How to unlock your Samsung Galaxy Smartphone from a UK Mobile Network

January 14th, 2015

If you’d like to use a Samsung Galaxy smartphone on a different mobile network, you might first need to unlock it. This article will show you how to unlock a Samsung Galaxy handset from networks in the UK.

Galaxy S to Galaxy S5If you bought your Samsung Galaxy smartphone here in the UK, either on a Pay Monthly contract or on a Pay As You Go tariff, the phone will probably be locked to the mobile network from which you bought the handset.

If you’d like to use the handset on another network, you’ll first need to go through the process of unlocking it. Unlocking your smartphone is often necessary if you want to use it on a different mobile network (e.g. to take advantage of a cheaper SIM only deal, to use a different SIM card when travelling abroad or when giving the handset to friends or family). You can also unlock your Samsung Galaxy smartphone to boost its resale value on eBay and other websites.

In this article, we’ll take you through the process of unlocking a Galaxy smartphone one step at a time. We’ll show you how to check if your handset is already unlocked, how to find the IMEI number on your handset and how to unlock your Galaxy smartphone from each of the UK’s major mobile networks. We’ll also discuss the costs of unlocking and how long it’s expected to take on each of the networks. Finally, we’ll discuss some free methods of unlocking your Galaxy handset (not recommended for the majority of users).

Benefits of Unlocking

There are three main benefits to unlocking your Samsung Galaxy handset. Firstly, you’ll be able to benefit from cheaper deals at home (whether that’s moving over to a SIM only contract or another Pay As You Go network which offers lower rates). You can also save money when travelling abroad by using a local SIM card rather than roaming on a UK contract. Finally, unlocking your handset will make second-hand usage of the phone much easier. It’s also likely to boost the resale value of your handset.

Cheaper Deals At Home

SIM card

Unlocking your phone & switching to a SIM only deal will allow you to benefit from cheaper deals in the UK.

Once you’ve completed the minimum term of your contract (normally 24 months), you can save substantial amounts of money by moving over to a SIM only contract.

A SIM only contract gives you generous amounts of minutes, texts and internet at a monthly price that’s often around £20/month cheaper than your current contract. Often, people can save around £200/year simply by switching to a SIM only contract. You can keep the same number when moving mobile networks but you’ll need to unlock your handset before you do this.

At present, our recommended SIM only deals for use with a Galaxy smartphone are as follows:


SIM-only contracts normally have a 12 month commitment. For greater flexibility, you can choose a one-month rolling SIM only contract. For a complete overview of all the available options, you can see our full listing of SIM-only contracts in the UK.

Save Money When Travelling Abroad

Going Abroad

You can also save money when travelling abroad e.g. by taking advantage of the Feel At Home offer.

If you’re travelling abroad and using your normal UK SIM card, it’s possible to quickly incur huge charges for roaming.

In Europe, you can normally expect to pay 18.8p/minute for outgoing phone calls, 5.9p for every text message you send and 19.8p for every megabyte you download. A specialist SIM card will bring these prices down to either £10/month or £1.99/day (it depends on the country you’re visiting). You’ll need to unlock your Samsung Galaxy smartphone before using a different SIM card for travelling abroad. For more information, see our guide to the best value SIM cards for travelling in Europe.

When using your phone outside of Europe, typical roaming charges are substantially higher. You can expect to pay around £1.50/minute, 50p per text message and around £6/MB when accessing the internet. When data roaming on a normal UK SIM card, you can easily run up a £60 bill with only one day of typical data usage. Hence, when travelling outside the EU, it’s often a good idea to buy a SIM card locally in your country of travel. You’ll need to unlock your handset before you go in order to use a different SIM card abroad.

Are you travelling to Spain, France, Italy, the USA or one of 14 other countries?

Feel at Home FlagsIf you’re planning to travel to one of 18 selected countries, the best way of using your smartphone abroad is to take advantage of Three’s Feel At Home offer.

With Feel At Home, there’s no extra charge for using your smartphone abroad. Better still, the offer is available regardless of which network you normally use in the UK. Simply order one of Three’s All-in-One Pay As You Go SIM cards: you can benefit from the offer in any unlocked Samsung Galaxy smartphone. A £10 top-up will give you 500MB, 100 minutes and 3000 texts (all available to be used when abroad).

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Three 100 3,000 500MB £10.00
Three 300 3,000 25GB £15.00

The “All in One” Pay As You Go bundles can be used with Three’s “Feel At Home” offer. The inclusive minutes, texts and internet can be used abroad in any “Feel At Home” country. The £15 bundle has a fair usage policy of 25GB/month when in a “Feel At Home” country.

Countries included in Feel At Home: Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Macau, New Zealand (available from April 1st 2015), Norway, Republic of Ireland, Spain (available from April 1st 2015), Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America.

Order Three Pay As You Go SIM Card (with £10 bundle) »

Second-Hand Usage & Resale Value


An unlocked smartphone can be used on any network.

Unlocking your smartphone will also have benefits in terms of second-hand usage and increased resale value.

If you’re passing an old Galaxy smartphone to friends or family members, unlocking it first will allow them to use the Samsung Galaxy handset on their network of choice. They can also benefit from a low-cost SIM only deal.

If you’re selling your old handset (e.g. on eBay or Gumtree), unlocking the handset first may also boost the resale value of your phone. You’ll also increase the potential audience of buyers (otherwise, your phone can only be used by customers on one network).


In the UK, it’s 100% legal to unlock your handset for use on other networks. All major UK mobile networks provide unlocking as an official service. Unlocking your phone will not affect the warranty status or the way in which your handset works.

For some older Samsung Galaxy devices, there are unofficial methods through which you’re able to unlock the handset. Unofficial methods to unlock your handset may affect the warranty status. They could also change the way your handset works. For this reason, whenever possible, we would always recommend unlocking your handset officially via your network operator.

Step-by-Step Guide To Unlocking

Samsung Galaxy S5There are four simple steps to unlocking your Samsung Galaxy smartphone:

  1. Check if your Galaxy handset has already been unlocked. Some smartphones are already unlocked at the point when you buy them. It’s worth double-checking before you go through the rest of the process of unlocking your phone.
  2. Find out your IMEI number. The IMEI is a 15-digit code which uniquely identifies your Samsung Galaxy smartphone (no two handsets will share the same IMEI). You’ll need to have the IMEI number before you’re able to unlock the handset for other networks.
  3. Ask your mobile network to unlock the Galaxy smartphone. You’ll need to follow different instructions depending on the network you’d like to unlock the handset from. See the unlocking instructions for each UK network here.
  4. Enjoy using your new network or SIM card. It can take anywhere between a couple of hours and up to 10 days for your smartphone to be unlocked. Once you’ve entered the unlocking code in your phone, the handset will work on any compatible network in the world (enjoy cheaper rates at home and cheaper rates when away).

Through the rest of this article, we’ll discuss each of the steps in order.

Check Whether Your Handset Is Already Unlocked

The easiest and most reliable way to check whether your Samsung Galaxy smartphone is locked to a network is to order a free Pay As You Go SIM card from a different mobile network that you aren’t currently using. After inserting the new SIM card inside of your handset, there are two possibilities on what might happen:

  1. Your smartphone shows the name of the new network. If the name of the new network appears on your lock screen, your smartphone successfully accepted the SIM card you inserted. If the SIM card you used was from a different network to the one you were using originally, it would indicate that your Samsung Galaxy smartphone is already unlocked (there are a couple of exceptions, please see the notes below*). If your handset is already unlocked, it won’t be necessary to go through the rest of the unlocking process.
  2. You get an error such as “Invalid SIM” or you’re asked to input a “SIM network unlock PIN”. This error message will mean your Samsung Galaxy handset is locked to a network. It won’t accept SIM cards from a different network unless you first complete the network unlocking process (see below).

* Caveats: A giffgaff SIM card will work in your Samsung Galaxy smartphone even if it’s locked to O2. A SIM card from EE will also work in Samsung Galaxy smartphones locked to T-Mobile. You should bear this in mind when testing the phone with a SIM card from another network (ideally you should test the handset with a network that uses a different coverage provider).

When ordering a free SIM card for the purposes of testing whether your smartphone is unlocked, you’ll probably be asked which size of SIM card is required for your phone. The following table shows which size of SIM card is required in different models of a Samsung Galaxy smartphone:

Handset SIM Card Required UK Model Number
Galaxy S Smartphones:
Galaxy S Standard SIM GT-I9000
Galaxy S2 Standard SIM GT-I9100
Galaxy S3 Micro SIM GT-I9300, GT-I9305
Galaxy S4 Micro SIM GT-I9505
Galaxy S5 Micro SIM SM-G900F
Galaxy S6 Nano SIM SM-G920F
Galaxy S6 edge Nano SIM SM-G925F
Galaxy S ‘Mini’ Smartphones:
Galaxy S3 Mini Standard SIM GT-I8190
Galaxy S4 Mini Micro SIM GT-I9190
Galaxy S5 Mini Micro SIM SM-G800F
Handset SIM Card Required UK Model Number
Galaxy Note Smartphones:
Galaxy Note Standard SIM GT-N7000
Galaxy Note 2 Micro SIM GT-N7100
Galaxy Note 3 Micro SIM SM-N9005
Galaxy Note 4 Micro SIM SM-N910F
Galaxy A Smartphones:
Galaxy A3 Nano SIM SM-A300FU
Galaxy A5 Nano SIM SM-A500FU
Galaxy Ace Smartphones:
Galaxy Ace Standard SIM GT-S5830
Galaxy Ace 2 Standard SIM GT-I8160
Galaxy Ace 3 Micro SIM GT-S7275
Galaxy Ace 4 Micro SIM SM-G357FZ

If your smartphone isn’t listed in the table above, you can see a full list of smartphones and the required SIM card sizes on this page. A combi-SIM (provided by giffgaff, EE and O2) will work in all Galaxy smartphone requiring a Standard SIM or Micro SIM.

Finding Your IMEI Number

If you’ve already double-checked to make sure unlocking is required, the next step is to find out the unique IMEI number on your Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Galaxy S3 IMEI Number

The IMEI is a 15-digit code starting with 35.

An IMEI number is 15-digits long and will always be unique to your specific handset only (no two smartphones will ever have the same IMEI number). For Samsung Galaxy smartphones, the first two digits of the IMEI number should be 35. Make a careful note of your IMEI number: you’ll need it later on when requesting your unlock code.

There are two ways of finding the IMEI number on your phone:

  • Use the ‘Settings’ app. You can find the IMEI number through the Settings application. On your handset, navigate to Settings > More… > About device > Status. The IMEI number should be listed approximately half-way down in the list. You’ll probably need to scroll a bit to see it (see the screenshot for an example of how it looks). Take a careful note of the IMEI number: you’ll need it later on when unlocking your handset.
  • Use the ‘Phone’ app or dialler. Another way of finding the IMEI number is to open your phone’s dialler (just as if you were going to make a call). Dial *#06# (star hash zero six hash). Your phone’s IMEI number should pop up in a new window. You will only need the first 15 digits of the number displayed (ignore the slash and any numbers that follow it).

Unlocking Instructions By Network

EE, Orange & T-Mobile

EE, Orange and T-MobilePay Monthly. It’ll cost £8.99 to unlock a Samsung Galaxy handset if you’re a Pay Monthly customer on EE, Orange or T-Mobile. To qualify for unlocking, you must have had your contract for at least six months. The contract must also be currently active (you should get the unlock processed before moving to another network). You must also be up-to-date with all payments on your account.

To qualify for an unlock through the Pay Monthly route, EE must have a record on their systems about having provided the handset to you. If you don’t qualify for unlocking (e.g. if you’re not the original owner, if you bought your smartphone second hand or if you’ve since ended your contract on EE), you should instead follow the process of unlocking it as a Pay As You Go customer. You can order a free Pay As You Go SIM card and follow the instructions below for an EE Pay As You Go customer.

On Pay Monthly, the £8.99 fee for unlocking your Galaxy smartphone is charged to your next monthly bill. You can submit the unlocking request through a form on EE’s website. It can take up to 10 days to receive your unlocking code.

Pay As You Go. For customers on EE Pay As You Go, it’ll cost £8.99 to unlock your Samsung Galaxy handset. The fee is deducted from your Pay As You Go airtime balance so you should ensure you have enough credit before requesting the unlock. After requesting an unlock from EE, you should receive the networking unlocking code within a maximum of 10 days.

If you don’t currently have an EE Pay As You Go SIM card, you can order a free one for the purposes of unlocking. There’s a minimum top-up of £10 on your new SIM card (£8.99 will go towards the cost of unlocking your handset). When filling out the form on EE’s website, use the phone number on your new Pay As You Go SIM card.

As of December 2014, EE has removed the requirement to have used your Pay As You Go handset for more than 6 months (the six month requirement now only applies to Pay Monthly customers). They have also removed the original owner requirement on Pay As You Go. Prior to March 2015, EE charged £20.42 for unlocking your handset.


Pay Monthly. Pay Monthly customers on O2 can unlock their handset totally free of charge at any time during their contract. Simply fill out your details in the online unlocking form (you’ll need to provide account information, some security details and your handset IMEI number). It can take up to 7 days for a Samsung Galaxy unlock to be processed.

Pay As You Go. If you’re an O2 Pay As You Go customer, you’ll need to wait until at least 12 months after your original purchase for O2 to unlock your handset. After the twelve months have elapsed, it’ll cost £15 to unlock your Galaxy handset. The £15 charge is deducted from your Pay As You Go airtime balance so make sure you have enough credit before filling out the form on O2’s website.

Note: Customers intending to use their Samsung Galaxy handset on giffgaff won’t actually need to unlock their handset from O2 (a giffgaff SIM card will work in O2-locked handsets). For O2 Pay Monthly customers, it’s still worth requesting an unlock (it’s free). For customers on O2 Pay As You Go, you can save £15 by foregoing the unlock. To join giffgaff, you can order a free SIM card here.

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile

Pay Monthly. For customers on Tesco Pay Monthly, it’s normally £20 to unlock your Samsung Galaxy smartphone for use on other networks. If the minimum term of your contract has already ended (this normally happens if you’ve had the handset for more than 24 months) or if you’ve paid off the ‘Phone payment’ part of your ‘Anytime Upgrade’ plan, the £20 unlocking fee will not be charged. To request an unlocking, call the Tesco Mobile aftersales support number on 0345 300 6660.

Pay As You Go. There’s a £20 charge to unlock your Samsung Galaxy handset if you’ve had the phone for less than 12 months. After you’ve had the handset for more than 12 months, the unlocking fee will not be charged. You can request an unlock by calling the Tesco Mobile aftersales support number (0345 300 6660).


Pay Monthly & Pay As You Go.  If you bought your Samsung Galaxy handset in 2014 or 2015, it should already be unlocked for use on any network. Handsets bought before the 1st January 2014 could still be locked to the Three network. They can now be unlocked totally free of charge by filling out this form on Three’s website. It can take up to 7 days for the unlocking request to be processed.

If you don’t currently have an active SIM card on the Three network, you can order a free one for the purposes of unlocking. The SIM card may take up to two working days to arrive at your home. If you’d like to expedite the process and to get a SIM card more quickly, Pay As You Go SIM cards are available for £1 from your local Three store.

More information can be seen on the Three help pages.

Virgin Mobile

virginPay Monthly. On Virgin, many Galaxy handsets are already unlocked when provided on a contract. If your smartphone wasn’t unlocked when it was originally provided, there’s normally a £15.32 fee to unlock it for use on other mobile networks (the exact unlocking fee applying to your mobile can be found in their Pay Monthly call charge table). To request an unlock, call Virgin customer services on 789 (calls are free from your Virgin Mobile handset).

Pay As You Go. It’ll cost £15.32 to unlock your handset from Virgin Pay As You Go (see the tariff table for more information). You’ll also need to register your handset details with Virgin for security as per section 7.5 of their terms and conditions. Call Virgin customer services on 789 to request your unlock (calls are free from your Virgin Mobile handset).


Pay Monthly. You can unlock a Samsung Galaxy handset from Vodafone providing you’ve made at least three clear payments on your account (in practice, this means you’ll be three or more months into your Pay Monthly contract). It’s £19.99 to unlock your handset if you’ve had the phone for less than one year. After the first year, Vodafone will unlock your handset for free. Request a unlock through the Vodafone website: it can take up to 10 days before you receive the unlocking code.

Pay As You Go. Customers on Vodafone Pay As You Go are able to unlock their handset at any time. The cost is £19.99 which will be taken from your Pay As You Go balance. For this reason, you should top-up by £20 or more prior to requesting an unlock from Vodafone. You can submit your unlocking request through Vodafone’s website: it can take up to 10 days to receive your unlocking code.

Free Unlocking Methods

In the past (e.g. with the Galaxy S3 and earlier devices), it was reasonably easy to unlock your handset for free. You would normally need to “root” your handset (a process which would void the phone’s warranty) and you’d need to run a special app to generate the unlocking code.

As of July 2012, Samsung has tightened up the process around handset locking. On newer versions of their software, the handset will check for unauthorised unlocking every time it’s restarted or when the software is updated. Phones unlocked through an unofficial method may therefore become locked again in the future. For this reason, we strongly recommend you pay the small fee to unlock your handset properly.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Older devices such as the Galaxy S3 can sometimes be unlocked through unofficial methods.

If you’d still like to unlock your handset for free, the following methods are currently available:

  • Galaxy S4 (except EE): Free unlock via the Service Mode menu.
    If you have a Galaxy S4 provided in the UK (excluding those provided on EE), there’s a method to unlock your handset for free. It involves using a secret menu known as “Service Mode” – there’s a blog post on giffgaff with more information. You can also follow their step-by-step video instructions.
  • Galaxy S3 and earlier, Galaxy Note 2 and earlier: GalaxSIM (requires root, £2.59 unlock via app).
    If you have a rooted Galaxy S, Galaxy S2, Galaxy S3 (excluding the 4G version), Galaxy Note or Galaxy Note 2, it’s possible to unlock your phone through the GalaxSIM app. There’s a £2.59 in-app purchase before the app will actually unlock your handset. See the XDA Developer forums for more information.
  • Galaxy S2: Unlock Code Finder (requires root, free unlock via app).
    For users of an older Galaxy S2, the Galaxy S2 Unlock Code Finder will try to find an unlock code for your phone. Please note: the app was last updated in 2011. Hence, it probably won’t work if you’ve updated the software on your phone. Your handset must be rooted for the application to work.

More Information

For more information, please see our in-depth guide to mobile phone unlocking. If you’re looking to upgrade to a new Galaxy smartphone, please see our round-up of the best Samsung Galaxy deals.


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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 69 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. andy said:

    Hi I’ve brought a galaxy s6 edge thats never been used but it’s locked to o2 but I want to get it unlocked to use on the three network what would the best way be to unlock it and would I have to use it first on O2 to clear the region lock before try to get unlock codes

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Andy,
      Thanks for your comment. You will need to unlock the Samsung Galaxy handset from O2 – you can follow the instructions here in order to do it. With regards to region locking, it shouldn’t matter whether you’re using a SIM card from O2 or Three (the important thing is you make a 5 minute phone call using a SIM card from a European operator).
      Hope this helps,

  2. William said:

    Hi i recently bought a samsung galaxy s4 mini on the vodafone network and was looking to unlock it for giffgaff , I have tried the giffgaff free unlock but does not work i assume due to this being a s4 mini and not an s4. Do you know what i could do to get this on the giffgaff network ? Thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi William,
      Thanks for your comment. I recommend unlocking your Samsung Galaxy handset directly through Vodafone. It’ll cost £19.99 (free if you were on a Pay Monthly contract that you’ve had for more than 12 months).
      Hope this helps,

  3. N said:


    I have just tried a Virgin monthly contract sim in my EE contract Samsung s3 mini and it worked just fine. Does this mean the s3 is unlocked?
    Please advise


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi N,
      Thanks for your comment. As Virgin Mobile actually uses coverage from EE, it doesn’t guarantee that your Galaxy S3 Mini is actually unlocked. I suggest using a free Pay As You Go SIM card from a different mobile operator that doesn’t use EE for coverage (giffgaff for instance). That will give you a definitive answer to whether the handset is locked to EE.
      Hope this helps,

  4. Ashley said:

    I tried at least 10 unlocking services for my samsung note 4 locked to EE and nothing worked; apparently something to do with a samsung Europe server not updated. So I’m ordering the free sim on PAYG and trying to unlock it through EE, Im not sure it’ll work but it’s worth a try

  5. Hannah said:

    Hi Ken
    I have a Samsung note 2. My network sent an unlock code that has not worked.
    Is there anything else that I can do?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Hannah,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s really odd they’ve sent you an unlocking code that doesn’t work on your phone. Have you double-checked to make sure you’ve entered it in the right place on your phone? If so, it’s probably worth going back to your network and asking them to investigate why this is happening (they should be able to check the code for you).

  6. Scott said:

    Hello Ken,
    I have a samsung s4 that I got on contract from vodafone. I am looking to sell it to a colleague and want to double check it is unlocked.
    I put a tesco mobile sim card in and it asked me to select service provider, tesco was on the list and after I selected it I was able to make a call immediately. The phone also showed ‘tesco mobile’ on the lock screen, does this mean the phone is 100% unlocked for all networks?
    Many thanks,

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Scott,
      Good news – sounds to me like the handset is fully unlocked (a Tesco SIM card shouldn’t work in a Vodafone-locked handset).
      Hope this helps,

  7. Caroline said:

    Hi ken

    I want to buy the Samsung s6 edge in america when I go over there in a few weeks for my holiday (because it’ll be cheaper than buying it here). Do you think it will work when I get back on my ee Sim here in the UK? Or shall I just wait to buy it in the UK? If I do buy it there do I buy it on T-mobile?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Caroline,
      Thanks for your comment. You can buy the Galaxy S6 Edge over in America but there are a couple of things you’ll need to be aware of:
      1) Don’t forget you’ll need to pay sales tax in the US (this will be another couple of % on the base price). You’ll also need to pay import duty/VAT when bringing the phone back to the UK.
      2) Samsung applies something called a “region lock” to their smartphones. Essentially, it stops you from buying the phone in one part of the world (e.g. the US) and immediately taking it to use in another country (e.g. the UK). For the Galaxy S5, you needed to make a 5 minute phone call for the region lock to be removed from the handset. I’m not quite sure how it’ll work for the Galaxy S6 Edge but it’s worth double-checking before you buy the handset (if possible, best to activate the phone on a US network first).
      3) When buying your Galaxy S6 Edge over in America, make sure it’s SIM-free and unlocked. A phone that’s locked to T-Mobile USA will not work on EE in the UK (they’re different companies – smartphones are also locked to a specific network in a specific country).
      4) If you want to use 4G in the UK, make sure it supports the proper 4G bands. In the UK, we use LTE at bands 3 (1800MHz), 7 (2600MHz), 20 (800MHz). I haven’t checked but many US smartphones won’t support these bands. You can still use 2G and 3G if your phone doesn’t support 4G in the UK.
      Hope this helps,

  8. Ben said:

    Hi. I bought a S5 with cracked screen. It’s repaired now and running. Any suggestions where i should buy a code for unlocking, because it is locked to EE, and apparently they won’t provide me a code as a second hand buyer. The seller is not responding to my latest email.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ben,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe, as of earlier this month, it should now be possible for second-hand buyers to get an EE unlocking code. It’ll cost £8.99 and must be done with an EE Pay As You Go SIM card – you can’t use a Pay Monthly contract to unlock it (you can order a free Pay As You Go SIM card from EE’s website)
      Hope this helps,

  9. Liam said:

    Hi Ken,
    I have purchased a second hand galaxy s5 and it is sim locked to EE
    If i take out a pay as go sim with EE and use this account to request and unlock code from EE – will this work?

    I have tried two 3rd party suppliers and neither have been able to help me. please tell me I haven’t bought an un-usable phone!!


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Liam,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve been double-checking on this question today (EE has changed the rules on unlocking during the past week). It sounds like it should be possible to unlock your Galaxy S5 as a Pay As You Go customer on EE. You can order a free micro-SIM from EE here – top it up by £10 or more as you’ll need £8.99 of credit in order to unlock your handset. Once you’ve got the new SIM card from EE, submit your unlocking request through this online form (when asked for your EE phone number, enter the phone number from your new Pay As You Go SIM card). For the original source, see tweet #2 here.
      Hope this helps!
      P.S. For information: until only very recently, it cost £20.42 to unlock a handset from EE and they would only do it for the original owner of the handset.

  10. Alan said:

    Hi Ken
    I have a galaxy s3 which was on Virgin mobile.Originally I am sure it was
    unlocked,and actually used my o2 payg sim in it. But recently I have began to use the phone again and now will not accept the o2 sim ,only the Virgin one. Also when I put the o2 sin in it does not ask for an unlock code,so I am confused any help very much appreciated

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. It doesn’t sound as if your Galaxy S3 is locked to a network (if it was, it would display a message telling you to unlock it). Instead, it sounds as if your phone is simply failing to pick up to O2 network. Which network were you using on the phone previously? I recommend having a look at the following:
      1. Has it been more than six months since you last made a chargeable event on the O2 SIM card (e.g. an outgoing phone call)? If so, your SIM card may have been deactivated by O2. This can explain why you aren’t able to get a signal on the SIM card.
      2. Has your phone been configured to choose a network manually? If so, change it so it chooses a network automatically. On the Galaxy S3, go to Settings > More networks > Mobile networks > Network operators > Select automatically. It should then find the O2 network rather than your old one.
      If you’re still unable to get the SIM card working, I recommend trying with another SIM card here (free). Trying your phone with another SIM card inside will allow you determine whether the problem is on your SIM card or your phone.
      Hope this helps!

  11. Brenda Singfield said:

    I have a galaxy S4 – 12 months into a 24 month contract on Orange. As I am going to France for a couple of months I want to use a 3 sim because of their facility to use home package in France. However, I got my phone from Phones4U – now bankrupt – and Orange customer service said as it was from a 3rd party they cannot give me a code even though my package is with them. His suggestion was find someone in the high street! Fine – except I live in a semi rural area and do not have phone-unlocking shops around – any advice welcomed

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Brenda,
      Thanks for your comment. Does your Galaxy S4 come with any Orange branding (e.g. a logo on the box or pre-installed applications from Orange)? If not, then I’d have thought your phone would already be unlocked (I believe this is the case for most P4U handsets). It’s worth ordering a free SIM card from another network to check whether your handset is unlocked. For instance, try a micro-SIM from giffgaff (free). If a Three SIM card isn’t working on your phone, it could simply be the case that there’s no signal in your area. For this reason, it’s good to try another network e.g. giffgaff/O2 and Vodafone.

  12. Osama said:


    The samsung Neo i bought in the UK was sim only – can you tell me how i unlock seen as it is not registered to any particular tarriff?

    I gave the phone as a gift to someone abroad and now they cannot use it as it is locked… can i unlock for them?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Osama,
      Thanks for your comment. A SIM-free Samsung Galaxy handset should already be unlocked for use on any EU network. It’s likely the phone doesn’t currently work due to Samsung’s region lock being imposed on the phone. Samsung handsets running on Android 4.3 or later will initially work only on European networks. According to Samsung, “To use SIM cards from other regions, a cumulative call over five minutes must first be made with the SIM card from European operators”. As an alternative, it might be possible to take the phone to a local Samsung authorised service centre.
      Hope this helps,

  13. adnan said:

    Hi.i recently bought note 4 from a person privately. He said the handset is unlocked but later on I found my simply which is on 3 network doesn’t work .only ee .orange and Vodafone network works on do I know that which network it’s originally locked to .because that seller not answering phone anymore.i checked with ee customer service they said it’s not from shall I keep checking from VODA and the customer service or is there another their contact no are not free.thanx

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Adnan,
      Thanks for your comment. You pose a very intriguing question… if the handset is working on both EE and Vodafone it should already be unlocked for use on any network. Have you tried using a different SIM card for testing (e.g. another SIM card from Three or perhaps a SIM card from O2 or another network?). Another possibility is your handset accepts the SIM card from Three but doesn’t actually manage to connect to their network. It might be worth bringing the handset to your local Three store so they’re able to have a look?

      1. adnan replied:

        Thanks for the reply. I didn’t try Vodafone sim before today. I bought new vodafone sim but it’s locked too. I tried online to get code to unlock it but they refunded after waiting 34 days. I would like you to suggest me what option I have to unlock it. As I spoke to ee it’s locked by them but they don’t provide unlock to second owner and the first owner does not answer phone.

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Adnan,
          Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, it does sound as if your Galaxy handset is locked to EE. At present, EE will only unlock a Galaxy handset for the original owner of the phone. Hence, in this case, it won’t be possible for you to unlock the handset. You could try going via third-party services but this always has a risk in that they aren’t totally reliable (I’m also unable to recommend any particular service as I haven’t tried them myself).

  14. Anthony Capner said:

    Hi my name is Anthony I can’t get in to my Samsung Galaxy 4s mini because the SIM card lock I am with 02 pays how do I put in the code if I can’t get into the phone

    Many thanks for your tips

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Anthony,
      Thanks for your comment. What type of locking is currently stopping you from accessing the phone? Is it a lock on the SIM card or is a lock code on the phone? If the SIM card is locked, you can simply remove the SIM card from your handset (you’ll be able to access all of the features on the phone but you won’t be able to access the SIM card). If it’s a lock code on the phone, you should get an option to reset it through your Google account after five failed attempts. You can also do a factory reset but you’ll lose all of the data currently stored on the handset.
      Hope this helps,

  15. andy said:

    Hi ya.
    I have an s3 mini on talk mobile, I put a giffgaff sim in to see if it would work as the contract has passed and the phone asked if it was 02 payg or pay monthly, or tesco mobile. Does this mean it would accept this and just need some settings changed or is it locked.
    Hope this makes sense

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Andy,
      I’m glad to report your Galaxy S3 Mini is indeed unlocked :) It should work automatically for calling and texting but you’ll need to configure APN settings before using the handset to browse the internet. Take a look at this article for more information.
      Hope this helps,

  16. Rachel said:

    Hi Ken,

    I have a Samsung S4 that I am selling to a colleague (I have upgraded to the Alpha) however it is locked to Orange (or EE I am not sure now they have merged).

    What is the best way for me to unlock the phone or advise him to? As this phone is no longer on my contract (I now have an EE sim) I am not sure if I can ask for an unlock code for an old phone?

    Should I just tell him to go to a shop and ask for it to be unlocked?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks,


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for your comment. As the handset is locked to Orange/EE, only the original owner of the handset will be able to unlock it. It shouldn’t be a problem for you to still do this as you still have an account at EE – presumably, your details still match with those on your existing contract (I assume you simply upgraded to SIM only deal on EE?).

  17. Akriti said:

    Hi Ken,
    Thank you for the article.
    I have slight problem with unlocking the phone.
    I had Samsung Galaxy Note II from 3 network which in not in UK at the moment. I had asked for the unlock code from 3 and they send me the unlock code for it however, when i put the unlock code on the phone it gave me msg “Network Unlock request Unsuccessful”. I would really appreciate if you could tell me what might be the problem on that.
    thank you in advance

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Akriti,
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like this is a fairly common issue on the Galaxy S3 and on the Galaxy Note 2. Can you try the instructions posted here at XDA and see whether it succeeds in unlocking your handset?

  18. karl said:

    Hello ken. I’ve got an s5 which i brought from amazon and it was advertised as sim free, which i assumed meant unlocked. when i got the phone i just went straight ahead and popped my previous sim card in, which is on orange. Worked no problems. Today I got a sim only plan on 02, and now its asking for a “network unlock pin” is there anyway i can actually find out which network my phone is locked too. Many thanks karl.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Karl,
      Thanks for your comment. Besides looking for the telltale signs (e.g. a network operator logo on the box, a logo upon start-up or bundled apps with the phone), the only way I’m aware of you being able to do this is by using free SIM cards ordered from different networks. It sounds likely that your phone might be locked to Orange or EE so it’s probably worth trying a SIM card from their network.

  19. adam walker said:

    Hi there, fantastic article. Would you know if it’s safe to unlock a note 3 on Vodafone using the free methods? Reading the article makes me think not as it might lock again after a software update but just want to be sure.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Adam,
      I would strongly recommend unlocking the handset officially if it might be possible (especially if you’ve been a contract customer for more than 12 months, in which case unlocking your handset from Vodafone would be free). You can try unofficial methods but it will never be 100% safe or guaranteed.

  20. Tim said:

    Hi Ken, I’ve got a horrible feeling I already know the answer to this but..!
    I have just purchased a locked S5 (locked to Vodafone) from ebay and am currently with Virgin Mobile on a rolling contract. I was assuming I’d be able to follow a rooting process like I had done before to unlock it, but looking at this I’m not so sure.
    Is there anyway to get this phone unlocked in this scenario?


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe it might be possible to order a Pay As You Go SIM card from Vodafone: you can then unlock it as a Vodafone Pay As You Go customer at a cost of £20 (I’m not sure whether they actually do any ownership name checks). If you aren’t able to unlock via Vodafone, you can also try third-party services. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any experience unlocking a Galaxy S5 through unofficial methods so I wouldn’t be able to advise you on how to do this.
      Best wishes,

  21. RACHEL said:

    Hi, i currently have a samsung s5 via EE however their customer service and extreme bills have finally forced me to go with another provider. I applied for a virgin sim only contract and when it arrived became aware of 3’s feel at home deal which id find more useful as i travel to usa every couple months, so i applied for sim only with them also, in the meantime i searched online how to unlock my phone as had a sim (virgin) to test with. On doing so my s5 accepted the virgin sim which i found odd as EE are almost always locked, bonus. However on trying the 3 sim on arrival i was shocked to see this was now locked? It has baffled me for days surely its either locked or not and yet here it appears both? any ideas? thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for your comment. Virgin Mobile actually uses EE as their network coverage provider. For this reason, *some* handsets that are locked to EE will also work on the Virgin Mobile network. This explains why you’re able to use the EE-locked Galaxy S5 on the Virgin Mobile network.
      As Three is a totally separate network, you’ll need to unlock the handset before using it on their network.
      Hope this helps to answer your question!

      1. RACHEL replied:

        Many thanks for your reply it was most helpful, sadly EE won’t play ball on giving me a code to unlock :(
        Reasons for this are yet to be established for i have no outstanding bill and im but a few weeks from the end of the contract, literally. They state to me that they no longer will provide such codes, though have no explanation for this answer. Basically i cannot unlock my handset through their help as advised can you tell me next best option?

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Rachel,
          Sorry to hear about the problems unlocking your Galaxy S5 from EE. Unfortunately, besides going directly to EE, I’m not able to recommend any other methods (you are welcome to try them at your own risk but I can’t actually advise on which ones will work). If at all possible, however, I would still recommend persisting with EE (they *do* still provide S5 unlocking codes so it’s a matter of finding out why they’re rejecting your request).
          All the best,

  22. Erfan said:

    Hi Ken,

    Great article, thanks! I’ve got an S4 locked to EE. I’ve done a bit of research and it seems there’s no way to unlock for free using servicemode unlike the other networks. Can you confirm this, and why is this? The mobile phone service shops that offer unlocking, charge around £20 (in Belfast anyway!) to unlock an S4 – around the same price as if you went through EE, except you can get a code much quicker. Would you just recommend going through the carrier to get the unlock code? Do you know of any legit websites that provide codes for less that this? There are apps (e.g GalaxSim Unlock) which you can purchase for like £2.50 that provide codes for all phones except the i9505, which is rather annoying. Why is this?


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Erfan,
      I’m able to confirm that the EE Galaxy S4 cannot be locked through the Service Mode menu (the models provided by other networks will however allow you to do this).
      Regarding the mobile phone service shops and unlocking officially, I would always recommend going straight to your network. Two reasons for this: Firstly, the network-provided unlocking service is guaranteed to work (there’s no chance of voiding the warranty as it’s an official service provided by your network). The second reason is purely moral and ethical: the mobile network actually subsidised the cost of your handset. Third-party unlocking services can differ in how they might operate: sometimes they generate a code bypassing the normal network processes, other times they pay a backhander to corrupt staff within the networks to generate the unlocking code. Going directly to the network is hence the safest and most ethical way to unlock your handset.
      Finally, regarding the GalaxSim Unlock application, I believe it only works on Samsung devices with an Exynos processor (that is, all the Samsung handsets without support for 4G networks). The GT-I9505 is a 4G-ready smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and hence doesn’t work with the application.
      Hope this helps!

  23. William Fogarty said:

    Hi Ken. You seem to be the man to know. I was trying to unlock my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 which is locked to T-mobile. Have upgraded to a Note 4 and am now an EE customer. Have phone EE for unlocking code at cost of £20.42 and will take between 3-10 days. I presume when they give me code it will all work fine and if it doesn’t they should refund me. Do you know how reliable/successful EE are? Have tried the codes on Internet but think they must be for T-mobile USA whereas I am in the UK. Any guidance would be much appreciated.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Will,
      I’m yet to hear any complaints about an officially provided EE unlocking code failing to work (hence, I don’t there’s anything you need to worry about!). Regarding T-Mobile USA, you’re right in saying this is a totally different network . In fact, their version of the Galaxy Note 2 has the model number SGH-T889 whereas the model number for ours is GT-N7100 in the UK. This is why the unlocking codes and methods for T-Mobile USA won’t work in the UK.
      Hope this helps,

      1. William Fogarty replied:

        Hi Ken
        Many thanks for your informative response. Hopefully I will let you know in about a week once I have received the unlock code from T-mobile and it’s hopeful success. Yours in appreciation and keep up the good work trying to educate us poor not so tech say mortals.

  24. Kate said:

    I am looking to buy a Samsung galexy s4 off little woods it’s a sim free phone, as I already have a contract sim I just smashed my phone, I am currently on 3, would this network work in the sim free phone because I no 3 have been a bit funny in the past

    Thanks kate

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comment. A SIM-free Galaxy S4 will indeed work on the Three network (though make sure you have a micro-sized SIM card). The only SIM-free handsets, I’m currently aware of, which cannot be used on the Three network are 2G-only devices (this is because Three only provides 3G and 4G coverage).
      Hope this helps!

  25. Aargee said:

    I have just bought a new sim-free Galaxy 3 Neo which I assume is therefore unlocked. I want to use it as PAYG and after reading your excellent reviews I have shortlisted giffgaff and Three.
    My question: if the one I choose proves unsatisfactory and I decide to try the other, will installing the sim have locked the phone? Or can I simply replace the sim without the complications of having to unlock the phone?
    I would much appreciate your advice and know-how.
    Many thanks.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Aargee,
      Glad the articles have been of help! If you buy a SIM-free Samsung handset, it’ll always be unlocked for use on any network. For instance, you could try a giffgaff SIM card first and then a Three SIM card after. The handset will still be unlocked for use on either network.
      Automatic locking only happens on SIM-free iPhones from the Carphone Warehouse.
      Hope this helps,

      1. Allan Stobart replied:

        I bought a sim free galaxy S3 from Asda. Used a t mobile sim card but now want to use three sim card for use in France. Tried the three sim card and the phone is locked. Tried a couple of other sims with same result. So it appears sim free means not tied to a provider until you insert the first sim. Then it becomes locked To that first provider. I now have to go through the unlocking process.

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Allan,
          Thanks for your comment. Are you sure the Galaxy S3 was definitely SIM-free at the point of purchase? It may simply have worked on T-Mobile as they use the same underlying network as ASDA Mobile (both of them use coverage from EE). Only SIM-free iPhones from the Carphone Warehouse will automatically lock themselves to the first network used (Apple enforces a strange method of locking whereby they centrally maintain the database of locked devices – Samsung Galaxy smartphones don’t work in the same way).

          1. Allan replied:

            Definitely, I bought 2 identical phones, one for me and the other for my wife. I used T-Mobile and she used an O2 sim. Both now locked to those providers.

            The phones were sold as sim free

          2. Allan replied:

            MY APOLOGIES

            you are correct, after much head-scratching my son (more Tech savi) came up with the answer. The unlock code requested by my phone was the one required for the anti-theft service. I am now up and running with a new provider and £30.00 or so better off because I very nearly paid to have the phone unlocked.


          3. Ken Lo
            Ken replied:

            Hi Allan,
            Thanks for the update! Glad the problem is now resolved, hope you’ll now be able to use the phone on other networks smoothly!

  26. serena said:

    I’m no techie, but your tips are amazing and easy to follow! Thank you for saving me £10!!!

  27. John said:

    I have just been given an S2 but I can’t get it to work on O2. The phone must be unlocked as I can make calls and text with a virgin sim in it and a vodafone sim. I have seen something about Tesco putting a double lock on their phones but don’t know whether this is the problem or not

    any advice?

  28. Demon_man said:

    There is actually a free way to unlock the S3 and the Note 2, and its perfectly safe, it was published on gsm arena.

  29. roubina said:

    I asked my operator (02) for an unlock code. it is free as i am a pay mmonthly customer…4 times they gave me the same code
    and several times i tried entering the code but not working. tOday they found out it could be because I am not in uk. I am in Mauritius for the next 6 six months i and they say they rather not tempt me to try again as my phone could be permanently blocked. They want me to come back to uk and see a guru there. I have no phone since one week and i don't know what to do. What happens if it has been permanently blocked ? Is there any solution to unlock it without going to uk?

    1. JKay6969 replied:

      If you lock your phone inadvertently while trying to unlock it you can obtain an unfreeze code and enter that before entering the unlock code correctly.

      I am not aware if you will be able to unlock your phone officially while outside the UK but if you have a tech savvy family member you may want to post it home, get them to unlock it then post it back. I know this is relatively expensive and time consuming but the other alternative would be fly home, unlock your phone and fly back. Just a thought.

  30. Shree said:

    i have seen web sites advertising instant unlocking service for very little money. apparently they give you unlocking code,is this safe?reading yr tip, it seems that one should steer clear of these practises.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Shree,

      My personal advice is to go to your network and unlock it the official way: it's the safest and it'll definitely work. Whilst some of these other services might work, some of them are scams and some of them will unlock your device in a way which might leave it open to security vulnerabilities in the future.


  31. Adrian said:


  32. Pete said:

    If I unlock my S2 and upgrade it to ICS o/s will I still be ale to perform my existing contract with Orange?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Pete,

      Your software update to Ice Cream Sandwich will not affect your existing contract with Orange.

      Hope this helps!


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