There's a lot of confusion surrounding unlocked phones - often it’s thought to be illegal or dodgy in some way. The confusion arises from the fact that you can unblock phones, and this is illegal – phones are usually blocked by the network provider when they’re lost or stolen, so unblocking is an attempt to reverse this process.
Yet unlocking a phone simply means enabling it so that it is able to function with different SIM cards, not just the one that came with it. It’s perfectly legal. There are several advantages to having an unlocked phone:
- It’s worth more. If you want to try and resell your phone on something like Ebay you’re at a major disadvantage if it’s not compatible with other people’s SIM cards. Unlocking your phone can add value to it.
- You can take advantage of free sim offers available which often carry free minutes and texts.
- You can shop around for better deals from other networks or on different tariffs because you’ll be able to switch without having to change phones.
- If you often use your phone abroad you’ll be able to use local sim cards – far cheaper than using your UK sim abroad!
So how to unlock it? Well, there are two methods. One simply requires you to enter a code (which you can pay for or you can find online depending on the handset). The other requires using a specific data cable and software, which may involve sending the phone to dedicated unlockers, which you’ll have to pay for.
Most networks charge for unlocking, with prices varying between a reasonable £20 and a shocking £120! Vodafone are less mysterious with their pricing - unlocking a mobile phone is free for contract customers and pay as you go customers who’ve been with them for a year, otherwise it’s £19.99.
If your network is charging an unreasonable amount and you can’t find a code to do it yourself try your local high street. There are lots of independent phone businesses who can unlock your phone while you wait depending on the handset. It’ll usually be relatively cheaper too.