How to Unlock Smartphones
While cell networks are now required to unlock devices for customers, they do make an effort not to release the phone right away. Most carriers currently require a minimum amount of paid service days before unlocking and have differing methods for going through this process. We will highlight the unlocking policies of major American cell providers below.
Verizon: In both prepaid and postpaid plans, Verizon will automatically unlock a device 60 days after the phone's purchase is made.
Sprint: Forty days after purchase, the device will be automatically unlocked within another two business days. Sprint is now part of T-Mobile so the brands will have similar policies.
T-Mobile: On postpaid plans, T-Mobile will remotely unlock the phone 40 days after purchase. For prepaid plans, the device will be unlocked after at least $100 is spent by the customer on that account and 14 days have passed since initial purchase. If that $100 is not spent, then the phone will only be eligible after waiting 365 days from purchase.
AT&T: Postpaid customers will have to wait 60 days after purchase, then make an unlocking request through their AT&T account page. Prepaid customers can go through the same process after six months of service.
Boost Mobile: Boost requires a full year of paid service before allowing the device to be unlocked, at which point the customer can make a request through their support hotline at 1-888-BOOST-4U.
U.S. Cellular: This provider automatically unlocks phones on both prepaid and postpaid plans after 120 days of service.
All of these carriers may refuse to unlock a phone that is currently reported lost or stolen. They will also allow special allowances for military personnel who have been reassigned to another location outside of the network's service.
Originally Published: Apr 2, 2009