When you purchase a phone from a carrier like AT&T, Verizon or Sprint, the device is essentially locked to that specific carrier. If you ever want to use your phone on another compatible network or sell the device to someone else for use elsewhere, you will have to ensure that it is unlocked or sell it to someone who uses the same carrier. The process is fairly simple but may vary depending on your hardware and your original service provider.
Over the years carriers have locked devices to their networks in order to ensure that customers would fulfill their contracts or payment agreements. By locking smartphones to one carrier, the service provider has final say on which networks the device can connect to. This makes sense when considering the discounts that some providers offer when you sign up for a new phone or new service.
Certain requirements must be met before a carrier will unlock a phone and those requirements can vary depending on what type of agreement you have with the service provider. If you purchase a phone outright from a non-carrier retailer, chances are that the device is already unlocked and can be sold or transferred without any issues. However, if you purchased a smartphone through a carrier and signed an agreement, then you need to fulfill that agreement before it can be unlocked. Let’s take a look at what’s required for each carrier before the unlocking process can be done.