If you are planning to get a new phone or move from your current carrier to a new one with your current device, it’s fundamental to know what a locked phone is. You may also be wondering if a refurbished or second-hand phone will work with your current network provider.

On RefurbMe, we have a wide experience comparing hundreds of Apple refurbished devices, including locked and unlocked iPhones. That’s why we want to provide you with the best definition of a locked phone to avoid any surprises when making your next purchase of a refurbished phone.

What Is a Locked Phone?

A locked phone is only compatible with one single carrier or network provider, such as T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. On the other hand, an unlocked phone is not locked exclusively to one single network provider, and it’s compatible with different carriers.

We must point out that it is possible for a phone not to work with certain carriers due to technical incompatibilities. However, most modern phones—including the iPhone—are compatible with most carriers worldwide. However, if you have a locked mobile phone or a locked iPhone, it’s not the end of the world since it is possible to unlock them.

A ruling by the FCC now ensures that users can have their phones unlocked by their carriers at the contract end. The method needs to be uniform and straightforward across carriers, and several of them allow you to unlock your phone after a short period on your contract.

How to Unlock a Phone

It is a little bit more complicated than simply unlocking your phone or SIM card from the lock screen. We have compiled the examples of unlocking a phone with three different carriers: T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T.

To find the process for additional carriers, try to look for the information on their official website before searching it on third-party websites. Most do it through an unlock request form on their website, where you will be asked to input the phone’s IMEI number and a few other details. Then, the carrier will unlock the phone for you.


On Android:

  1. Go to your phone’s Settings.
  2. Open the corresponding Network & internet section. For example, this is the path for Samsung smartphones: Settings > Connections > More Connection Settings > Network Unlock.
  3. Tap Permanent Unlock and wait until the mobile phone completes the process.

If you have an iPhone, contact T-Mobile and create a request so they can submit the unlock.


Verizon will automatically unlock your phone when these conditions apply:

  1. 60 days have passed since your purchase, and
  2. Your mobile phone is not flagged for fraud, or it’s not a lost or stolen device


  1. Visit the AT&T device unlock page.
  2. Make sure you meet the requirements to unlock your phone.
  3. Go to Unlock your device. If you don’t know your IMEI, call *#06# on your phone.
  4. In the next page, specify if you have a mobile number from AT&T and insert your number.
  5. Complete the following steps to send the request. Your phone will be unlocked after the request is fulfilled

Why Do Carriers Lock Phones?

High-end smartphones are expensive. Carriers subsidize the cost of a phone when they tie you into a contract (usually for a period of two years). Having the phone locked to the carrier decreases the chances of leaving the network provider.

It is also argued that the contract ties you into the carrier anyway, and it is fairly easy to unlock your phone nowadays that this practice is somewhat outdated. If we’re to be honest, locking mobile phones is pretty much pointless now, although some carriers continue to do it.

Should I Unlock My iPhone?

You definitely should unlock your iPhone for a number of reasons:

First, an unlocked iPhone gives you the freedom to use it worldwide. Fancy a week’s vacation to South Africa? Pick a new SIM card up at the airport in Cape Town and start texting and surfing the web with ease—forget high roaming costs, or even having no connection; an unlocked iPhone gives you much more freedom.

Second, an unlocked iPhone allows you to switch carriers in your country whenever you wish. Maybe you may move somewhere with no signal with your current network provider, or another service offers a better deal. Freedom to switch is a great advantage in these cases.

Third, unlocked iPhones are worth more. If you decide to sell your phone, an unlocked one can go for $100-300 more than a locked one due to its flexibility and additional benefits.

Fourth and final reason: it’s free! Since it costs nothing to unlock your iPhone, you may as well do it as there are no negatives.

How to Know If Your iPhone Is Unlocked

The process of knowing if your iPhone is unlocked is simple. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app on your device.
  2. Scroll down and tap General.​​​​
  3. Tap About in the next screen.
  4. Scroll down to locate Carrier Lock.

If the Carrier Lock screen says No SIM restrictions, you are free to use your iPhone with any carrier. If it doesn’t say so, it’s probably locked, and you might want to unlock it.

Save Money With a Refurbished Unlocked iPhone

If you’re looking to buy an unlocked phone, you can consider purchasing a refurbished iPhone. A refurbished phone has been restored to fully working condition after being used as a display model or returned for any reason. It has the same exact functionality as a brand-new model for a lower price.

You can browse unlocked iPhones on RefurbMe and start comparing prices. We only list refurbished products from professional merchants that offer a warranty.

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