How to Unlock an iPhone in Easy Steps

iPhone lock

How to Unlock an iPhone in Easy Steps

Key Points

  • There are two types of locks on iPhones: passcode locks and carrier locks.
  • Passcode locks secure your data and prevent unauthorized access, while carrier locks restrict the use of the iPhone to a specific network.
  • Unlocking an iPhone can be done by entering the passcode, resetting a forgotten passcode with a computer, or contacting the carrier to unlock the phone.
  • Carrier unlocking allows you to switch mobile providers, use local SIM cards while traveling, or sell your device.

Learning how to unlock your iPhone gives you a lot of freedom with your device. There are a variety of reasons you might want to unlock your iPhone, including switching to a new carrier, using your device internationally, or simply unlocking your iPhone because the screen is locked. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to unlock your iPhone in a few easy steps.

Understanding the Two Types of Locked iPhones

Before you learn how to unlock an iPhone, it’s important to understand there are two different kinds of locks on iPhones: passcode locks and carrier locks. Passcode locks secure your data and prevent unauthorized access to your device. They require a 6-digit numeric code that you must enter to unlock your iPhone.

Meanwhile, mobile network providers put carrier locks in place to restrict the use of the iPhone to their network only. This means you can only use your iPhone with the carrier you originally purchased it from. Unless, that is, you unlock it for use with other carriers.

Locked vs. Unlocked iPhones

A locked iPhone means either its passcode or carrier is restricted. So, if you enter the wrong passcode too many times, then your iPhone becomes disabled. Apple enforces this security measure to keep your information secure.

Securing your iPhone with a passcode lock protects your privacy and ensures your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. If your iPhone gets lost or stolen, this also adds another layer of protection. That’s why it can be difficult to unlock an iPhone if you forget the passcode. The goal is to prevent fraudulent activity, so you’ll need to be able to verify that it’s you. Keep in mind that unlocked, passcode-free iPhones enable anyone to access the device and its contents.

Carrier-locked iPhones are tied to a specific mobile network provider and cannot be used with other carriers without being unlocked. Compare this to an unlocked iPhone, which has no restrictions.

Carrier locks are primarily a business practice. Mobile carriers want to retain customers and recoup the cost of subsidized devices, so they lock iPhones to their network. Locked iPhones can only access the services of that particular carrier, making it harder for customers to switch providers. Unlocking a phone with your cell phone provider lets you switch mobile providers, use local SIM cards while traveling, or sell your device. Some iPhones are sold unlocked from the start, while others may need official unlocking from the carrier where it’s been registered.

How to Unlock an iPhone

Now that you have a better understanding of how the different kinds of iPhone locking work, let’s show you how to unlock your phone using a few different methods.

Method 1. Enter Your Passcode

The simplest way to unlock your iPhone is simply to enter your passcode on your lock screen. Once you enter it, your phone will automatically unlock. If you’ve enabled FaceID, instead of a passcode, then showing your face will unlock your phone. If you don’t have FaceID enabled yet, you might want to do so, since it can be a failsafe against forgetting your passcode.

iPhone password screen
Type in your 6-digit passcode to unlock your phone.


Method 2. Resetting a Forgotten Passcode

If your phone is locked, but you forgot your passcode, you can still unlock your iPhone. Note that this process requires a computer (Mac or PC). If you’re using a PC, then you’ll need to have iTunes installed and you will lose all your data if you haven’t previously backed up your phone. You’ll also need a lightning cable to plug into your computer. 

The first thing you need to do is turn off your iPhone. Make sure that it’s fully off and plugged into your computer. Then, put your phone into recovery mode. You can do this by pressing and quickly releasing the volume up button, then the volume down button. Then, press and hold the side button. This will bring up the iPhone restore screen that shows a picture of the lightening cable going into a computer.

Then, you need to locate your phone in Finder or via iTunes. This will bring you to a screen that gives you the option to restore your phone. Simply click the “Restore iPhone” option and the process will begin. 

iPhone in Finder
If you have forgotten your passcode, you may have no choice but to restore your iPhone from a backup.


Once it’s completed, your device will restart and you can set up your device, just like you would a new iPhone.

Method 3. Unlock Your iPhone With Your Carrier

The final way to unlock your phone is to go through your carrier and have them unlock the phone on their end. If you’re moving to a new carrier, then you’ll need to ensure that your device is compatible with the desired network. Check your device’s compatibility by comparing its specific model with the supported devices on the new carrier’s website. You’ll also need to make sure your iPhone meets the eligibility requirements for unlocking from your current carrier. These may include being paid off in full, having no outstanding balance, and your account being in good standing.

After that, you can contact your current carrier to request an unlock. Each carrier has its own unlock process, so you may need to visit their website or call their customer service for assistance. For example, AT&T customers can submit an unlock request online, while T-Mobile customers can contact customer support. Verizon only locks its devices for 60 days after purchase to help prevent theft.

Once your carrier has confirmed that your iPhone is unlocked, you can simply switch out the old SIM card for the new one from your carrier. Keep in mind that carrier unlocking doesn’t guarantee it will work seamlessly on all networks. Especially those in different countries or using different network technologies.

Closing Thoughts: How to Unlock an iPhone

As you’ve learned, unlocking your iPhone can mean a few different things. It could mean unlocking with your passcode, resetting your device since you forgot your passcode, or unlocking your iPhone from your carrier. It’s crucial to understand the difference between the two types of locks, the passcode lock and the carrier lock, as each has a different method for unlocking. Then, you can apply the steps above to unlock your iPhone. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between a carrier lock and a passcode lock?

The difference between a carrier lock and a passcode lock lies in their purpose. A passcode lock is a security measure to protect your data from unauthorized access and device theft. Mobile networks impose a carrier lock to ensure you only use the device on their network.

Can you still unlock your phone if you forgot your passcode?

Yes, you can unlock your iPhone if you’ve forgotten your passcode, but it requires a process that includes putting the iPhone into recovery mode and restoring the device. If you’re using a PC, then you’ll need to have iTunes installed too. However, the recovery process will erase all your data if it’s not backed up beforehand.

How long does it take for a carrier to unlock an iPhone?

It will depend on the carrier’s policy. In general, it can take a few days, but sometimes it can be as little as 24 hours.

Is every iPhone capable of being unlocked from the carrier?

Almost every iPhone is capable of being unlocked, as long as it meets the eligibility requirements set by the carrier. This typically includes the device being paid off in full and your account being in good standing.

Are there any charges associated with unlocking an iPhone through your carrier?

This depends on what carrier you’re using. While some carriers may unlock your iPhone for free, others may charge a fee, especially if the device is still under contract or if it’s an early unlock.

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