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Some mobile networks permit their customers to buy unlocked phones from the get-go. GiffGaff is one such example, and has become a household name accordingly; they let you buy a phone outright and then pay monthly for data, texts and minutes — or you can pay monthly for the phone in the form of a loan. Three also now sells all of its phones unlocked, although if you get a phone on contract you're unlikely to want to swap your SIM out. Unless, of course, you have major problems with its service, want to sell your phone or give it to a family member on a different network.

Virgin Mobile sells its contract phones unlocked, as well as most of its pay-as-you-go handsets. Unlocking is done via an online form available here. Your bill must be paid up to date, and you must have owned your contract phone for six months. For pay-as-you-go customers, you must register first, by calling O2 pay monthly customers can unlock their phone at any time during their contract for no charge.

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For other phones and tablets, O2 send a text featuring an unlocking code for you to use. As for O2 pay-as-you-go customers, just follow the same steps as above. The methods are exactly the same. If you purchased a handset from Three since January then it will already be unlocked. If you own an older handset then you simply have to fill in their online form. An unlock code will arrive within 72 hours, and it will take days for the unlocking to be complete on non-Apple devices but 72 hours for Apple devices.

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You'll hear back from them within 48 hours, with the unlocking process taking up to ten working days. If you bought your phone from somewhere other than a mobile provider , it might not need unlocking. It's easy to find out simply by inserting a SIM card from another provider. If the phone works as normal then it isn't locked. If it displays a message similar to 'incompatible SIM', 'enter subsidy PIN' or 'enter network unlock code', then it is locked. The IMEI number of your handset is unique and will be required by unlocking services.

This will display the digit number. It's a good idea to keep a note of this number to speed the process along.

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  5. The easiest option is simply to buy an unlock code online. You can find these codes on places like eBay — though be sure to check the seller's ratings beforehand. This method can often be the cheapest way to unlock your handset beyond finding the code for free, though it isn't without its risks. You can contact your mobile provider's customer services for an unlock code. This can be the quickest way to unlock your phone. We've included a list of customer service numbers for you to call below.

    Using a Mobile Phone in France

    Mobile provider Customer Services Number Another option is to take your handset to a phone repair shop offering mobile unlocking services. One drawback of this method is the variability in time and price. Depending on your handset's make and model, you may be able to find an unlock code online for free.

    The mobile provider Giffgaff's 'unlockapedia' is a searchable database of handsets and places where you can get unlock codes, some of which are provided free. As a general rule of thumb, the older your mobile is, the more likely you'll be able to find the unlock code online for free. Newer models cannot usually be unlocked this way.

    Once you have your code, it's easy to unlock your phone. Simply turn your handset on and type the code in using the device's number pad. This should unlock your phone immediately. Just don't expect much fanfare from your phone for its newfound freedom. You may have heard that unlocking your handset is illegal. Well, it isn't.

    Cheapest Way To Unlock Any iPhone Any Carrier - iPhone Unlock SIM

    Unlocking your mobile is completely legal and above board, so you won't be hearing the policeman's knock anytime soon. However, while you won't be breaking any laws, you will be voiding your handset's warranty.

    Unlocked phones vs. locked ones: Everything you need to know

    This is an unavoidable consequence of unlocking your mobile. If you're worried about invalidating your warranty, it may be better to keep your phone locked to your current provider. An unlocked phone can operate on any mobile network of your choosing. This means you can switch and change providers whenever you wish, just by putting a new SIM into your handset.