone allows you to use local SIM cards rather than paying the super high prices many providers charge. If you make a lots of international calls on a regular basis, you can save hundreds of dollars each year.

In short, the greatest benefit to unlocking your phone is the ability to change carriers because… you’re not getting great coverage…. or your sell signal is spotty… or because you discovered a plan with such tremendous savings for yourself and your family that it would be crazy not to switch.

Bring your unlocked phone (and your phone number, if you like) to PureTalk and save

At PureTalk we’re proud to offer you plans starting as low as $20 a month for unlimited talk and text and 2GB of data. We’re on the same 5G network – the most reliable network in the country – as the pricey wireless companies and, among families of four who switch to PureTalk? They save $75 a month for an average of $900 a year.

More about PureTalk’s plans: They’re all flexible, flexible, flexible. If you need more data one month, you can simply go into your account portal and add more. When next month rolls around, if you need less data, you can go right back into your portal and reduce it. Simply log on to PureTalk.com, click on My Account, and select Manage My Data. Make your changes, save them, and log out. It’s that simple.

More about that 5G network: As we mentioned, PureTalk is on the same 5G network – the most reliable network in the country – as the pricey wireless companies. The 5G network provides significantly greater speed and is more flexible, reliable, and secure than any network before it. What does this mean to you? It means not having to worry about whether or not you’ll miss your favorite podcast – you won’t, or connect with your college-age child or grandchild before he or she takes off on spring break – you will.

And more about those big savings: Because saving nearly a thousand bucks a year bears repeating! Families of four who switch to PureTalk save $75 a month for an average of $900 a year. That’s a lot of money; money that can certainly go toward better things than your cell phone bill.

Why choose PureTalk?
When you choose PureTalk, you’re choosing to support a company whose values align with your own. You’re choosing to support a company whose CEO is a U.S. veteran. And you’re also choosing to support American jobs: 100% of our customer service is based right here in the United States.

Even more importantly, PureTalk offers a risk-free, thirty-day money back guarantee. That means you have nothing to lose. Sign up and give us a try for one month. We know you’ll love us. But if you don’t, simply cancel your service within thirty-days and we’ll return your money without any penalties. Plus, with PureTalk, you can bring your (unlocked!) phone and keep your phone number or choose from our terrific selection of the latest iPhones and Androids.

So, you’ve got your phone unlocked or you just bought one right here. The next step is to pick a plan that meets your needs, suits your lifestyle, and helps you save.

Don’t wait a moment more. Get the most out of your unlocked phone today!

Posted 1 month ago