If you’ve purchased a SIM-free iPhone from certain UK retailers, it may have locked itself to the first mobile network you used on the handset.

Typically, a SIM-free mobile phone is also an unlocked smartphone. As you’ll have paid the full retail price for your handset upfront (up to £1,000 for the latest flagship smartphone), you’ll normally be able to use the handset on the mobile network of your choice. For instance, you could get a cheap SIM-only deal or you could use a free Pay As You Go SIM card inside the handset.

Historically, things haven’t always been so simple when purchasing a SIM-free iPhone in the UK. In the past, SIM-free iPhones from certain UK retailers (including the Carphone Warehouse) would lock themselves to the first mobile network used on the handset. The iPhones were also restricted to only working on UK mobile networks. Nowadays, this is no longer the case for newly-purchased iPhones but you may still be affected if your iPhone was purchased in the past.

We’d currently recommend buying your SIM-free iPhone from John Lewis. You’ll benefit from a 2-year guarantee at no extra charge, along with the John Lewis “Never Knowingly Undersold” promise. The standard warranty on an iPhone is just 1 year when purchased from most other retailers.

In this article, we’ll discuss SIM-free iPhones in the UK and we’ll look at how the unlocking status differs depending on where you buy it. We’ll also look at the best places to buy a permanently-unlocked iPhone and how you can unlock a SIM-free iPhone from your mobile network.

iPhone: Unlocking Status By Retailer

In the UK, you can now buy a permanently unlocked iPhone either directly from Apple or from a range of third-party retailers (including John Lewis, Argos and the Carphone Warehouse). You’ll get a SIM-free iPhone that’s permanently unlocked for use on any network (there is no longer the automatic locking behaviour that affected some iPhones in the past).

You can also buy a permanently unlocked iPhone from three UK mobile networks: BT Mobile, giffgaff and Three. Both giffgaff and Three offer the iPhone on Pay As You Go with a minimum top-up of £10. Meanwhile, BT Mobile only offers the iPhone on a Pay Monthly basis with a 24-month contract.

The following table summarises the unlocking status of iPhones purchased from various UK retailers:

Retailer Will the iPhone be permanently unlocked?
Direct Apple Store Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked.
Third-Party Retailers Argos Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked.
Carphone Warehouse Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked (since July 2017).
Currys Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked (since July 2017).
John Lewis Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked.
PC World Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked (since July 2017).
Unshackled Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked.
Mobile Network BT Mobile Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked.
giffgaff Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked.
Three Yes, the iPhone will be permanently unlocked.
EE No, the iPhone will be locked to EE.
O2 No, the iPhone will be locked to O2.
iD Mobile No, the iPhone will be locked to iD Mobile.
Tesco Mobile No, the iPhone will be locked to Tesco Mobile.
Virgin Mobile No, the iPhone will be locked to Virgin Mobile.
Vodafone No, the iPhone will be locked to Vodafone.

If your iPhone was originally purchased from the Carphone Warehouse, Currys or PC World before July 2017, it will lock itself to the first mobile network used on the handset. This was previously summarised in the small print available on the Carphone Warehouse website (this has since been removed as it no longer applies to new sales):

The iPhone will lock itself to the network of the first SIM card that is used in the phone. Subsequently attempting to use it on any other network, for example by replacing the SIM card, may mean it becomes permanently unusable. SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards.

To be clear, it’s been confirmed by Carphone Warehouse (e.g. on Facebook, Twitter and their official website) that this policy no longer applies for SIM-free iPhones purchased from July 2017 onwards.

Buying An Unlocked iPhone

In the UK, there are now numerous retailers where you can buy a permanently-unlocked iPhone.

The following table compares how much you’d pay for a permanently-unlocked iPhone at various retailers:

Retailer iPhone XS iPhone XS Max iPhone XR iPhone X iPhone 8
John Lewis & Partners £999.00 £1,099.00 £749.00 £749.00 £599.00
Argos £999.00 £1,099.00 £749.00 £749.00 £599.00
Carphone Warehouse £999.00 £1,099.00 £749.00 £799.00 £599.00
Currys PC World £999.00 £1,099.00 £749.00 £799.00 £599.00
Apple £999.00 £1,099.00 £749.00 £599.00

* Requires a £10 minimum top-up with purchase of iPhone.

We often recommend buying a SIM-free iPhone from John Lewis as you can benefit from their 2-year guarantee and their “never knowingly undersold” promise. You’ll also get a 2-year guarantee included in the price (the standard warranty is just 1 year when purchased from most other retailers).

Order an unlocked iPhone from John Lewis →

If you opt to buy an unlocked iPhone from giffgaff or Three, you’ll need to top-up at least £10 on your giffgaff or Three Pay As You Go SIM card. There’s no obligation to continue using your SIM card as you can switch to another network at any time without the need to unlock your iPhone.

Unlocking a SIM-Free iPhone

Apple Store
If you aren’t sure which network your iPhone has locked to, you can double check by making a Genius Bar appointment at your nearest Apple Store.

If you have a SIM-free iPhone that was originally purchased before July 2017, it may have locked itself to the first mobile network you used on the handset. To use it with a SIM card from a different mobile network, you’ll need to go through the process of unlocking it.

The first step is finding out which mobile network the iPhone has locked to. For most people, this should be fairly straightforward as it’s the first mobile network you used on the device (either EE, O2, Three or Vodafone). If you were using a virtual network operator such as giffgaff or Tesco Mobile, your iPhone may have locked itself to the underlying coverage provider.

If you aren’t sure which mobile network your iPhone has locked to, you can find out by calling AppleCare or by visiting your nearest Apple Store and making a Genius Bar appointment. The staff at Apple will check the ‘activation policy’ of your iPhone. This will tell them which mobile network your iPhone is currently locked to.

Once you’ve found out which mobile network your iPhone has locked to, follow the relevant instructions for unlocking it from that network:



If your SIM-free iPhone has locked itself to the EE network, you can unlock it by contacting EE. It’s free to unlock the iPhone if you’re an EE Pay As You Go customer – you can order a free EE SIM card to join the network. Alternatively, if you’re a non-customer, it will cost £8.99 to unlock your iPhone. You can reach the EE unlocking team on 0800 956 6000 (select option 2 and then option 4).

View full unlocking instructions for EE →



If your SIM-free iPhone has locked itself to O2, you can unlock it once you’ve been an O2 Pay As You Go customer for at least 12 months. There’s a fee of £15 to unlock your iPhone on O2 Pay As You Go. Alternatively, customers with an O2 Pay Monthly contract can unlock their iPhone for free at any time.

View full unlocking instructions for O2 →



If your SIM-free iPhone has locked itself to Three, you can unlock it for free at any time as a Three Pay As You Go customer. Simply order a free Pay As You Go SIM card from Three and then fill out the unlocking form on Three’s website.

View full unlocking instructions for Three →



If your SIM-free iPhone has locked itself to Vodafone, you can unlock it for free as a Vodafone Pay As You Go customer. You can join by ordering a free Vodafone SIM card, which must be used for at least 30 days before you request the unlock. Alternatively, you can use your Pay Monthly contract for unlocking as long as you’ve had it for at least 3 months.

View full unlocking instructions for Vodafone →

Once you’ve unlocked a SIM-free iPhone, it will be permanently unlocked for use on any network. It should also start working on mobile networks outside of the UK.

Other Brands Of Mobile Phone

The automatic locking of SIM-free devices has only occurred on Apple iPhone devices. If you’re using a SIM-free smartphone from any other manufacturer (e.g. from Samsung, Huawei, Google, Sony, Motorola, etc), it will not lock itself to the first mobile network used.

More Information

For more information, please see our article on mobile phone unlocking and on how to unlock your iPhone from UK networks.

Your Comments 517 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 517 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • If av baught a phone off someone and they got or on monthly payments and it doesn’t come with a sun but they aren’t going to pay the bill for the handset will virgin block it ??

  • Hi Ken,

    If the phones after July 2017 does not get locked to the first carrier network as in the past, does that mean people can’t do fraud when selling you a second hand phone say the iPhone 11 if factory unlocked? Example, selling you a phone and reporting it stolen via imei number and getting it blocked. I wouldn’t think there would be anything to be cautious about right as if the phone doesn’t get locked to any carrier no carrier would want to block the imei number as it’s nothing to do with them.

    I know to be on the safe side buying phones with no sim being put in that is factory locked Is a safe method.

    Be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • Hi Kasim,
      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think it makes a major difference here. When a phone is reported as stolen, it will normally be IMEI-blacklisted across all of the UK networks. Therefore, whether you’re buying a phone that’s locked or unlocked shouldn’t make any difference 🙂
      Hope this helps,

  • Hai Ken
    I just bought iphone 11 with Vodafone contract accidently i put my Libera sim first and then Vodafone. Vodafone doesn’t shows any network coverage. Does it affect the contract?

    • Hi Shyam,
      Thanks for your comment. I don’t believe the iPhone 11 locks itself to a network (and this is especially the case with iPhones provided on a contract, which have never locked to the first network used).

  • Hi Ken

    Just found your website very informative but can you answer my question – I’m going to the USA and thinking of buying an iPhone XR whilst over there but will it work with my UK virgin sim? When I get home?

  • Hi
    I’ve bought a sim free iPhone 11 max pro for a relative in Iraq. Would they be able to use it there as it’s sim free with their own SIM card and network ?


    • Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, a SIM-free iPhone purchased in the UK should also work in other countries, subject to network compatibility. A quick search on Google suggests they also use GSM technology in Iraq, so the iPhone should work there without any issues.
      Hope this helps,

    • Hi Harry,
      Very good question! I think it used to be possible for Apple to check the activation policy of individual iPhone devices. I imagine this should still be possible so I’d maybe consider making an appointment at your nearest Apple retail store to see if they’re able to check this for you.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi
    Purchased my phone 2014 from curry’s and had an ee payg sun put in. Tried to change this week only to find it’s locked. Am currently going through the process of unlocking.
    My question is, if I put another provider sim in my phone, will it become locked again?

  • Simon Anthony Coope said:

    Buying an iphone is like getting a tattoo, its resale value is : ( , its on you till you pay for it removing, overtime it gets worse, expensive, doesnt have an headphone socket and you will want a new one every year and stuck with the previous one that you dont like.

  • Hi really think your site is great , quick question I have bought an unlocked iPhone 7 planning to give to daughter in Australia , will it function ok ,I have heard apps aren’t compatible to download over there ,she uses her phone for banking Facebook etc will these load ,Cheers

    • Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe it should be fine to use an unlocked iPhone 7 in Australia, and there shouldn’t be any restrictions on the apps you’re able to download.

      • Hi Alan, could let me know how this goes? I’m interested in this also, thanks! I’m not specifically thinking about an iPhone, any phone really.

  • Hello. I have changed my provider from EE to Three. I have IPhone 5c bought as simfree in UK. Perhaps 3 years ago. The new sim is not working as showing Activation Required message. I have already left EE. I don’t know how to unlock it if it’s a problem of automatic locking with first used network. It’s a frustrating and unnecessary feature of Apple…..Could you suggest any help?

      • What if other European SIM cards work fine, but require an activation with Apple online each and every time inserted? (SIM cards in China also do not work, notice that cannot activate with that sim)

        Seems more complicated than Locked/unlocked!

  • Hi Ken
    I have an iPhone 7 that was originally with EE, they unlocked this and I went with Vodafone, they weren’t great where I am so they released me and I went to BT who were horrendous. I have moved to O2 with a new phone so was selling the 7. The buyer put a three SIM card in the phone and it says that sim doesn’t work. I tried my O2 one in same message. So I put the BT one back in (out of contract) but this went in ok and although no service it worked and showed connected to BT.
    They say they haven’t locked it but doesn’t explain how it is locked to BT. Any thoughts greatly appreciated.


    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. One thing that might be worth mentioning is I believe BT Mobile SIM cards will work in an EE-locked handset (they both use EE as the underlying network). To properly test whether the iPhone is unlocked, I’d recommend using a SIM card from O2, Three or Vodafone.
      If you believe the handset to be unlocked, but it isn’t acting in this way, you can get in touch with Apple to check the activation policy on your device.

  • Amna Aurangzeb said:

    I went to Carphone Warehouse in Bury to buy an I phone x for my daughter who lives in Pakistan.i wanted a sim free phone which could be used on a Pakistani sim .I was told that the iPhone x they have has a regional lock and it would not work in Pakistan unless u put a uk sim and use it in Pakistan on roaming .Please confirm this information if it’s true .Is it ok if I buy a sim free phone from uk to be able to work in Pakistan

    • Hi Amna,
      Many thanks for your comment. Until recently, the policy was that iPhones sold by the Carphone Warehouse, and a number of other third-party retailers, would not work for activation purposes with a SIM card from outside the UK. The same policy didn’t apply to iPhones from most other retailers (e.g. the Apple Store, John Lewis, giffgaff, etc).
      This policy changed in July 2017 so it should no longer be the case. However, to be safe, I’d probably still choose to buy it from somewhere like John Lewis, as iPhones from there have always worked with SIM cards in other countries.

  • Hi Ken,
    First thank you for all your valuable tips. Now the problem….I bought a sim free Moto G5 from John Lewis last June. On receipt I took it to a local Carphone Warehouse outlet for a Sim and got a pay as you go Bundle from O2 because I get the best coverage from O2 in my village. Now, going to the USA for a month in May. Want to get a 3 Mobile card as you suggest. However, O2 now say they cannot unlock the phone which seems locked to them because I bought the phone from a third party. They say they must contact Motorola to get it unlocked and I’m still waiting! What is going on?

    • Hi Karen,
      Many thanks for your comment. Your Moto G5 shouldn’t be locked to O2. As far as I know, John Lewis sell all of their handsets unlocked and Motorola handsets will never lock themselves to the first mobile network used (this is a behaviour unique only to certain iPhone handsets). Would it be possible to try a different SIM card in the handset, as I’m sure it should be able to accept SIM cards from another network?

      • Many thanks again, Ken. I have tried two new Sims: one from ASDA and the other from Giffgaff.
        With both I did not receive any messages like Invalid SIM, etc. but I couldn’t make any calls or send/receive sms messages either. With Giffgaff however, I did receive a ‘welcome’ sms message asking me to activate the SIM via the internet. I’m taking this as the Moto G5 is not locked as you suggested. I will go ahead and get the PAYG sim from 3 Mobile closer to my departure date and hope for the best then! Thanks again for all your hard work and valuable tips.

  • Hi, I bought a sim free iphone 7 from Argos in September 2017 and put my SIM card in from Talktalk. Now TalkTalk are stopping the mobile so I need another SIM card. The carrier on my phone says it’s vodafone! Not sure who to go to if my phone has locked, fingers crossed it’s fully unlocked.

  • Hi Ken

    I would like to buy a iPhone 8 Plus from my local Argos store but will it be fully
    unlocked or lock to the first sim?
    Any help would be appreciated as Argos website is confusing!



  • Hughes Robert said:

    My old iPhone 5 locked itself to 02 on giffgaff. O2 were less than helpful but giffgaff were more than happy to get the phone unlocked (or as they call it unlatched).

    • Hi Hughes,
      Many thanks for the feedback on how you unlocked your iPhone from giffgaff/O2. Just for my understanding & also for future reference for other readers of this page, would you mind letting me know how you managed to get the unlock from giffgaff? Did it just involve submitting a ticket to one of their agents, or was the process a little more convoluted than that?
      Thanks again for your help! 🙂

      • Robert Hughes replied:

        Very straight forward with giffgaff agent. Just gave them IMEI. Phone was bought unlocked (not from giffgaff) but latched itself to first sim inserted (giffgaff, 02 carrier) 02 would not help but giffgaff fine. Now waiting for unlatch which could take a few days (Apple, via giffgaff).

        • R Silver replied:

          Hi Robert,

          Its been a while since this post, but perhaps you will see!

          I’ve had the same issue- switching from EE to giffgaff- iPhone now locked to ‘O2 Tesco’.
          (Which is actually the second network I will be using on the phone- i’ve been on EE for two years no problem! Not sure what happened!)

          I sent a message to a giffgaff agent who said they would be unable to help as they don’t unlock phones and to contact O2 Tesco. Needless to say i’ve been ringing round various places since getting home from work and have got nowhere!

          Your post gives me hope! I think I will try giffgaff again- was it really as simple as submitting a question to an agent and explaining the problem?!

          I’ll have another go tomorrow.

          Thanks! And thanks Ken for your very helpful site!

  • I purchased an iPhone X from Apple Online.

    The article confirms what I already thought, it is unlocked.

    Yesterday I was told it was locked to a carrier. I called Apple. I spoke to CS and support line. Told it should be unlocked. Was mentioned that phone may lock to first sim inserted. In my case, the carrier was not the first one inserted. After sales were closed so a callback scheduled for this morning.

    In the meantime I am told phone now works on several carriers so Apple must have unlocked remotely.

    I speak to Apple they told me that Apple can’t unlock a phone locked to carrier and this can’t happen over night.

    I did actually try phone myself so going on what I was told by third party.

    This has left me unsure how the lock/unlocking process works.

  • Hi, I want to by a phone from third party. It’s iPhone 6s brand new and still in sealed box, seems that it is locked to o2. Seller told me that all I need to do is just to call o2, and they will unlock the phone. Is it true? Is it so simple?Thank you

    • Hi Edd,
      Many thanks for your comment. You’ll need to make sure you qualify for the iPhone unlocking. If you’re a non-O2 customer, you may need to join O2 Pay As You Go in order to qualify (which may come with a 12 month wait and also an additional fee to unlock your iPhone). For this reason, I’d normally recommend against buying a locked iPhone (instead, I’d pay just a little bit more and save yourself the hassle).
      Hope this helps,

  • Hello, I’m just about to buy iPhone 7 plus locked to Vodafone. Although I’m buying this from third party company not connected with phones as CPW etc. I’ve spoken to Vodafone support and it’s not a problem for them to unlock a device if I’ll get their sim and use it for the month. And here I have a question. After that time and after unlocking, will the phone be able to take any sim at any time or will it lock again to the first one I’ll put inside. I would also add that after unlocking I would like to use a Polish, not UK sim card. And now, after reading all that articles and comments, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to. Don’t want to end up with useless phone…


    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. Once unlocked, your iPhone should always remain unlocked in the future – no need to worry about it locking itself afterwards!

  • Hi Ken,

    We’ve just been discussing unlocked/sim free mobiles in the office here. In your article you mention that if you purchase an iPhone from Argos it will lock itself to the first network it sees. The Argos website currently states:

    This is a unlocked phone with no commitment to any network, you decide which sim card to use. Choose the most suitable plan, whether it’s a contract or a pay-as-you-go. The sim is unlocked throughout the lifetime of the phone without restriction.

    So, i guess they to have changed their views on SIM free mobiles?

    Kind regards


    • Hi Steve,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, it does look like Argos have changed their policy to now provide permanently-unlocked iPhones. I’ve just updated the information in the article above to reflect this – thanks a lot for letting me know!

        • Hi David,
          Many thanks for your comment. I’ve just seen this on the Argos website:
          “This is a unlocked phone with no commitment to any network, you decide which sim card to use. Choose the most suitable plan, whether it’s a contract or a pay-as-you-go. The sim is unlocked throughout the lifetime of the phone without restriction.”
          I think therefore the policy has changed at Argos?

          • Hi ken
            I asked the question on the Argos website today and that’s what they replied
            The sim will lock to first SIM card

  • Hi, just had this chat with Carphone warehouse, but still not sure, if I buy an unlocked sim free Iphone I will need to use it on “3” for a month or so, but then looking at changing to BT, but after reading items on this site it may be an issue to change sim? what do you think after reading transcript below (I have removed the agent’s name from this):-

    Info: Welcome to Carphone Warehouse Live Chat Service. A representative will be with you shortly.
    Info: Hi, I’m ******. How can I help you today?
    Name of agent*****: Welcome to Carphone Warehouse live chat Martin. My name is S*******. I will be helping you with your online purchase today.​
    Martin: Hi, I am looking to buy an unlocked Iphone SE. Does the phone remain unlocked if I change sim from “3” to someone else in a few months or does it lock to the first sim you put in it?
    Name of agent ****: All of our devices are now unlocked Martin.

    Martin: OK thank you. just checking because I am currently on “3” sim only but will be changing in a months time to BT, and just wanted to check that I can do this with no problem.
    Name of Agent*****: Sure Martin, no worries, was there anything else I could assist you with today?

    Martin: No, thanks – you have answered my question 🙂
    Name of agent: Just to let you know, after this chat you will be receiving a questionnaire to rate the level of service that I have provided you with today. The first question is a direct reflection of this chat and your feedback will be highly appreciated.

    Martin: no problem have a nice day
    Name of agent*****: Same to you Martin.

    Info: Thank you for chatting with us.

  • Chetan Mandlik said:

    Hi Ken,

    Car phone warehouse is advertising fully unlocked sim free iphone. They are saying they have made deal with apple to have phones straight from them. Is it true?
    Some staff is saying we can’t use it in non European country.
    Thanks ,

    • Hi Chetan,
      Many thanks for your comment. As far as I know, Carphone Warehouse provides SIM-free iPhones that lock themselves to the first mobile network used and that only work on UK operators. It’s possible this may have changed however – may I ask where you’ve seen or heard this information from CPW?

  • Hi,
    does anyone know if this will work?
    I have a new iphone on its way from O2, I am aware that this will lock to their network as soon as i put their sim inside, but what would happen if i use a Three sim first, as they dont lock their phones and apparently if it does lock i can just reset it using itunes. Would i be able to insert the three sim first then put the o2 sim in afterwards to stop it locking to O2?
    Many Thanks

    • Hi Andy,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, O2 iPhones are locked to O2 and will not accept a SIM card from Three first. Automatic locking to the first network used only applies on some SIM-free iPhones (e.g. from the Carphone Warehouse). The reason it works this way is because CPW provide contracts on multiple mobile networks. So rather than having four different stocks of the iPhone, they just have one stock of iPhones that will lock itself to the first mobile network used. With O2, they don’t have the same logistical problem so they just provide their iPhones locked to O2.
      Hope this helps,

  • janet langley said:

    If a person is selling a new boxed iphone se that was an upgrade from Tesco is it locked to Tesco’s network or the first sim put in the phone

    • Hi Janet,
      I believe this handset will probably be locked to Tesco Mobile, so you’ll only be able to use a Tesco SIM card inside it.
      Hope this helps,

        • Hi Janet,
          A SIM-free iPhone from the Carphone Warehouse should work with any UK SIM card. However, it will automatically lock itself to the first mobile network used. This may cause complications later on, as you may experience difficulty unlocking the iPhone from that network. If at all possible, I’d recommend buying your iPhone from somewhere where it’ll be permanently unlocked (e.g. John Lewis).

  • lee rushton said:

    Hi Ken.
    I purchased a iphone7 for my wife off Very online catalogue,it states sim free unlocked
    will it lock to the 1st network sim I insert or will it stay unlocked to any network.

    • Hi Lee,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t have any official confirmation or feedback elsewhere on what happens to iPhones purchased from Very.co.uk. Perhaps someone else reading this article might be able to share some insights?

  • Hi Ken
    Thanks for sharing this article!
    My iPhone has being unlocked for UK sims only so it’s a problem for me to use foreign SIM cards.
    So I have tried to contact my carrier Three, they don’t seem very helpful to resolve my problem. What would you suggest me to do? I’m desperately need help for who I should speak to or how I can resolve this? ( trust me I have called Three more than 5 times in the last 3 weeks )
    Looking forward to hearing for your advice!

    • Hi Kay,
      Many thanks for your comment. Could you explain the situation in more detail? Based on your description, you can use the iPhone with any UK-based SIM card but are unable to use it with non-UK SIMs? As far as I’m aware, once an iPhone is unlocked, it should normally work with any compatible SIM card in the world (with no distinction being made between UK and non-UK SIMs).

      • Kay Clark replied:

        Hi Ken

        I think I didn’t make my situation clear.

        My phone works fine with Vodafone SIM card when I was abroad in Malaysia but when I changed it to local SIM cards it says ” sim not supported “!

        So I contacted Three to ask why my phone is not supported with foreign SIM cards, they insisted my phone was unlocked but couldn’t give me a solution for this!

        I need a little help for how to completely unlocked my phone. Should I speak to three again or I should go to those unlocking websites? Obviously I would not like to pay anything for it.

        • Hi Kay,
          Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure what has happened here. Typically, if your iPhone is unlocked for use with a different UK SIM card, it can also be used with SIM cards in the rest of the world (there is no country-specific locking, except from when you first use a SIM-free iPhone from the Carphone Warehouse or similar third-party retailers). My recommendation would probably be to bring your iPhone to the nearest Apple store if possible. There, they’ll be able to check the “activation status”, and the staff should be able to tell you what to do next.

  • Hello Ken – I am about to purchase an iPhone and want to buy an iPhone 6s from John Lewis because of the warranty. Can you confirm that the phone will remain unlocked if I insert an EE PAYG SIM card, and then wish to switch network in the future please?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Pauline,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, to the best of my knowledge, iPhones sold by John Lewis are permanently unlocked. This is also the feedback we’ve had from other readers of the article. However, if you’d like official confirmation in advance of buying, I recommend you obtain this directly from John Lewis.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken

    Just wondered an iphone 7 from ID mobile sim contract, would this be locked to the first sim? As they are part of Carphone warehouse.

    • Hi Sai,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact details of how iPhones from iD Mobile will behave with regards to network locking. I presume they behave in the same way as CPW iPhones, but someone else here may have a better idea than me?

  • Hi Ken,

    My Iphone SE fro car phone warehouse is locked now to Lebara. Lebara is a pay 2 go sim card and i am in no contract with them.
    I have contcated Apple , carphone warehouse and lebara and none are able to unlock my iPhone.
    Can you help?

    • Hi Sunny,
      Many thanks for your comment. It’s possible your iPhone SE is now locked to Vodafone (as Lebara uses Vodafone as their underlying network coverage provider). Would it be possible to try using a Vodafone PAYG SIM card inside the handset? If it works, then your handset will be locked to Vodafone, and you can progress an unlock through Vodafone PAYG.
      Hope this helps,

  • I have an email from John Lewis Customer services stating quite clearly that the I phone is unlocked at point of sale but will lock to the first Sim inserted.So their advertising claims are inaccurate and so is your interpretation of their claims.Please check for yourselves and amend.

    • Hi MB,
      Many thanks for your comment. Would you mind forwarding me the email you received from John Lewis Customer Services? The feedback I’ve always received in the past suggests John Lewis iPhones should be unlocked for use on any network. It’s possible either things have changed, or there is still some confusion within the John Lewis customer services team. For instance, see the recent thread here on Netmums – it appears another customer was given the same information, but was then able to verify that the iPhone was unlocked:
      “I have tried a vodaphone sim and it recognised it straight away so looks like I have been worried about nothing and it is indeed a myth that JL phones lock to first network.”

  • I just wanted to double-check your understanding that iphones purchased in Currys/PC World automatically lock to the network of the first installed SIM.

    Whilst I understand that happens when purchasing from Carphone Warehouse or a Carphone Warehouse section in a Currys/PC World store, I believe that if I purchase from the Apple section in a Currys/PC World store, it will be permanently unlocked and won’t automatically lock.

    I was informed the stock was from a different source, a bit like the Apple section of a Currys/PC World store working like a concession / branch of Apple.

    Can you clarify?

    • Hi Andrew,
      Many thanks for your comment. The information I had on this in the past is that iPhones from Currys/PC World will lock themselves to the first mobile network used. However, it’s possible that things have changed or that the policy might differ on a store-by-store basis.
      To be safe, I’d probably still recommend buying the iPhone from a different retailer where it’s known to be fully unlocked. If you do decide to buy from Currys/PC World, then I’d probably double check on the details first with their staff, and ideally get it in writing should you need to return the handset later on. Do let me know if you discover anything!

  • bill stirups said:

    just about to buy iphone se 64gb from john lewis emailed customer services who informed this phone is sim free and will not be locked to whatever sim card you choose to put in the phone you can change provider at any time advice lease is this true

  • Ernest Des-Bordes said:

    My brother has just sent me a new unlocked (sim free) iphone 6s, however he did not activate it in the UK before sending it. Asides getting a compatible UK sim in Ghana to activate it, are there any other ways?

  • I would just like to add this….

    In January I purchased an iPhone 7 Plus from the Basingstoke CPW and was not advised that it would lock to the first SIM, despite I advised them I travel in Europe and specifically wanted an unlocked phone for this purpose.

    I used my UK O2 Sim with iTunes to set the phone up so it had all the apps I used installed and contact etc.

    I get to France, try and put in the Vodafone SIM, not only did it want me to reset up the phone, it then told me the SIM was not compatible with the Phone… I thought maybe the SIM had been damaged and installed my Spanish Lyca SIM that’s on a Worldwide Tariff… same thing happened.

    So, I call CPW and ask if the phone is faulty and it’s at this point they advise me it will lock to the first SIM installed… I will not write here what I said to the Customer Service Agent, who told me that they cannot unlock it and I would have to contact O2.

    I called O2 Customer Service who advised me they cannot unlock the phone as they did not sell it to me and its not on their system…..!

    So I call Apple support who have advised me as follows:

    1. All iPhones are shipped unlocked, it is the carrier that locks them.
    2. They are unable to unlock the phone they claim even if I provide them the Model/Serial/IMEI Numbers.
    3. Even if I take it to an Apple Store, they cannot unlock it nor will they exchange it for a working phone.

    So, it looks like I have purchased a £700 paper weight!

  • Hi Ken, just wanted to say thanks for the blog. I haven’t been able to find this information elsewhere. I had no idea that some retailers sold truly unlocked iphones and others didn’t. I appreciate the hard work you put into this!

  • Melanie taylor said:

    Hi Ken

    I need your advice I bought an iPhone 5c from a friend and the phone worked perfectly with my SIM card from my provider but I have now upgraded and sold the phone to a relative only to find out that the phone is apparently blocked, why would this be when the phone was not part of a monthly contract, the buyer contacted their pay as you go provider to ask for a new sim that would fit but phone but it is not working

  • Hi All,
    I purchased an iPhone 7 from CarphoneWarehouse for it to be used primarily in India. Turned out it was locked to the first sim.
    I used a PAYG sim from EE. Topped it up by £10. Registered the SIM and filled the online unlock request form. EE unlocked it in 11 days (considering Christmas/new year break). The Indian sim is now working fine.
    Hope this help others.
    Best wishes,
    PS: The £10 credit is still on my EE Sim. Not sure if this is a free service or they will deduct the £8.99 later?!

    • Hi Anuj,

      Thanks for the feedback, did you do this whilst in India or UK? cause am in Africa now and wanted to follow same process where my sister sends a SIM card and I insert in the phone

      please advise

      • Hi Lisa,
        Yeah. My phone was in India even before it could get locked to a UK network. Had to send a UK PAYG SIM to India.
        Hope this helps.

    • Hi. Anuj
      Thanks for your comment. Here is my question. Have u tried to use it with EE/other SIMs? I called EE customer service and they said it will be automatically locked again to the first network used after unlocking. So, locking and unlocking processes will continue forever. So, I wonder whether it is completely unlocked or locked to your Indian SIM again. Thanks

      • In my understanding this should be a 1 time process, i.e unlocked forever. Havent tried it with a different SIM to confirm though. Dont think I want to do this test even for academic purpose for the next year or so till the current contract runs out. Sorry. Maybe someone else has tried it in this forum?

        • Hi Anuj/Michelle,
          Thank you both for your comments on this blog post! Based on my understanding, the iPhone will not re-lock itself once it has been unlocked from the first network. This is because a SIM-free iPhone from CPW is originally provided with a “Flex” policy (meaning it locks itself to the first mobile network used). Once unlocked, it will be marked on Apple’s database as unlocked (an activation policy that won’t lock itself to the next mobile network used).
          Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,

    I am considering buying an Iphone 5s from Carphone Warehouse. I went in recently and said that I would like to buy a sim free one as I live in Spain most of the time and only be home in Northern Ireland on holidays. The assistant told me that a sim free iphone would not work in Spain due to frequency issues. Is that correct? I am with vodafone in Spain and didn’t buy the phone as I am worried about compatibility.


    • Hi Colm,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe the store assistant is mistaken regarding “frequency issues”: the frequencies supported by the iPhone will indeed work in Spain without any problems. However, it’s also the case that CPW-purchased iPhones will only work with a UK SIM card (at least, until you go through the process of unlocking it). If you’d like to buy a SIM-free iPhone to use in Spain, I recommend buying it from one of the retailers listed here.
      Hope this helps,

  • patrick McCluskey said:

    Hi Ken

    I have an iPhone 5s bought from CPW on a contract with EE, I now want to upgrade and use this phone abroad.

    1… How long will it take to unlock,is it just a case of getting EE to unlock it without any cost

    2…Then will I be able to use it abroad (MTM Uganda sim)?

    3…Will it then lock itself to the new network’s sim and need unlocking when i return to the UK after 2 months)?

    • Hi Patrick,
      Thanks for your comment and a happy new year! To answer your questions:
      1. Yes, you will just need to ask EE to unlock the handset for you. There’s more information here on how to do this.
      2. Once unlocked, you’ll be able to use the iPhone abroad in other countries with a different SIM card (so absolutely fine to use a Ugandan SIM card).
      3. The iPhone will be permanently unlocked, and will not lock itself to any other mobile network.
      Hope this helps!

      • I would watch with EE. I bought an iPhone 7 Plus from CPW and asked EE to unlock it. They said they had. I tried my friends Three sim in it to check if it was unlocked and it worked, only problem being it’s now locked to Three. EE now saying it’s not their problem and that all iPhones lock themselves every time a sim is put it. Bullshit. Just glad I didn’t try my Thai SIM card in it!

  • Hi Ken,

    Like your site – it’s the clearest I’ve found to make sense of a problem I’ve encountered with an iPhone 7 bought from Carphone Warehouse, as a Christmas present, for use in Sweden.

    I’ve understood that it will lock onto the network of the first SIM card used and that it needs to be unlocked. I’m therefore thinking of getting an EE ‘pay as you go’ SIM card and then asking EE to unlock the phone – for subsequent use with a Swedish carrier.

    What’s confused me is that I’ve read on a couple of forums that even when unlocked, the phone may not be usable outside the UK with a non UK SIM card.

    Do you know whether that is indeed correct?

    Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.

    • Hi Bob,
      Thanks for your comment. Based on my personal understanding, a SIM-free iPhone from third-party retailers like the Carphone Warehouse will work on non-UK networks once it has been unlocked from a UK network. However, like you say, there are conflicting reports (and I haven’t investigated all of them in depth in case it’s different for certain models, etc).
      So all I can say is it probably should work. However, if you want to avoid the faff and get an iPhone that’s guaranteed to work abroad, I suggest possibly returning it to Currys and then re-ordering it from one of the retailers listed here.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken

        Many thanks for the advice. My situation sounds very similar to dthorpe’s below and it’s reassuring to see that it was resolved satisfactorily. I’m still following up the problem with my iPhone 7 purchase and will be happy to share my experience (with heroes and villains) once the saga is complete.

        As a separate issue, I’m curious about the commercial considerations here. Apple sell fully unlocked phones, as do other retailers – but not all. And those who don’t keep quiet about it.

  • Hi,

    Some great info on here so thought I’d just share my experience following advice on this thread.

    I had an iPhone6 on an o2 monthly contract. Most of the year I live overseas (outside the EU).

    I bought a SIM-only iPhone7 from CPW, thinking it was fully unlocked, put my overseas SIM in and was told the phone wasn’t compatible with this SIM, and that only UK SIMs could be used on the phone. This was a big concern for me as if this was the case the phone would be close to useless.

    I spoke to Carphone Warehouse – they told me there’s nothing they can do, but I have to put a UK SIM in the phone, then get that UK carrier (in my case O2) to unlock it for me.

    To cut a long story short, I followed the advice, inserted my UK O2 SIM, waited 24 hours for the IMEI for the new phone to get fully linked into the o2 systems, then just asked O2 to unlock it (via their website).

    Within 5 minutes I got an email telling me it was unlocked, put my overseas SIM in, and all worked fine.

    As an FYI I also bought a family member an iPhone 7 direct from Apple. Worked instantly on all SIMs without any messing around, was fully unlocked from the outset.

    • Damien Kelly replied:

      I purchased an iphone SE from a retailer on Amazon UK. On receipt I discovered it would be restricted to the first network utilised – ie sim free rather than unlocked. However I believed I could have that network unlock it as I wished to use it in Ireland as well as UK with an Irish network. The phone is working fine with 3 UK but when I requested 3 to unlock they said they were unable to as it was not purchased from them. Apple tell me they should be able to as the phone could not be locked to any other network given it is currently usable with 3… When any sim from Ireland is inserted I get an error – SIM not supported under your activation policy. Any suggestions?

  • Hi ken , I just got a brand new iPhone 6s from currys . I’m back in my home country ;Nigeria . And none of the SIM cards here will work with. I did try a giffgaff sim with it once and it worked. How do I get it unlocked from giffgaff so I can use it with any SIM cards here?
    Thank you

    • Hi Bj,
      Unfortunately, a SIM-free iPhone from Currys will automatically lock itself to the first mobile network used. In this case, as you used a SIM card from giffgaff, it will actually have locked itself to O2 UK (the parent network of giffgaff). Unfortunately, it’s a little bit tricky unlocking an iPhone from O2 (see info here) but you could either try following the instructions as an O2 PAYG customer, or alternatively you may be able to return the handset to Currys for a refund.

      • Hi, I bought iphone se from carphonewarehouse and later discovered that it is country locked and locks on first sim card, brought phone back asking for refund, didn’t get it, their store policies says that sim free handsets cannot be refunded only swapped to be for different brand handset.
        Very frustrating experience.

      • Rob turner replied:

        Hi Ken , merry Christmas ! Found your site very useful . Can you help me !?
        Upgraded 2 weeks got a iPhone 7 plus 128. With o2
        Decided to leave it unopened and boxed
        Put it on eBay , sold it as unlocked as care phone warehouse says unlocked until the first sim is out in
        Sell it to lady in U.K.
        Sent it 23/12 get a message on 26 th says it was a present for her partner in MALTA ( she must have gone there for xmas ) any way says it is all locked up etc
        Now she is peeved !
        I call o2 and they said similar to you ( go buy a pay as you go sim , then call them and they will unlock it )
        Btw I told them I sent it as a present to my sister who lives abroad.
        So am I right in saying she has locked it as she has put a Maltese / foreign sim in ( as per carephone warehouse web site )
        2. Once she is back in U.K. , buys a o2 pay as you go
        3. Lets me know I call o2 and they unlock it
        4 once this is done can it be used with a Maltese/ European sim ?

        Could really do with your help as I feel really bad as if I mislead her saying it’s unlocked although I did say to her what I was told in cpwhouse and what was on their site. So I am hoping it’s. it my fault !


        • Hi Rob,
          Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, iPhones that are provided by the Carphone Warehouse will initially work only in the UK (and will automatically lock themselves to the first UK network used). To unlock it and to use it abroad, it must first be used with a UK SIM card (the account holder of that SIM card can then request an unlock for the iPhone). Typically, I believe the easiest thing to do is to use it first on Three as they’ll unlock the handset for free. On O2 Pay As You Go, an unlock will only be possible after 12 months on the plan (it will also cost an additional £15 for the unlock).

  • hello, i have 2 questions,

    1- Why Giffgaff is cheaper about Iphone SE? is there a difference?

    2- Can i use Iphone in UK and then in Turkey? Does it work in Turkey with any network it?

    • Hi Enes,
      Thanks for your comment. To answer your questions in order:
      1. Nope, there’s absolutely no difference with the iPhone SE on giffgaff! You’re getting the exact same phone as you’d get elsewhere (e.g. from Apple).
      2. Yes, iPhones sold by giffgaff are permanently unlocked. You’ll be able to use it without any problems whilst abroad in Turkey (it just needs to be used on a compatible mobile network).
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,

    Really appreciate your inputs to on iPhone buying tips. Just wanted to confirm that if I buy an iPhone from GiffGaff then it would be permanently unlocked and I will be able to use any UK sim or non-UK (e.g. India) sim. Giifgaff iPhone are cheaper than (for example, iPhone SE 64 GB is £399 at GiffGaff but £429 at Apple) !


  • Hi Ken, firstly can i say thanks you for providing excellent informative website, this has been a great help.
    My query is basically my friend has asked if i would like to take his iPhone 7 plus which he’s just received from EE 2 days ago. They have advised him that he needs to use it for 6 months before unlocking it. The phone was unpackaged in front of him and therefore we assume that no SIM card has been inserted into the device yet. I on the other hand have a Lyca SIM card that i want to use in this phone and also have the flexibility to use other sim cards here and abroad.
    If I insert a 3 Sim card (as the first sim card to be inserted into the phone) would that mean that this EE iPhone will be locked to the 3 Network and give me the opportunity to unlock it straight away using the 3 link from your site without the need to wait 6 months for my friend to unlock by EE? Please advise, thanks.

    • Hi Sukhi,
      Thanks for your comment. If your friend’s iPhone 7 Plus was provided by EE, it will be locked to the EE network regardless of which SIM card you use first. It’s only SIM-free handsets from a third-party retailer which will lock themselves to the first mobile network you use on the handset.
      Hope this helps,

  • Thank you very much for this priceless info!!
    I was just about to cancel my order for an iPhone 7 Plus 256GB directly from Apple, in favour of Carphone Warehouse as they currently have stock, until I read this. Not being able to use it outside the UK is a huge deal for me. Considering so much money is being spent on them, I was close to making a big mistake.

    Thanks once again Ken!

  • Hi Ken!
    My sister bought iPhone 7 for me in USA and sent it to Nigeria for me not knowing is sim free unlocked. What can i do to make it work. Thought i have not put any sim on it to test it. Thanks i need a respond.

  • Hello Ken,
    I want to buy an iPhone from Carphone Warehouse. As you said, it will lock to the network to the first SIM I put into it; so what if I put a French SIM into it while in the UK and then take it to France? Will that lock it to the French network and then continue to work in France?

    • Hi Nikky,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, a SIM-free iPhone purchased from the Carphone Warehouse will only accept UK-based SIM cards. I’d therefore strongly recommend buying your iPhone elsewhere (the Apple Store and John Lewis might be a good bet!)
      Hope this helps,

        • Hi Sandra,
          Thanks for your comment. Once your iPhone has been unlocked from your UK network, it will be possible to use it abroad in other countries (e.g. with a Spanish SIM card).
          Hope this helps,

  • I recently bought an iPhone 7 from carphonewarehosue. Although my phone got locked to the first sim inserted (Three) I was lucky enough to have Three unlock it for me. My question is, now that the phone it is unlocked, does that mean the regional lock doesn’t apply anymore? I want to be able to use this phone in India… Please share your thoughts. Thank you in advance.

    • Hi James,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, once the iPhone has been unlocked from Three it should work without any problems whilst you’re abroad in other countries.
      Hope this helps!

      • Hi James,
        Out of curiosity, did your phone eventually work in India?
        Would be great if you could confirm. I am in the same boat as you.

  • So please correct or confirm for me that if I live in rep of Ireland but buy an iPhone (SIM Free) from John Lewis in UK …… It will work ok for me? The price difference is substantial and seeing it’s a Xmas present for my daughter I’d love to save a few quid. Thanks in advance for help.

  • Purchased IPhone7 128GB jetblack sim free from Carphoneware house, how can i get the phone working in India as I am Traveling back to India? As the Carphone ware house people are not supporting me and with out unlocking the phone i guess its of no use back in India.How can i unlock this phone

  • I have an iPhone 5 which was locked to Orange or EE, I had it unlocked about 12 months ago so that I could put a BT sim in it, it has been working fine since then (it will also work on an EE sim), however I now want to put CPW ID network sim in it but the phone is saying it’s locked to another network. How can this be the case if I unlocked it a year ago. Is it likely to be locked to EE & BT or just EE?

    • Hi Scott,
      Thanks for your comment. Did the iPhone 5 actually get unlocked in the first place? It’s a little bit tricky knowing if this actually happened as BT Mobile actually uses EE for coverage. Because of this, it’s sometimes possible to use a BT SIM card, even inside an EE-locked smartphone! Obviously, if this was the case, an iD Mobile SIM card will not work as they’re a totally separate network using coverage from Three.
      My recommendation would be to check with Orange/EE to make sure your iPhone has been successfully unlocked.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken. I recently bought an Iphone 7 Plus from carphonewarehouse that was simfree. I put in the vodafone sim that i have here and it works fine. but i will eventually go back to my country in about a year so i will need to use a foreign sim. How should i proceed? If i get the 19 pound unlock from vodafone will that be enough or is it simply impossible to use foreign sims?

    • Hi Salman,
      Thanks for your comment. Once your iPhone 7 Plus is unlocked from Vodafone, I believe it should work abroad without any problems.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi I’m thinking about getting a 7 plus from the Apple Store and the first sim I’m going to be putting in is a GiffGaff one , will it lock itself or not , I need a definite answer as I don’t want to waste £719 on a phone and ruin it

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment and a very good question! Unfortunately, I don’t know about SIM-free iPhones purchased from Costco. Perhaps another reader of this article might know the answer to your question? It might also be worth double-checking with Costco directly, to see if they have any information about it.

      • Thanks Ken, I have contacted Costco and they say they their phones are bought direct from Apple and so they see no reason why they would lock to any sim, but they stopped short of giving a definite answer.

  • Just to add to this; I previously bought an iPhone from Argos and it didn’t lock to the first network I used it on. Used it with a Tesco SIM card and when I sold it on it worked with all SIM cards from other networks. Also, EE contract phones now get locked to a specific user apparently so even if you put another EE SIM card in the phone it won’t work.

  • I’m on the John Lewis website now looking at iPhone 6S and it is stated there as follows :-
    “Please note:iPhone will lock itself to the network of the first SIM card that is used in the phone. Subsequently attempting to use it on any other network, for example by replacing the SIM card, may mean it becomes permanently unusable. SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards.”
    Obviously you say their iPhones are 100% unlocked,so who is correct?

    • Hi Robert,
      Thanks for your comment. The feedback we’ve had from readers in the past is that iPhones from John Lewis should be permanently unlocked. Would you be able to provide me with a link to that warning message, so I can investigate this issue in more detail?

        • Hi Robert,
          Thanks for your reply. I hadn’t seen this message before on the John Lewis website. However, I believe it’s an outdated description they’re just yet to update (in the past, their handsets would lock automatically to the first network you used, in a similar way to CPW). If you go to other pages e.g. the 64GB iPhone 6s page or the iPhone 7 page, there’s no mention of any such behaviour. Also, if you read some of the comments on the 32GB iPhone 6s page, you’ll see people who bought that product mentioning that it’s fully unlocked e.g. here.

          • Hi Ken
            I’ve contacted John Lewis & they tell me it needs updating on their website. They say their Apple iPhone 6S 32GB is totally unlocked. I’d still need it in black and white though,as a verbal assurance isn’t really satisfactory. As I said to them, if the iPhone description on the website actually pointedly stated it was totally unlocked then they would probably sell a lot more than they’re doing. It’s a bit of a dire warning they’ve got on there at the moment,stating that the iphone will become unusable if a second SIM card is inserted.

  • Hi Ken
    I live in Spain 9 mths of the year and want to buy a iPhone 7 here. Can I Change to a uk sim payg when back in the uk without any problems and change back to my Spanish sim when I return to Spain.

    • Hi Karen,
      Absolutely 🙂 You just need to make sure you buy a permanently unlocked iPhone (so it won’t lock itself to one of the SIM cards on first use). Your best bet would probably be the Apple Store in Spain (unfortunately, I haven’t checked to see which other retailers in Spain also offer a permanently unlocked iPhone).

  • Smith Chen Hui Low said:

    Hello ken, my friend bought an I phone 7 plus from carphone warehouse uk. But when he would like to put his lycamobile SIM card in it then the phone showed of on screen said the SIM card not suitable. Could you please tell me what is happening.

    • Hi there,
      Unfortunately, I’m not sure why the Lycamobile SIM card isn’t working in the iPhone 7 Plus. It could be a technical issue with the SIM card, or it may already be locked to another mobile network. I’d possibly recommend trying a SIM card from Three and seeing if that works (the reason being that Three offers the easiest way for you to get a permanently unlocked iPhone).
      Hope this helps,

      • Please don’t recommend people use 3 sim cards in iphones that lock to the first sim inserted. Three will not unlock an iphone. All phones bought from 3 come unlocked nowadays. They will unlock older phones supplied by 3 but they can tell from the IMEI that a phone has been supplied by someone else (CPW or similar) and they will not unlock it. You will be left with an iphone permanently locked to three.

        CPW will not unlock, Apple will not unlock and 3 will not unlock. I speak from bitter experience.

  • HI all. I bought an Iphone 7 from a colleague who had it as an upgrade from CPW. He told me that it will lock to the first sim inserted in the iphone. I entered my 3 sim which i was already using for the last 4 months. I might be going to spain next month and want to use my phone on their network. I have filled the 3 online unlocking form but was told by web chat that i have to wait 7 days. I did not receive any email acknowledgment that i filled the form or the unlock request was made. Can anyone shed some light if they have completed the online unlock form from 3 and how long is the wait before you hear from them. Thanks all. ( very useful website Ken)

    • Hi Saj,
      Unfortunately Three network changed their policy some time ago, and it is not so easy to unlock your iPhone locked to their network. They claim that they can only unlock phones that were bought together with the Three sim card. I have filled the “unlock form” over 2 weeks ago and have not received anything since then. The only thing you could do is to get hold of customer relation manager and ask them for help or to contact the customer support team through the live chat (http://www.three.co.uk/Support/Webchat) – somehow, they are much more helpful than the ones on phones.

  • Hi Ken,

    My daughter recently arrived in Australia and has got herself a Telstra SIM for her iPhone 6 which we bought (unlocked) from giffgaff around a year ago. She’s on an EE contract so we have arranged for that to switch to PAYG on the next billing cycle.

    When the Telstra SIM failed to activate, she went back to the store and was told that the phone was locked! I have just spoken to EE and they advised me that the phone will have become locked when iOS was updated, and that that is normally what happens! Is this correct? It’s very frustrating as EE have said it will take 10 days to process the unlocking so she has now signed up to an Oz contract that she can’t use for 10 days.

    Surely, EE shouldn’t just lock a phone to it’s network if it was purchased unlocked?


    • Hi Andy,
      Thanks for your comment. If the iPhone had been purchased from giffgaff, it should be permanently unlocked for use on any network. I’m not aware of any reasons why the iPhone would subsequently become locked due to a software update. My understanding is that iOS updates don’t impact upon the activation policy (the confusion stems from jailbroken iPhones in the past which were temporarily unlocked by exploiting holes in the software).
      Was there any luck using the SIM card from Telstra from once EE has unlocked it again?

      • Ken – many thanks for taking the time to reply. I’m afraid Telstra and Apple had me on a wild goose chase! After calling EE (because she’s with EE), Tesco (because EE said the phone had been unlocked using a Tesco SIM), gifgaf (because the phone was purchased from them) and Apple; receiving different stories from different Apple agents (some saying it was locked, others saying it was unlocked) and trying a factory reset, she took the phone back to the store who found it was a faulty SIM :-/

  • Hi Hope someone can help,i purchased a secondhand iPhone 6 that was locked to o2 network, having asked them nicely to unlock they sent me an email to connect to iTunes and doing so all went well, however the phone seems to work fine with Vodafone (4g) and o2 but when i put my contract Three sim in it reports No Service i have contacted o2 who have been fab even contacting apple who confirm phone unlocked, i have updated to ios 10.2 and reset phone to original all to no avail still no signal on three, if i switch off automatic carrier it finds three and lets me select it but still no signal,the phone has been dropped and the screen is badly cracked but I don’t want to waste money getting repaired if still faulty, three sim works fine in wife’s iphone 6 and THREE have replaced the sim to eliminate that.wondering if three use different frequencies or more connection to the sim (which may have been damaged when dropped) ? anyone any ideal as i’m on three (sodds law) and completely stumped, there are now error messages when trying to connect and presume aerial etc ok as picks up three when in manual mode.

  • Hi everyone,

    I thought I’d add my comments on this. It is all a little unclear but the following worked for me (iPhone 6S 128GB bought from the CarphoneWarehouse).

    1. Put in a Three Pay As You Go sim card in your iPhone when you first start it up. Set it up, and it will be on Three’s network
    2. Follow the instructions below as provided by Chat support on Three’s website:

    To unlock your Apple device, ensure to remove your 3 SIM card and then connect your device to a computer running iTunes. Once connected, you need to update IOS software version of your device to 7.0 and above. After which you will receive an option to update your network settings. Upon acceptance of the network settings, your Apple device will be unlocked from the network.

    If you do not receive a network settings update, this implies the device is unlocked. To verify this, insert another network SIM card into the Apple device

    3. I updated to iOS 10 without my Three sim in the phone. At that stage, it did not ask me to update my carrier settings which worried me. So I decided to put in the Vodafone sim card which I wanted to use, and instantly, it asked if I wanted to update my carrier settings.

    Since then, I have gone between the two networks without issue, and without any problems.

    I am 100% confident that my CarphoneWarehouse purchased iPhone 6S is unlocked! I hope this helps out at least one other person.


  • “Authorised Apple Retailers” seem also to now be allowed to sell unlocked iPhones.

    My local reseller – “Western Computers” in Oxford – used not to sell iPhones at all. They have stocked (unlocked) ones for at least 18-months

  • Hey!

    Thanks for this very helpful article!

    I am in a bit of a pickle and need some advice.

    Reading this article and the issues of stocking unlocked phones everywhere I decided to follow the advice that was written here, by buying an iPhone 7 from Carphone Warehouse. I then acquired a 3 pay as you go simcard and planned on unlocking it as soon as possible.

    Now I have the iPhone, and I have the sim, but I am hesitant to activate it yet before I get 100% confirmation from 3 that they will be able to unlock my phone from their network.

    Their website plus the first people I spoke to all say that if I get locked, I fill in the application and wait for the codes – looks simple!

    But upon insisting a 100% confirmation I was directed to a technical support member who I had a long 20 minute chat.

    He insisted that if I were to insert the 3 sim card into the phone and get locked then there will be nothing that they can do to unlock it.
    He said that I could fill in the application, but they would reply later stating that there’s nothing they can do.

    He said it’s due to the problem that since it’s bought from a 3rd party vendor (CPW) that it will not show up on their system. He then advised me to return the phone to CPW.

    Has anyone succeeded in doing this? Did I just end up speaking with someone who has misunderstood the situation?

    There is an incredible amount of controversy on this subject and it’s pretty scary.

    I will try contacting Three again to see if another person will confirm this and also see if EE would be a better route for unlocking.

    Any help/experience appreciated!


    • Just an update.

      After getting some really weird vibes from Three, I decided to look into EE, even though they apparently charge 8.99 for the unlock.

      The customer support person guaranteed that they can unlock any iPhone that is locked to their network.

      After reading some more horror stories of people not being able to unlock their phones for months, I decided to risk it as I could still return the phone to Carphone Warehouse, even after activation and locking ( I made sure with them before).

      Bought a pay as you go EE sim card, activated the phone, registered on their website and filled the application for unlocking my phone.

      After still having an off gut feeling about the whole charade I decided to ring EE up one last time to ask them about it.

      I was told that it is good that I rang them up as the application would most definitely get declined. I was told that I need to register with them on the phone for everything to work, as apparently the details I filled in on their webpage wouldn’t be sufficient.

      I was then connected to a very lovely lady who took all my details to register me on the network and then asked me for my IMEI code to apply for the unlock.

      For some reason, she even said that they wouldn’t charge me the 8.99 and that it’s free.

      After carefully explaining the situation with buying the phone from CPW again and asking that is there a reason for the application to be rejected She insisted that there is no reason for it to be rejected and that within 10 days I will receive my unlock codes.

      Really calmed down my nerves as this whole ordeal has turned into a rather mind consuming experience.

      Overall – I got a good feeling that everything should work out within 10 days, altho it’s not over yet and migh end up turnig into something horrific.


    • Hi Michael,

      I thought I’d reply to your comment as I found my self in the same situation as you and might be able to shed some light. You can see my comment to Ken a few days ago.

      I bought my iPhone 7 outright from CPW and put my Three sim in to activate. I have been a Three user for around a year but only as a PAYG customer. I found some instructions on a forum explaining the Three iPhone unlock process. After setting up the phone to the minimum level, I plugged it in to my computer and clicked restore. When the restoration was done box popped up to tell me new carrier settings were ready for my device. From then on my phone was unlocked.

      To confirm this I called Three and (after some effort) got put through the billing dept. Write down your IMEI number before calling them because it’s a complete faff to do while you on the phone. Make clear to the first human you connect to that you want to talk to the PAYG billing team. When you get in touch with them, explain what you’ve done and ask them to confirm the unlock. They’ll ask for the IMEI and will tell you all is well.

      Hope this helps, so pleased I managed to get the phone I wanted on my (unlocked!) terms without all the waiting for stock to return to Apple and JL etc.!


      • Hey!

        I posted an update on my end, but Ken hasn’t got around to moderating it yet, basically I decided to go with EE.

        Wait, let me get this straight – did you skip the part in your story where you contacted Three to unlock it in the first place? If so, then how long did you wait? Or did you literally just pop the sim in, hook it up to your computer, restore and done?? In any case I’ll try a restore as I haven’t set up my phone yet.

        I was told by EE that I have to wait until they apply for an unlock from Apple and it will take around 10 days.

        Thanks for the comment mate!

          • So this is my final update.

            I have now succesfully unlocked my phone from EE.

            I wasn’t charged the 8.99 because Carphone Warehouse is their indirect partner.

            There was still a bit of fun before finally getting it unlocked, so I wanted to write about it here in case someone ends up in a similar position.

            About 5 calendar days after applying for the unlock, as told in my previous post, I received a message stating that my phone cannot be unlocked because I haven’t been a customer for 6 months. This contradicted everything that I was told and what I had read so I decided to ring EE customer service.

            I have to add that I found it ridiculous to go through a lot of voicemail menus before getting to the point where I could choose to speak to a rep, and then being charged 25 pence to do so…

            At first I spoke to a fella who seemed to either have no clue to what’s going on in their company or he was working in an offshore call center.

            He said that my phone is not showing up in their system, and that I have to pay the 8.99…

            At this point I became a bit frustrated with the whole ordeal and put on a bit of a harsher tone. Upon explaining that I had been told a completely different story beforehand, I was then connected to what seemed like a special EE unlocking department.

            Spoke to a lovely chap who apologised for the whole thing, said that I won’t be charged 8.99 because of the aforementioned reason, and told me that there is no reason for the unlock to not go through so there must of been a mistake made in the application that was done over the phone.

            He said my phone will be unlocked by 4pm the next day, which it was.

            So just as a tip for someone in a similar position – make sure you end up speaking to the right person, so don’t be afraid to lean in on the person on the phone. When being told something that contradicts how it should go down, ask to speak to someone else.

            Overall it was quite the emotional rollercoaster, but in the end I got my iPhone 3 weeks sooner than I would of got it from Apple. I just wish I had known about the simplicity of unlocking from Three earlier.

            Thank for the article Ken, and everyone else who chipped in with the helpful comments.

            I hope my posts will help someone else as well.

            Happy unlocking!

  • Martin Cooper said:

    Hi There -really useful information .I have a query though -my daughter is going to Australia for a year and I was thinking of going with o2 contract but not really an option ;I am now thinking buying SE i phone from giffgafff and getting sim card in OZ either contract or more probably PAYG .Will she be able to change sim cards when she gets back to UK or if necessary in other countries as she travels ?
    If you have any advice on daughter mobile quandaries in Australia i would be very grateful for your advice !

    • Hi Martin,
      Thanks for your comment. The iPhone SE on giffgaff is certainly a great choice, and it will be permanently unlocked for use on any network (either in the UK or abroad in other countries). She’ll be able to get a Pay As You Go nano-SIM when she arrives in Australia, and she can easily swap this out for other nano-SIMs when travelling to other countries.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,

    First off; thanks for this great article, you’ve cleared so much up for me. I’m currently with 3 and want to buy a new iPhone 7 outright and use my current sim. Since 3 allow users to unlock phones for free, am I right in thinking I might as well buy one of these sim-free phones from say Carphone Warehouse, letting it lock to 3 with my sim and then unlocking it?

    If I do that, will the phone be any different to one purchased form Apple or John Lewis?

    Thanks again,


    • Hi Ron,
      The iPhone is actually identical regardless of which network or retailer you buy it from (the only thing that differs is the “activation policy” assigned to the device). As you say, in theory, you can buy an iPhone from CPW and then you can unlock it from Three. As long as you manage to do this, there will be no difference in your eventual product. Saying this, this is a fair bit of extra hassle (as you can tell from other comments on this page!). For this reason, I’d probably still recommend getting your iPhone from Apple/Three/giffgaff/John Lewis (it will possibly save you lots of hassle later on).
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken,

        Thanks for getting back to me. I agree that it would probably be a good idea to get it from one of the outlets you mention, but currently they are all out of stock of the 32gb Black 7 (or in the case of Three, not yet offering the phone outright).

        A Three rep told me on the phone yesterday that they are next expecting a shipment of iPhones on the 5th of November, which is a long time to wait!

        I think I’ll give the CFW and Three unlocking palaver a go, worst case scenario I think CFW will accept a return within 14 days.

        Thanks again,


        • Hey Ron

          Let me know how you get on with this! I am currently in a bind, I bought mine SIM Free from CPW, didn’t realise. My network is Three so it has locked to Three… So far so annoying as I frequently travel and change SIMs, its just by chance a friend asked to borrow my phone that I realised it was locked to three.

          CPW – no help at all.
          Apple – passed buck to Three and told me if they won’t unlock it ask CPW for a refund.
          Three – told me its just a case of updating network settings once connecting to itunes, so will try this when I get home.

          Hopefully my route to unlocking may help you if you did purchase – will let you know if itunes allows it to unlock or not later!

  • Dear Ken,

    surely the locking of so called sim free iphones purchased in the UK to UK networks which cannot be used in other EU countries is a contravention of EU free trade law ?

    However I suppose this is soon to be a moot point given the UK has voted to leave the EU.

    • Hi there,
      Thanks, and a very good question! Unfortunately, I don’t know the intricacies of EU law so not sure if Apple is justified in doing this. Might be worth sending a message to the EC to check 😉

  • I’m stuck with a SIM free iPhone locked to o2 bought from CPW. I just wanted to know if anyone knows whether it becomes permanently unlocked if I get o2 to unlock it and can be used on any network even foreign ones? Does anyone have that experience?

  • Hi Ken, bought an iphone 4S from CPW just under a year ago. Used TT as first network so phone now locked to Vodafone. I have been in touch with Bodafone, Apple and TT and none of them are able to guide me towards getting my phone unlocked so I can go to another network when my TT contract expires. Can you give me any ideas to achieve this please?

  • Just to let you know the iPhone SE on Giffgaff is even cheaper now £319 for 16GB and £399 for 64GB.

    Also great article I’ve been trying to find out where sells an unlocked iPhone 7. I got stung buying my Sim free iPhone SE from carphone warehouse only to have to pay another £15 and wait 2 Weeks for it to be unlocked.

  • I have just returned from visiting both John Lewis and Apple. They both tell me that John Lewis bought I phones are NOT permanently unlocked and will lock into the first network used. So, is your information incorrect?

    • Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for your comment. Based on feedback from other readers of this website and also numerous other comments I’ve read on the internet, I believe John Lewis does provide permanently unlocked iPhones. There is sometimes a little bit of confusion about this on the internet, but if you do have any experiences to the contrary, do let me know!

  • Hi Ken. Not sure if anyone else has made this point but.. I bought my iphone7 from John Lewis and it appears to be completely unlocked.

    The first thing I did was to put my Tesco mobile (02) sim in from my iPhone 6s; I am on contract, if that makes any difference. After reading some of the stuff on the web I was worried about wether it would be locked to Tesco Mobile when I came to upgrade to the iPhone 8, so I tried a 3 sim and, to my relief, it worked.

    I also got a free extra year’s warranty (the norm at John Lewis) and didn’t have to get elbowed in the face by a million teenagers on launch day at the Apple Store.

    • Hi David,
      Thank you so much for this comment – it’s really useful to know this! I’ve also researched around the internet (e.g. here and here) and there are many other reports of the John Lewis iPhone being unlocked. For this reason, I’ve just updated the article above to reflect this information.
      Thanks again for the heads up about this – it’s very much appreciated.

  • Hi Ken,

    Oh how I wish I had seen your post earlier! I bout my iPhone SE from C/W and was unaware of the fact that it locked to the first network (they really should make this much more clear). My first network is Three, and I am currently in the process of trying to get them to unlock it without much luck.
    Do you know the exact process it should follow for unlocking an iPhone SE locked to Three as noone at Three technical support can seem to agree on the proceedure.

    Many thanks,


  • Hi Ken Really useful page. I bought an iphone 6 model A1586 from Carphone Warehouse for use in Brazil. Hmm. It won’t accept a Brazil SIM. It has accepted my Three SIM in Brazil. I’ve contacted Three and they say the phone is unlocked. Does inserting a Three SIM and then unlocking only work in the UK? Any other advice for making this phone work in Brazil?

  • Hi Ken,

    First of all, i found your page really helpful, so thanks for that.

    Just want to share my experience with CPW and maybe hear your thoughts about it. Bought the sim free iPhone 6s and was made aware about the locking on the first network sim that i will use. I had no problem requesting to my network to unlocked my phone but during our chat i was told that it is not permanently unlocked even after they unlocked it as it will locked to every network that i will use, thus the need to unlock every time i need to change network. I went back to CPW about this and CPW confirmed that the information i received from my network is correct. I was told that all iPhones from 5S – up are the same regarding the locking system. Apparently, I can check it in Apple website. I told CPW that it should have been mentioned that it locks to every network not on the first network, but the man I’ve spoken to can only apologise.

    So, i think i have no choice now but to request unlocking every time i change to a different network.

    • Hi Myra,
      Thanks for your comment & for your feedback on this. I’m a little bit confused that they’re telling you this – just wondered if you’ve found from personal experience it will re-lock itself automatically, or if this is simply what you were told by the staff at CPW? Based on reports from other people on this page and on my understanding of the activation policy, I believe it should only lock itself the first time you use it (but do let me know if this wasn’t the case for you).

      • Hi,

        Thank you for your reply Ken. We are in the same boat here – I was really confused when my network told me about the re-locking and confirmed by CPW. I’m yet to find out if that is true, though, when my contract ends and if i decide to change network. No personal experience yet, so went to Apple today and asked the same, just to be sure. Apple said that, if you have it un-locked the first time, it should remain unlocked.

  • I recently bought a sim free iphone 5S from carphonewarehouse to use on a Malta network and it is giving me the error (SIM Not Supported) when trying to activate it. Is there any way that I can make my phone work with a Vodafone Malta sim card please? Why do carphonewarehouse promote it as SIM free when in reality the phone is locked!

    • Hi there,
      Unfortunately, SIM-free iPhones sold by the Carphone Warehouse will only work on mobile networks in the UK (unfortunately, they don’t always make this information totally clear when you buy a handset from them). Unfortunately, this means you’ll probably need to bring the handset back to the UK and you’ll need to return it to Carphone Warehouse for a refund. As an alternative, you can use it on a UK mobile network and you can then proceed to unlock it from that network (after doing so, it should also work when your abroad).
      Sorry about this 🙁

  • Really useful article thank you. Am buying an i phone 6 to use in UK and Spain but now will not buy from a retailer where the phone locks onto first sim card.

    • Hi Ken
      I would like to buy an iphone SE SIM FREE ASAP. I went to Carphone warehouse today and they said it would autolock to the first sim I use (even from apple store?). From your article above it seems my best options to have an unlocked phone which I can also use overseas is to buy from three or giffgaff. Is this correct? I’ve been with EE for almost 10yrs – can I just ask them to unlock it for me because I’ve been with them for so long?
      Thanks for your help!

      • Hi Trozza,
        You’re right – iPhones from the Carphone Warehouse will lock themselves automatically to the first network you use. My recommendation is to buy your iPhone from giffgaff (lowest prices and permanently unlocked). You can also buy an iPhone directly from Apple, or from Three on Pay As You Go.
        Hope this helps,

  • Hi ken I have purchased an iPhone 5s in currys, it would be for any network, and I live in Ireland and I put in a meteor sim card which won’t work. Will an irish Vodafone or 3 sim card work? Or do I have to get it unlock to an irish sim card

    • Hi Monika,
      Was the iPhone 5s purchased from a Curry’s in the UK? If so, it will unfortunately only work on a UK mobile network (it won’t work on an Irish network). The best thing to do is probably to get a refund if possible, and then to buy a SIM-free handset from somewhere else (e.g. giffgaff in the UK offer permanently unlocked iPhones, often at a lower price than Curry’s). Alternatively, you can use the iPhone on a UK network and then you can unlock it from there (I recommend using Three UK as they have the simplest procedure for unlocking an iPhone). Once unlocked, your iPhone should work on mobile networks in Ireland.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi, I bought a new unused EE iphone 5s from Ebay. At the time I didn’t realize it was an EE phone and put my Three sim in it. Now the problem is that even without the sim, when you go to the Settings->General->About it displays ‘Three 15.5’ as the Carrier. I have since found that EE phones are locked to EE. I went to an online unlocking service and specified it as an EE phone and gave the IMEI number to them for it to be unlocked. However they have said that the IMEI is not supported. I assume its because they tried to unlock it as an EE phone but the Carrier on the phone seems to have locked itself to Three even though it is an EE phone!!! Ken, do you know whats going on here please? I’m totally confused!!

    • One more thing – When I try to activate start itunes on my computer with the phone connected, itunes says The SIM card inserted in this iPhone does not appear to be supported which I assume is because the phone is an EE SIM.

  • Hi Ken,

    I am ready to buy a samsung galaxy s7 from CPW, however, I find some messages as follow:

    ”SIM free phones are sold without any SIM card or network attached to them. Normally, people buy the phone and then choose a SIM only deal for their calls and data. All of our SIM free phones come unlocked, so you can choose whichever network you like – just remember that if it’s an iPhone it will lock to the first network you use it with, while Samsung Galaxy phones have to be used in the UK.”

    Does that mean I can only use the galaxy s7 only in the UK if I buy one sim-free from CPW?



    • Hi Alfredo,
      Samsung uses something called region locking on their SIM-free Galaxy smartphones. This means, by default, they’ll only work within the EU. However, once you’ve made 5 minutes of phone calls using an EU SIM card, the region lock will be removed and you’ll be able to use it on networks outside the EU.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi, I’ve just bought an iphone 5S 16gb from ebay. I’ve checked which network it is on and found out it is locked to BT Uk unlocked. What does that mean as I thought BT used EE?

    • Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure what it means by “BT UK Unlocked” – is the handset actually locked or is it unlocked for use on any network? As you say, BT Mobile uses EE for coverage. I’m unsure on the details about iPhone locking on BT (i.e. whether the handset will lock to BT Mobile or to EE).

  • Hi ken, I’ve just bought a second hand iPhone but found it it’s locked to 3 and I get no coverage in my area. 3 won’t unlock without me giving the correct details that they hold on record. ..I don’t have that. Please tell me there’s something I can do.

    • Hi Tracey,
      It should be possible to order a free SIM card from Three. You can then use the details of that SIM card to submit your unlocking request to Three. This should go through without any problems.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken,

    This was so helpful, thanks!
    Can I just confirm that this is correct.. I am about to begin a year abroad as part of my studies where I will spend time in France, Spain and Portugal. I am planning on buying a SIM free iphone SE from the Apple store in the UK before I leave so that when I arrive in my first destination (France) I can buy a pay as you go SIM from a French network provider to use in my iphone SE in France for the 6 months I will be there. Will this work without any issues?
    After my 6 months in France, I will go to Spain and I plan on removing the pay as you go SIM that I bought from the French network provider and exchanging it for a similar SIM but this time with a Spanish network provider. Again, can you confirm that I will be able to do this without any issues?
    I will then repeat this after my 5 months in Spain but this time in Portugal with a Portuguese network provider. Then I plan on returning to the UK where I will buy a new pay as you go SIM but this time from a UK network provider. Will this work? bearing in mind that it will be the 4th time I change SIM and network provider in the space of 12 months!!

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Charlotte,
      Sounds like you have an amazing year ahead of you! 🙂 To answer your question: if you’re buying a SIM-free iPhone directly from Apple, it will be permanently unlocked and will work on any compatible mobile network in the world. So yes, I can’t envision any problems with doing what you suggested in your message.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,

    Thanks a lot for all the information provided here. I have a concern in particular to a Samsung S7 EDGE.
    I am planning to buy one from Carphone Warehouse here in UK, the store guy told me that all the models sold there are EU locked and that it won’t work outside EU, is that correct for a SIM free phone bought from CPW?

    Thanks in advance.


    • Hi Sourav,
      Samsung uses region-locking on their SIM-free smartphones (including those that are purchased from CPW). This means you’ll need to use the handset first in the UK. However, once you’ve made 5 minutes of phone calls using an EU SIM card, you’ll be able to use it outside the EU without any problems. For more information, see this article on Android Central.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken, great work,

    I have a brother in Republic of Ireland with an iPhone 6 locked to 3 network and I have a uk 3 network contract, by reading above I take it I will have to unlock the iPhone 6 before my uk 3 sim will work in phone, is this correct ?

    Cheers Martin

    • Hi Martin,
      Yes – I believe a handset that’s locked to 3 Ireland will not work on 3 UK. It is worth double-checking to see if 3 Ireland locks their handsets however (in the UK, Three doesn’t lock any of their handsets).

  • Hi

    My grandparents who live in Northern Ireland recently bought me a sim free iPhone 5s from Carphone Warehouse. I live in the Republic of Ireland and discovered that when I put an Irish sim card into it a message appears saying “sim not supported” (I now see that although it’s sim free it will only work with UK sim cards)

    I brought it to an iPhone repair shop and they said they could unlock it for me for €80, so obviously I would rather explore other options first … If I order a Three UK pay as you go sim card to my grandparents house, get them to send it down to me, set up the iPhone and then fill in the Three online unlocking form will this unlock it so that it can be used in the Republic of Ireland? Or will I need to top up and use the phone before I can unlock it?

    • Hi Claudia,
      Sorry to hear about your problems using a CPW iPhone in the Republic of Ireland. As you say, the best way forward is probably now to order a Three UK SIM card. There’s no need to top it up before you unlock your iPhone – just fill out the details on the unlocking form and they’ll get everything arranged for you.
      Typically, I’d normally suggest returning the iPhone to CPW and instead buying an unlocked iPhone from giffgaff. This is the hassle-free way of making sure you have an unlocked iPhone, but of course it’s much harder to do this when the handset is a gift!
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken,

        Thanks for your reply. An update on the iPhone issue – I got a Three UK SIM card, put it in the phone and got it all up and running. I then filled in the online unlocking form and received a text with instructions to connect the phone to iTunes, back up the phone and then restore it. I tried this a few times (I also did a DFU restore) but was still unable to get the phone working with my Irish sim.

        I then rang Three UK and explained the whole thing to them. They basically said that as of 2014 they sell all of their phones unlocked. If my iPhone was bought from Carphone Warehouse then I need to contact them about getting it unlocked, as any unlock request they place in their system is just going to be rejected.

        I haven’t managed to get through to CPW yet but did ring Apple who say the same thing. They sell their phones completely unlocked, CPW do something to them so that they only work with UK sims and will lock to the first network they are used with, and it is up to them to unlock it.

        At this point I’m really doubting CPW will do anything to help. They say on their website that you need to contact your carrier to unlock your phone (this isn’t what Three says) and that it is Apple’s software that causes it to lock to the first UK sim installed (this isn’t true either).

        Assuming CPW are going to be of no use at all and say it’s not their problem, is there anything else you can suggest doing to unlock my iPhone? Is it usually safe to get iPhones unlocked in phone repair shops or should this be avoided at all costs?


      • Hi AA,

        Yes I did, eventually! Got a Three UK SIM card and got the phone set up. Then contacted Three about getting it unlocked and they were really helpful. The one thing that caused a bit of bother was that because the phone was bought from CPW as opposed to from Three themselves, it didn’t work with their automated unlocking system where you just fill in a form online. When I tried unlocking it this way it just came back saying it was already unlocked even though it clearly wasn’t. I had to call Three and request a manual unlocking, but that worked fine and it is now completely unlocked and will work with any SIM card in any country.

        Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken,

    If I buy a second hand unlocked iPhone from France, will it work in the UK if I put a Sim in?

    Many thanks,


    • Hi Leo,
      Thanks for your comment and a very good question! Yes, it will work in the UK providing it’s unlocked. You just need to insert a SIM card from any UK network. The only caveat to this is I don’t know if any French SIM-free iPhones lock themselves automatically (might be worth double checking this before you buy).

  • i had a unlocked iphone 5s that i got has a replacement from my insurance company as my first 1 i got from apple was stolen while i was on vacation, i since upgraded to a i6s and give to my brother the replacement one who got drunk and left it in a taxi on his vacation i just wondering to ring the insurance company and get the imei blocked, just wondering would the phone fail to work even if there a sim from thailand like truemove or ais in there my brother failed to put on find my iphone

    • Hi Shaun,
      Unfortunately, I believe the IMEI blacklist is only guaranteed to work in the UK. There is also an international blacklist from the GSMA (however I’m not sure how effective this is – it’s possible some international mobile networks won’t subscribe to it). Regardless, I’d definitely recommend reporting this to your mobile network and insurer (it’s likely you’ll need to do this anyway before getting a replacement).

  • Hi Ken,
    I bought an unlocked IPhone 5s for my son at Christmas (2015) from Carphone Warehouse. My son spends at last 6 months of the year in the USA and changes his sim card. I enquired of the sales assistant at length that the phone would be compatible to do that. He advised that the phone ‘may’ lock when he inserted his Virgin sim (sim only contract) in the UK but he should check before leaving the UK with Virgin. He did contact Virgin who assured him his phone was not locked. He has arrived in the USA, changed sim and his phone is locked by the carrier. I contacted Virgin and was eventually told (after being passed from pillar to post) that it was locked and they would submit the form to unlock it. My son awaits the email confirmation. On looking at your information above, it now looks likely that the phone may become permanently unusable. It is only six months old. If this happens do I have any redress against Carphone Warehouse as I told the Sales Assistant specifically that my son travels to the USA every year and changes his sim? How are Carphone Warehouse allowed to sell handsets which may become unusable in certain circumstances without making it clear in advance of spending several hundred pounds? I do wish I had found your page before purchasing.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Margaret,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s great news that Virgin have agreed to unlock your son’s iPhone, so there’s no need to worry about it becoming permanently unusable (once they’ve unlocked it, it should work in the US).
      With regards to redress, this is something you can potentially discuss with CPW & the regulators if you believe false information was given to you during the sales process. Unfortunately, you may need to prove this which is difficult for a verbal statement, but you’re right that often the staff at CPW have no idea this even happens. I know this doesn’t really help you now but it’s why I’d typically advise against buying your iPhone from CPW (it’s much less hassle to buy one that’s permanently unlocked from the start).

  • Saif Abdellatif said:

    If I want to buy the IPhone SE on contract from giffgaff will it still be permanently unlocked and if it is unlocked permanently will I be able to use it Egypt? Thanks.

    • Hi Saif,
      Yes – an iPhone SE from giffgaff will be permanently unlocked and will work abroad in other countries. I believe it should work fine in Egypt as long as the required bands/frequencies are supported.

  • Hello…. have the cahnce to buy at auction brand new iphone 6 plus (liquidation stock). I will be moving to spain and apple have said it will not work on spain sims….. any advice do I get a bargain or walk away?

    • Hi Will,
      I’d personally be very careful with liquidation stock – I’m not sure the exact details of this but if it looks too good to be true then it probably is! With regards to whether the phone will work in Spain, this is something you should ask the seller directly (it depends on the iPhone’s activation policy).

  • Annette Solomon said:

    Hi Ken
    I am currently trying to sell my Iphone 5. The phone was previously under contract with Vodafone. When I tried to unlock the phone, Vodafone said they had no record of the phones details. It transpires that I purchased this phone from Carphone Warehouse many years ago and there is no way I can unlock this phone. Is this correct?

    If so, how are they allowed to do this and not tell you that you will not be able to unlock this phone via the provider. Is this legal? Do I have any rights as a consumer?

    Can you please help as I have found someone who would like to buy the phone and they would like it to be unlocked. The only alternative is that I will have to sell at a loss to CEX.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    • Hi Annette,
      Unfortunately, there is no legal obligation for Vodafone to unlock your iPhone so there is no legal recourse you’re able to take. Sorry about this 🙁 However, I believe Vodafone should be able to unlock your iPhone (technically they’re able to do, you just need to convince them to do it). It might be worth having a look through the comments on this page to see if anyone else was able to unlock their CPW iPhone from Vodafone.

  • Steven Clarke said:

    Hi Ken,

    I bought an unlocked iPhone 5s from Argos over ebay.

    I put in an iD (Carphone Warehouse network) SIM in.

    I get a SIM Not Valid message. The carrier is not supported under the activation policy. It’s the only SIM I’ve put in.

    Can you help?

    • Hi Steven,
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like your iPhone might be locked to another network. Are you sure it’s definitely unlocked? For instance, if it’s a second-hand device, the iPhone may have locked itself automatically to the previous owner’s mobile network. If you aren’t sure, you can take the iPhone into your nearest Apple Store and they’ll be able to tell you the activation policy (i.e. which mobile network it’s currently locked to).

  • Hi there, just got off lengthy phone call with john lewis who says their 5s is sim free/unlocked will work on any and all carriers forever… Is that true? They were doing a price match for me to currys but couldn’t due to the fact that currys locks to the first provider of the first sim. I can’t find wording on john lewis website stating anything but “sim free” which is ambiguous across all these websites. Are they confused or is the above chart incorrect? I would love to call them out if you can verify where you got the above information please?
    Will just buy gift gaff one if it is really able to work on any and all carriers. Their website states “unlocked” and just that- can any verify their phones are truly sim free and unlocked and all that implies?
    Thank you!

      • I have a iPhone 6S plus from John Lewis and tried three different network sims without it locking. Family and friends have also purchased from John Lewis and found the same.

        • I just emailed John Lewis about this and they has this to say,

          “Should the phone lock to the first network of the sim card you put in, this will be noted on the product information. The new versions such as the iPhone 6 would be fully unlocked, older versions however will lock to the first network and this will be stated in the product information.”

          I don’t see any information about it in any of the product descriptions (they only sell iphone 5s, 6, 6s, 6 plus, and SE at the moment) so I think I’m going to order a 5s from them and see what happens

  • Hi ken,

    I wanted to ask you, i recently bought a sim free iphone 6s from argos and directly send it to Bangladesh for my girlfriend as a gift. I didn’t even opened the box and didn’t put any sim to it. So, when my girlfriend will receive it, does she have to unlock it or she can use it straight way putting a sim?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Hi Amit,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, to share with you a bit of bad news, a SIM-free iPhone from Argos will only work in the UK. If you’d like to buy a permanently unlocked iPhone that will work across the world, you’ll need to buy it from Apple, giffgaff or Three. If you’re able, I’d recommend returning the iPhone to Argos and getting a replacement from one of these retailers.

  • Hi Ken I got a iPhone 6s from CPW I put ee sim in it it is now locked to ee if I get it unlocked will it work in Ireland

    • Hi Elaine,
      To the best of my understanding, once an iPhone has been unlocked it should work in any country. I haven’t actually tried this myself, however, so please take this with a little pinch of salt!

  • Great article. I bought an iPhone 4s from car phone warehouse sim free. I use a 3 uk pay as you go SIM card. The iPhone locked itself to the 3 sim and I could not unlock it. 3 uk would not unlock it as the phone was not their phone, Apple would not help and told me to refer to the carrier. Cpw were not able to help as they said they had no control over what sim I put in the phone. I was stuck in the middle with a locked iPhone. Fortunately there are people on eBay who are able to unlock “third party activation iPhones” which is what I ended up having to do.

  • Dear Ken
    I recently put a I phone SE from CPW. This was for my son who lives in Australia. My son was over here in the UK. We were told by the lad in the store that the phone comes unlocked. That was what we wanted, as when my son got back to Aus he could go to his network provider.(Vodaphone) They would issue him a new sim, as his sim in his own I Phone 4 was too big. Ok off back to Aus go to Vodaphone, Gets a smaller sim, and it reads sim invalid. Took the phone to Apple store and they could not find the phone on system. They see i paid for it as i emailed my son the receipt, they say nothing can be done. CPW also can’t help as they are now saying it should have been used here in the UK first.To register it? Now what happens if i was to buy 2 phones here for my grandchildren as gifts and take to Aus. Won’t they ever work?. In a dilemma lot of money and nowhere to turn.

    • Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for your comment. With CPW iPhones, I believe you can use them abroad but you’ll need to use them first on a UK network and you’ll then need to unlock the iPhone from that first UK mobile network. More information above in the article here. To save yourself the hassle, it’s best to avoid buying an iPhone from the CPW. Instead, you can buy an unlocked iPhone directly from Apple, giffgaff or Three. These will work automatically in another country without any problems.
      Hope this helps,

      • barbara replied:

        Thanks Ken. The problem is we have purchased the phone. With the wrong info given to us. We now need to get this phone back from Australia. Trust me would never have purchased this phone, knowing what i know now. CPW staff need to start singing from the same hymn sheet!!

  • Mate has iPhone bought at carphone warehouse and used with Virgin sim. Carphone warehouse can’t help and Virgin are a waste of time.

    I suggested it may not be locked to Virgin but the EE network that Virgin uses. Told him to try orange SIM card and it works fine. Also tried Asda sim and it works fine as they use EE network.

    He is currently using it on Asda PAYG but can always go to EE and get it unlocked if he put one of their sims in. Why carphone warehouse could not suggest this is beyond me.

    So phones are network locked not provider locked. In theory any providers sim using the EE network will work.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for the heads up about this – it’s really useful to know that the phone locks to EE rather than Virgin (great news as it isn’t too tricky to unlock a handset from EE).

  • Morning Ken, I have just bought an iPhone 4s from a friend who told me it was unlocked. I am currently on a monthly contract with Tesco so asked them to send me the correct sim. When I put the sim into the iPhone it gave me a message saying this sim was not supported. I know the phone originally came from Carphone Warehouse on an Orange contract. Where do I go from here. Regards Dave

    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s likely the phone has now locked itself to the EE network – if you like, you can order an EE micro-SIM card to check if this works. It’ll cost £8.99 to unlock your iPhone from EE – you can either do this with an EE Pay As You Go SIM card or you could ask your friend to unlock it through their contract on Orange.
      Hope this helps,

      • If you get a message saying ‘sim not supported’, this may occur when you access the ‘services’ icon (it looks like a sim card icon) on the phone. Tesco sim cards place their service number details in the sim contacts section of the phone, not via the ‘services’ section of the phone. So the Tesco sim card may work.

  • Hi ken, guess i have the same trouble. really good iPhone 4 purchased on ebay which was offered “unlocked”. but i want to use it with a german network and it says ” invalid sim”, its locked to BT. any chance that EE can unlock it for the 8.99£ fee? or jailbreak? called bt already but they can not, local phone shop can not. otherwise i can scrap it.
    thanks for help

  • Laura James said:

    I bought an ‘unlocked’ iPhone 5s off of eBay, however when I took out the previous owners ‘EE’ sim and insert my own Tesco sim it tells that the sim I have inserted is not supported under the activation policy? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Laura.

    • Hi Laura,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, it looks like the iPhone may have lock itself to EE – do you know if you was originally purchased from a third-party retailer like the Carphone Warehouse? You could either try to return the handset to the seller, or you can unlock it from EE for £8.99. More information about how to unlock your iPhone from EE here.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,
    My Granddaughter has the “sim free” iphone 6 on Virgin, come time to leave and join “3” she found it locked to Virgin, I phoned Virgin via their 150 number (it was on my account) told them the phone was locked to them (I don’t know if they did anything at their end ) and was told to log into itunes on pc , connect the iphone with her new sim in, 5 mins later she’s now on “3” and very happy.

    Hope this helps, its worth a try

    • Hi Les,
      Thanks for this! Great news about unlocking the iPhone from Virgin – glad to know they were able to solve this for you!

  • Peter McPhillips said:

    Hi Ken

    This is all great information, so first of all thanks.

    Here is my scenario…..

    My sister bought a sim free iphone 6s from Carephone Warehouse. She put a Virgin mobile sim card in it.

    She now wants to change to Vodafone.

    The iPhone had locked to Virgin and they have basically been useless. They told her to reset the phone whilst connected to ITunes, but this hasn’t helped. Every time she calls them, they say to do the same thing. She went to Carphone Warehouse who said there was nothing they could do as it was a Virgin problem. She also contacted Apple who said they couldn’t help as the phone was sold by a third party.

    So what now?

    Surely she isn’t stuck with Virgin forever? There must be some way of dealing with it?

    She has now written a formal complaint to Virgin and will take it up with the Ombudsman if she doesn’t get any satisfaction, but I’m interested to know what your advice would be?

    Many thanks

    • Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m very sorry: there’s really not very much I’m able to do to advise in this situation. As detailed above, it is likely that the iPhone is now locked to Virgin Mobile. This is due to the automatic locking mechanism that applies on CPW iPhones. It’s not really the fault of Virgin Mobile as there’s nothing they can do to control this behaviour (you could have used a SIM card from any other network, and it would have done exactly the same thing). This is more a problem with how Apple has implemented locking on their iPhones (in my opinion, this is a really stupid system and they should be changed as soon as possible). Arguably, the fault could also lie with the retailers like CPW for not notifying customers about this behaviour in a much clearer way.
      Sorry I couldn’t be of any help,

      • It’s not locked to Virgin, it’s locked to the EE network that Virgin uses. Put in EE sim and then get EE to unlock for £8.99.

        Or put Asda sim in as it uses EE network as well. They have some great 30 day bundles.

    • I had this same problem. It was locked to Virgin who just washed there hands of it. I put an EE SIM card in it which worked and locked the phone to EE. The other day I Took it into an EE store and they have apparently unlocked it but il have to wait 10 days to find out if it has worked. it cost £8.99

  • just to comment on the claim that 02 are good at unlocking – when the contract on my Samsung expired I used the 02 site to get the unlock code. They responded to say I did not have an O2 phone, despite paying O2 every month for 2 years. Tried to resolve with online chat but they told me to go to carphone warehouse – who of course referred me to 02. So be aware it is not as straightforward as it seems unless you are very lucky.

  • John Hamilton said:

    Hello Ken, I bought a sim free iPhone 5s from CPW and am using a BT pay monthly contract SIM card in it. Will this phone lock to the BT SIM card? If not, then will it lock to another network if I move from BT?

    Many thanks

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes: your CPW iPhone will automatically lock itself to the first network used. Unfortunately, however, I’m not sure if your handset will lock to BT or EE. For simplicity, I would probably recommend using a SIM card from Three first on the handset. Once you’ve done that, you can use the BT Mobile SIM card without any worries about automatic locking.

      • John Hamilton replied:

        Hello Ken,
        Many thanks for your response and I think you are doing a fine job providing us with your tips and helpful comments. Interestingly, after receiving your comment to my initial question I contacted BT and they have assured me that they do not lock the iPhone to any network. This is important since I think that my CPW iPhone will likely lock to the network of the next SIM card I put into the iPhone if it is not from BT. So I will go with your advice and put in a SIM card from THREE prior to moving to another network. Thanks again

        • Hi John,
          Thanks for your reply! With SIM-free iPhones, it’s not actually the mobile network that locks the iPhone to their network. They actually have no involvement or control in this process (which makes it a rather bizarre & unique situation in the industry). So if you ask any of the mobile network operators whether they’ll lock an iPhone to their network, they’ll probably all tell you they won’t (unless they’re remarkably well informed about how CPW iPhones work). But anyway, yes, using the iPhone on Three will probably be best and will avoid you having problems with an unlock later.
          Thanks again,

  • Hello Ken. I have a IPhone 5s (locked)contract with EE .I paid only 1 month and now I can’t stay more in uk. I must go to in my country. What will happen? The phone will be unusable??Thanks a lot

    • Hi George,
      Thanks for your comment. For more information about this, please see my guide on cancelling your mobile contract early. It’s worth being aware that the handset remains the property of EE for the first six months. They can disable the handset upon non-payment of a bill. My recommendation would be to first see if you’re able to return the handset & contract – if you aren’t, then you should discuss the possible options with EE.

  • Hi Ken,

    Your tips are very helpful. I would like to buy an iPhone 6s handset from Dixon Store inside the Heathrow Airport. I will use an abroad SIM card first. Will it lock to that network? Many thanks

    • Hi Don,
      Yes – I believe it will – as Dixons will use the same stock of handset as the Carphone Warehouse (they’re actually both part of the same group). My recommendation would be to use the handset first in the UK, ideally on Three as it’ll be easy to unlock it from their network.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken,

        Thank you so much for your prompt reply. It might be the best option to buy it directly from Giffgaff website as they state that “All giffgaff phones are sold unlocked”. Is that true? Many thanks and regards Don

  • Hi Ken and thanks for your excellent site. I have read these “locking” threads with interest.
    I am purchasing an iPhone 5s privately from a person who had this on a Vodaphone contract which has ended, and she has taken an iPhone 6 with them. I have been forwarded Vodaphone’s email confirmation of the unlocking with all customer details including IMEI and stating……
    “The iPhone has now been unlocked – Please replace the SIM (use a SIM which has never been used with this iPhone) and connect to iTunes or perform a software restore via iTunes”
    I understand this action completes the unlock.
    I do not have a nano sim from my provider (Talk Talk) yet, and knowing Vodaphone and TT are compatible, I wanted to check the phone before purchase by inserting a free sim card (Lyca mobile) given to me by the local phone shop.
    My questions are these:
    I am aware of iPhones locking to the network. Is it possible that if I use the Lyca mobile sim the iPhone will lock to it?

    Can I link the phone to iTunes to complete the unlock without using a sim card?


    • Hi Cliff,
      Thanks for the kind feedback and the great questions! To answer them in order:
      1) In theory, your iPhone shouldn’t lock itself to Lycamobile when you use it. This is because only SIM-free iPhones lock themselves automatically, and they’ll only lock the first time you use them. Saying that, if you want to doubley-sure, I’d consider unlocking your handset with a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three (the reason being it’s super-easy and free to unlock your handset from them – for Lycamobile this isn’t the case).
      2) Yes, you should be able to complete the unlock through iTunes without using a SIM card.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi, I want to make a 2years contract with Vodafone (through Carphone Warehouse ) and to buy an iPhone S6. As I understood the iPhone will get locked to Vodafone straightaway after inserting the sim first time. The fee to unlock it is £19,99. But I want to ask if it is a good idea first to get aThree pay as you go sim and to unlock it free and then to insert my new Vodafone sim. Do you think it might work? It won’t get locked again to Vodafone? Is a difficult procedure to unlock it on my own or I should contact apple store to help me? Can I unlock the phone straight after inserting the Three sim card or take some time to do it? Thank you very much. Very good site for the iPhone lovers .

        • Hi Dora,
          Thanks for your comment and so sorry for the delay in replying. Yes: I would definitely recommend using the handset first on Three. Once you’ve done this and once you’ve unlocked your handset from Three, it shouldn’t lock itself again in the future (so absolutely fine to use your Vodafone SIM card after this).

  • Hello Ken,

    From what you’ve written above and some of the comments, I suspect I may be out of luck.

    My daughter in Australia has donated me her old iPhone 5S (Model A1530). At the moment it’s a bit of a pig in a poke, as it’s dead. I assume it needs a new battery. Before I go ahead and purchase a new battery, will I actually be able to use it in the UK?

    I don’t know what network my daughter was using, but am I to assume that she would need to get it unlocked before I could use it. If she does that, might I have problems down the line if ever I need to reset the phone – assuming of course that it comes back to life with a new battery?

    • Hi Colette,
      Thanks for your comment. The good news is the iPhone 5s (A1530 model) will work fine here in the UK. However, as you say, it’s likely your daughter will need to get the iPhone unlocked (she’ll need to check with her local mobile network to see how much this costs). Before proceeding, I’d also double-check with Apple to see how much it costs to get your battery replaced (in case this would make it rather uneconomical to use the handset).

      • Thank you for prompt reply. Have asked daughter to see about getting phone unlocked and will check out cost of new battery.

        • Ken,

          I finally got round to getting a new battery for the iphone 5s and that part seems fine. I took it into an Apple Service Centre to get it checked. I told the person there that the iphone came from Australia and might be locked to a network carrier there (Telstra), so once it was clear that the phone was working with a different battery she put a different sim in it and told me it was working on Vodaphone (it was a Vodaphone sim). She then tried some other sims, but apparently it didn’t work with any others. Did the fact that she tried a Vodaphone sim first lock it to Vodaphone do you think?

          Once I was home and now able to access the IMEI number I checked on Telstra’s site whether the phone was locked to their network (I wasn’t sure if Telstra and Vodaphone were somehow linked), but it came back that the phone was unlocked. So, is it now locked to Vodaphone simply because the person at the ASC put a Vodaphone sim in it, or do I perhaps need to do some sort of reset on the phone to get it clear. I don’t particularly want to be on Vodaphone’s network.

          Regards, Colette

          • Well I didn’t need to worry! I’ve just received a ‘free’ sim from Asda which uses the EE network and that seems to work fine. So thank you for your help and all the information you have provided to help people such as me. It’s much appreciated. I can now join the masses of other smartphone users!

          • Hi Colette,
            Thanks for your comment! Glad to know your iPhone is now working properly on the ASDA Mobile network 🙂

  • Hi Ken
    Thank you for your useful tips. I have enquire that I would like to buy iPhone 5s sim free from Carphone wherhouse which is currently on sale .and I am leaving the UK to the Middle East in three weeks. My question which is the better and fastest network in unlocking service , And if i unlock it , does it work in Middle East networks.
    Thank you

    • Hi Raja,
      Thanks for your comment. If possible, I would strongly recommend buying your iPhone directly from Apple (this way, it will be permanently unlocked and it will automatically work in countries outside the UK). If this isn’t possible, the iPhones from giffgaff and Three should also behave in a similar way. If you do choose to buy a CPW iPhone (which I’d probably recommend against doing due to the added complication), the easiest way to unlock it to use a SIM card from Three.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken,
        I recently purchased a iPhone 6 via CPW with a new o2 contract. However I accidentally (silly I know) put my old orange sim into the phone locking it to the orange/EE network. I contacted them directly and was initially told they would unlock the phone I paid £8.99 and told to wait 10days. I did exactly that, heard nothing, contacted them back and was eventually told there was nothing they could do because I didn’t have this specific phone with them for 6months+. I have been pushed from pillar to post nobody is willing to help I’m completely at a loss. Any help/advice would be much appreciated!!

        • Hi Nicol,
          Thanks for your comment and sorry to hear about the problems unlocking your iPhone from Orange/EE. Just out of interest, have you tried unlocking your iPhone with an EE Pay As You Go SIM card? The reason I ask this is because they don’t enforce the 6-month wait rule on Pay As You Go tariffs (so it should be possible to unlock your iPhone that way).

        • dia barbosa replied:

          hi there , i was just wondering if you managed to get your phone unlocked. I encoutered exactly the same problems and both 02 and ee are not really helping.

      • Fmohamed replied:

        Hi ken
        Thank you for your fantastic website!

        I have purchased asim free iPhone 5s from PCW to take abroad to use in Egypt.
        Unfortunately it didn’t accept any SIM cards from there and gave the message SIM not valid.
        Although It hasn’t been used with a Uk SIM card before trying the Egyptian SIM card.
        I would like to know what you think the reason for this is and how this problem can be solved
        I contacted Apple and PCW and they both advised that the handset should work in Egypt fine.

        • Hi Fmohamed,
          Unfortunately, a SIM-free iPhone from PC World will only work on mobile networks in the UK (PC World is actually a part of Dixons Carphone, so the handsets from PC World are identical to those from the Carphone Warehouse). Sorry about this! 🙁

          • Fmohamed replied:

            Thank you for your reply. The handset I am using now in the UK is from the same retailers. I am currently with EE pay as you go.
            I need to know if I unlock the handset I got will it work in Egypt ?

          • Hi there,
            Yes: I believe the handset should work abroad with no problems once you’ve gone through the process of unlocking it from EE. It’ll be £8.99 to do this as an EE Pay As You Go customer – more details here if you want to go ahead and do this.

  • Hi Ken
    Looked to buy iphone 6s at PC World today the Apple Rep there told me their iphones will lock to the 3rd different sim network so you can change your network provider 3 times he said.
    He also said that the Iphones they sell are the same as the Apple Stores iphones which lock after 3 different sims are inserted.
    I was under the impresion that an unlocked phone means what it says unlocked for ever.

    • Hi Ron,
      Thanks for your comment. This is the first time I’ve heard of this so I believe the Apple rep there is probably mistaken. iPhones purchased from a third-party retailer including CPW, PC World and John Lewis will automatically lock themselves to the first network used. An iPhone purchased directly from Apple will not lock itself to any networks automatically.

      • Hi Ken
        Thanks for your reply it’s just what I thought.
        But when you have reps making up tales on the spot you start to wonder if it’s true because I’ve never tried to insert 3 different network cards in my iPhones.
        But the reason I researched what he said,I left Pc World and went over to Carphone Warehouse they told me exactly the same tale about Apple Store iPhones locking after 3 sims are inserted.He said at CPW they tell you there unlocked but ask them to put it in writing.
        I told him they do put it in writing have you ever looked at their website they state iPhones purchased from them come unlocked and can be used by any carrier you wish to use.

  • Hi,
    I have recently bought an iPhone 5s from Amazon that said it was unlocked but will lock to network of first sim inserted. I am in the uk and have sent this phone to my sister in Australia.

    When she has put a Telstra sim in the phone it says sim not accepted, is this because it needs a uk sim in first? If she puts a uk sim in then unlocks it will it work on Australian carriers?


    • Hi Shannon,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, SIM-free iPhones from the Carphone Warehouse and certain other third-party retailers can only be activated on a UK network. They’ll automatically lock themselves to the first network used. Once unlocked, you’ll be able to use the iPhone abroad in other countries (e.g. on a carrier in Australia). SIM-free iPhones purchased from Apple will automatically work in any country and will not lock themselves to the first network used.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken,

        I am sorry to say but this is not true. I bought iPhone 5s from CPW, tried using Telenor SIM in first, didn’t want to activate. I then used 3 network Pay as you Go SIM and asked 3 to unlock it for me, they did (or they say they did) and told me to use iTunes to restore my phone, which should unlock it (thanks to 3 and Apple customer support as they both really tried to help me, we even organised a 3 way conf call). However this returned the phone back to CPW Flex Policy lock and now I can’t use this phone outside UK with a foreign SIM in it.

        Tried even R SIM 10+ but still wasn’t able to make the phone work without UK SIM.


  • Hi, I’ve bought an iPhone 5c which is on Tesco mobile pay as you go. I believe the carrier to be O2. I’d like to order a sim card from Giffgaff (also O2) just wondering if the phone will accept the new sim or if I need to have it unlocked? Thanks in advance for your reply

    • Hi Jodie,
      Thanks for your comment. Which retailer did you order the iPhone 5s from? As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to assume that the phone will lock itself to the first network used (unless you bought it directly from Apple, or from certain retailers like giffgaff & Three).
      If you do get an iPhone that locks itself automatically, I’d strongly recommend activating it with a SIM card from Three (this will be the easiest way of getting your iPhone unlocked).

  • Hi Ken,

    I have to be honest, I haven’t read all the comments so please forgive me if this has already been asked. When a network subsidised iPhone has been unlocked, is it common practice for it to lock itself back to that network when you factory reset the device? Personal example: obtained EE locked 5c from a friend, got the device unlocked and used a Three PAYG SIM in it, factory reset it to pass on to a friend temporarily as their phone was in for repair and this was my second line but after the reset it was locked back to EE, despite still having the Three SIM in the handset.

    • Hi Eddie,
      Thanks for your comment. When your iPhone has been unlocked through your mobile network operator, it’ll permanently be unlocked for use on any network. After you do a factory reset, your iPhone will check its “activation status” against Apple’s central servers. As long as your iPhone is marked as unlocked on that server, it’ll continue to be unlocked even after a factory reset.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken
    Wondering if you can assist with an iPhone 6 query please. I’m looking to purchase an iPhone 6 from Argos (this year) which states on Their website as “sim free” not unlocked. I was just wondering if it will lock to the first sim I use in it ( I’m on three’s network) I’m looking to move to Italy for a few months next year so would require an Italian sim after my UK three sim. Having read your amazing and insightful page I not that CPW sim free iPhones lock to the first sim but could find anything on Argos sum free.
    Any help is greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Laura,
      Unfortunately, I believe SIM-free iPhones bought from Argos will automatically lock themselves to the first network used. If you want to avoid this problem, I recommend buying your handset from giffgaff instead (£449 which is £10 cheaper than Argos, and it doesn’t lock itself to the first network used). Alternatively, you can buy the iPhone from Apple for £459 as well (this will not lock itself to the first network used).
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken
        Thank you so much for getting back to me about this, it’s very useful! Do you know if I can use the giffgaff unlocked phone abroad with an Italian sim?
        Thanks again
        Laura b

        • Hi Laura,
          As far as I’m aware, the giffgaff iPhone should work abroad in other countries. It might be worth asking on the giffgaff community if you want a definitive answer to this question 🙂
          Hope this helps,

  • Helen Goldring said:

    I’ve recently purchased an iPhone 6 from the carphone warehouse with an EE contract. In 6 months I can apparently get the phone unlocked by EE and I intend to use a three sim for two weeks whilst in America. My question is will the phone remain unlocked and be fine with the EE sim going back in it or will it lock itself to three? Thank you.

    • Hi Helen,
      Thanks for your comment. Once your iPhone is unlocked from the network, it will permanently be unlocked for use on any network. It shouldn’t lock itself to the Three network.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken,
    A common theme but………is it possible for an iPhone 4s which was originally purchased from Carphone Warehouse as a sim free phone to be unlocked so that it can accept European sims?

    I have just sold my (as I thought it was unlocked) phone to a person in France. He finds it sim locked!
    I am trying to establish from the original owner which network operator she originally used for the first 18 months. My daughter then used it on Tesco for 18 months. I have placed a request for Tesco to unlock the phone but am concerned that even if they can unlock it the phone will not work in Europe.

    Any assistance would be appreciated. I am about to give the man his money back and tell him to keep the phone! I never knew about sim free phones until now. With global markets and the ease of selling used phones all over the world this will raise its head time and again.

    A lesson learnt the hard way!



  • Hi Ken, I was wondering whether I can use my iPhone 5 sim (bought with the phone) in a different phone that is sim-free?

  • I have had my iphone 4 for about four years,bought new sealed sim free from a third party seller, it takes any sim no problem there, I have a three sim at the moment as I am on holiday in Spain, loaded it up with data so I could use on the move, the phone function works perfect but no data, roaming is on I am connected to network 3g shows but the phone just says you are not subscribed to a data service, 3’s support say it should be working

    • Hi, I know this comment was a while ago but in case it is still helpful, I had the same problem earlier this year with a Three phone when on holiday in Spain. Called customer services and was advised to select the relevant partner network manually rather than allowing it to auto-select. I had no further problems with the data connection.

  • Hi, I have bought sim free iPhone 6 from carphone warehouse I check it on Lycamobile it did work there but now I’m abroad it’s not working in any sim. can you help please help me regarding this matter

    • Hi Kairo,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the bad news is that SIM-free iPhones purchased from the Carphone Warehouse will only work on mobile networks in the UK. You can see this in the small print on the Carphone Warehouse website:
      “iPhone will lock itself to the network of the first SIM card that is used in the phone. Subsequently attempting to use it on any other network, for example by replacing the SIM card, may mean it becomes permanently unusable. SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards.
      Sorry to pass on the bad news 🙁 If it’s a major problem, consider returning the iPhone to the Carphone Warehouse and buying your iPhone directly from Apple (a SIM-free iPhone purchased from Apple doesn’t have the same UK-only restriction).

  • my mum has just a new phone so she said i could have her iphone 4 she haas had it for two years. i also have a iphone 4 but i smashed it, it still works but smashed everywhere. i am on O2 and my mums on Vodafone. we both bought them from carphone warehouse. my sim card doesnt work on my mums phone so we are thinking my mums phone is locked.

    so i was woundering do you know anywhere where we can get it unlokcked so i can use my mums phone becasue i dont want to pay a new sim card because i have just signed onto a new contract with O2????

    please help me out!!!!

  • Hiya. My Dad had an ipHONE 5s 64 GB and he was on EE and when he passed it down to me, the only sim it would accept is EE so i am stuck on EE but i really want to unlock this. What do i do?

    • Hi Kiz,
      Thanks for your comment. The best thing to do would be to ask your Dad to unlock the iPhone on your behalf (it’ll cost him £8.99). For more information on how to do this, see the article here.
      Hope this helps,

  • Thanks for the reply Ken. The phone in question is an iphone 5 so would be fine for 3G / 4G. Also there is definitely coverage in the area as we tested using a Three sim from a working iphone 5. We’ve tried resetting network settings and resetting the entire phone but no luck. Also we have tried three different Three sims and the result is the same.

    So it seems something specific to Three on this phone, but we have no idea what .. it’s driving us crazy!

    Any other ideas you have would be much appreciated.


  • Hi Ken,

    A friend of mine bought an unlocked second hand phone from the net. He tried it with a number of Three sims and it just gives “No service”. However, with O2, EE, Tesco it works fine. The phone was originally locked to O2.

    Any idea what could cause this? We are based in the UK.


    • Hi Amit,
      Thanks for your comment. If the handset is working fine on EE, then it isn’t a problem with the handset being locked (an O2-locked handset won’t work on EE). The first thing which springs to mind is checking whether coverage from Three should actually be available (you can do this with the Three online coverage checker). The second thing also worth checking is that the handset supports 3G networks. If your friend is using a 2G-only handset, he’ll find it doesn’t work on Three. Three only provides 3G & 4G coverage whilst the other network operators have 2G as well.
      Hope this helps,

      • Just to let you know your advise is incorrect. First of all, Tesco mobile unlock iPhones for £9.99.
        Any iPhone on three network is factory unlocked. Also if you buy from carphone warehouse yes it does lock to the first network sim. But if you put a three sim in it and activate it it will then remain sim free. And one other thing. T-mobile & orange will unlock your iPhone under the ee unlocking form that ee have on their web site. So please if your going to comment on what people should do, please give them the right information

        • Hi Dave,
          Thanks for your observation and the heads up on this info! The article above was published in October 2013 (for this reason, some of it is out-of-date information). For the latest information pertaining to unlocking your iPhone, see the article I’ve written over here. The information about SIM-free iPhones from a third-party retailer locking themselves automatically is still correct.
          Thanks again!

  • Hi Ken,
    I got an IPhone 5c from CPW on Vodafone. I never used the Vodafone sim and instead put my Virgin sim in.
    The Virgin tariffs are not as good as other networks and I wish to use another network sim in the IPhone.
    I phoned Virgin before to request a network unlock code and the advisor said I would have to request one from the phone provider which was Vodafone.
    Could you please clarify who it is that can unlock the phone, is it Vodafone or Virgin?
    Many thanks

    • Hi Ann,
      Unfortunately, you’ll need to unlock the iPhone from the network it has now become locked to (in your case, Virgin Mobile). Only they will be able to pass on the unlocking request to Apple.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken,
        Many thanks for your reply.
        It would seem that Virgin fobbed me off then when they told me I would have to request one from Vodafone.
        I will contact them again and inform them that they have to unlock it and not Vodafone as previously stated.
        Many thanks for your help.

  • Hi Ken, brilliant replies from the comments so far. I have a similar question to a few others …… I bought an iPhone 4s from O2 on a Pay Monthly contract, when this expired I bought a sim only from Virgin, and left O2 (they unlocked the phone for free). I have been using the Virgin sim since with no problems. I now want to buy an unlocked Samsung Android phone, and use the same sim in it. Will the iPhone 4s still be unlocked when I trade it in?, as this will be worth more as a trade value. Many thanks ….. Ian

  • Ingrid McCarroll said:

    Hi Ken
    I upgraded to an iPhone 6 with Vodafone. The handset is still sealed in its packaging. Can a sim from a different network be inserted? Will
    It then lock to that network?
    Thank you,

    • Hi Ingrid,
      Thanks for your comment. That’s right – an iPhone purchased from the Carphone Warehouse will work on any UK network when you first buy it. It will then lock itself automatically to the first network used.
      Hope this helps,

      • Put a three sim in first. This will keep the iPhone unlocked as three activation policy is not locking them.
        P.s I work for apple Lakeside essex

        • Thanks Dave – that’s really good advice! I’ll be sure to update the information above the next time this article is updated.
          Thanks again!

    • I got an Iphone 5s from Mobile Phones Direct on Vodafone however had 3 weeks left with EE. I put the EE sim in first time and locked the handset to EE. EE, Vodafone and Mobiles Phones Direct couldn”t unlock the phone they all blamed each other so be carefull. Eventually Mobile Phones Direct replaced the handset. 2 months of complaining before the issue was resolved so please be carefull.

  • Hi
    I just bought an Iphone on ebay 4..16 gig locked to vodafone…i bought it because i am with talk mobile on the vodafone network…will my talk mobile sim work in the phone?
    I may have to put it back on ebay
    thank you very much

  • the sim card that u currently have installed in this iPhone is from a carrier that is not supported under the activation policy that is currently assigned by the activation serwer. This is not a hardware issue with this iPhone. Pls insert another another sim card from A supported carrier or request that this iPhone be unlocked by your carrier . What that mean? My old SIM card was from virgin mobile. I transferred number to talk talk mobile and I’m receiving above message.. Thanks Ken

  • Hi, I hope you can help…

    I bought an Iphone 6 from CPW and a contract with Vodafone. Indeed, the phone auto-locked. I requested Vodafone unlock the handset, which they have done (free, and in less than 48 hours!). My question is, will the Ip6 RE-LOCK to the first sim I put in it? Or is it now permanently unlocked to any network? From reading this excellent site, I understand that a network-unlocked iPhone isn’t the same thing as a factory-unlocked iPhone? I haven’t tried a different sim in it yet (I daren/t!) until I’m sure it won’t re-lock. Please help!

    • Hi Steven,
      Thanks for your comment. CPW iPhones will only lock themselves the first time you use them – once you’ve unlocked it from the network it should permanently be unlocked for use on any network 🙂
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi, would be so grateful if you answered my question!!

    I bought an Iphone 5s at Carphone warehouse and since I put in my Giffgaff-sim in first it now seems to be locked. I cant put a swedish sim-card in, because it states I’m in the wrong region.
    How do I get it to work with sim-cards from other regions?

    I have asked both Apple and Carphone warehouse and they say that the phone is locked to Giffgaff and UK.

    Please Help, I don’t want to buy a new phone just because I am moving to another country!!

    • Hi Hanna,
      Thanks for your comment. Here’s the bad news: iPhones sold by the Carphone Warehouse will only work with a UK-based SIM card. They also lock themselves to the first network used. You can see this information for yourself on the Carphone Warehouse website:
      iPhone will lock itself to the network of the first SIM card that is used in the phone. Subsequently attempting to use it on any other network, for example by replacing the SIM card, may mean it becomes permanently unusable. SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards.
      In order to unlock your iPhone from giffgaff, you should now follow the instructions here.
      Sorry I can’t be any more helpful!

  • I bought a contract phone from giff gaff , i been using giff gaff sim on it , its iphone 6 plus today i put three sim in it it works . So my phone is it unlocked to any network or not?

    • Hi Junaid,
      All devices sold by giffgaff are permanently unlocked for use on any network. This includes all iPhones sold by giffgaff.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken, what a great website you have! I am coming to the end of my tesco mobile contract with an iPhone 5, I have spoke to them about unlocking my phone which they have set in motion, the advisor informed me that once my phone is unlocked it may then lock to the new mobile provider, will this be the case? I wanted to go over to EE for a few months until I decide if I want a brand new handset and then give my husband my iPhone 5, he has a Vodafone SIM card through work.

    • Hi Ailsa,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe an iPhone that’s been unlocked should permanently be unlocked for use on any network. Hence, it shouldn’t be a problem using EE for a few months followed by Vodafone.

      • Hi Ken thanks for your advice. My iPhone was unlocked today and I have been able to use my tesco sim and new EE sim in it. The advisor was obviously talking a lot of nonsense!! Thanks again for your help!

  • Hello Ken,

    I bought an iphone 6 from free operator in france.Can i get it unlocked to use it in India?

    Thank you for your reply.

    • Hi Binod,
      Thanks for your comment. You’ll need to contact the mobile network operator to whom the iPhone is currently locked to: only they’ll be able to unlock the iPhone from the network. You should therefore contact Free in France to see whether they’re able to unlock the iPhone for you.

  • I asked O2, and they said that it’s only once you place your sim into their contract phone, it will be locked to O2, and only after a certain amount of time has passed, they will unlock it. Is that true? Because I want to use my dads EE upgrade, he hasn’t put a sim into it yet, so I should be able to put my O2 sim into it, because it can’t be locked to ee unless it’s been used, because iphone don’t make phones for specific networks??

    • Hi there,
      SIM-free iPhones from a third-party retailer like the Carphone Warehouse will automatically lock themselves to the first network used (this doesn’t happen if the iPhone was purchased from a mobile network or from Apple directly). If you have one of the auto-locking iPhones, then you would be able to use an O2 SIM card inside it (you’ll then need to follow the normal instructions for unlocking from O2). As far as I’m currently aware, there’s no minimum amount of time you need to have used the handset on O2 before unlocking it.

      • If I chose to buy a phone from three instead, when I unlock it – will it be perminantly unlocked to all networks at all times, or will it lock to the new carrier?

        • Hi Ele,
          That’s correct: once a handset has been unlocked from your network, it’ll permanently be unlocked for use on any network.
          Hope this helps,

          • Great thanks. Is there anyway a network can lock your phone to their network, without you puttjng your sim into it?

          • Hi Ele,
            Thanks for your comment. I wasn’t quite sure what you were asking: are you talking about whether they’re able to remotely block your handset? If so, the answer is yes (e.g. if you report the handset as being lost or stolen). If you’re talking about whether they’re able to remotely re-lock a handset to their network, this shouldn’t normally be possible (and should never happen once you’ve paid for an unlock).

          • No, I meant, when the phone is sealed in the box, can a network lock it, without accessing the software on the phone? Because Apple don’t make phones for specific networks – only GSM, and CDMA. The latter, is what they sell to the networks, and when you insert your sim into it, it will lock to that network.

          • Hi Ele,
            Oh, ok. The iPhone is different from other handsets in that the locking status is stored on Apple’s servers. During setup, it will check Apple’s servers for the “activation policy” (the activation policy basically states on which networks you’re able to use the iPhone). So, yes, in the case of Apple: the locking status of your phone can be changed remotely by Apple at any time.

      • Joo Won replied:

        O2 do not unlock iPhone 6 at the moment. I tried to use my olleh sim in there and it come up saying NO

        man with beard in o2 said they won’t unlock iPhone 6 or plus yet

        • Hi Jon,
          Thanks for your comment. As you say, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus can’t be unlocked from O2 at present. Typically, they’ve allowed users to unlock an iPhone six months after the release of the model (this would have been in April 2015). Still no word on when it will actually be allowed for the iPhone and the iPhone 6 Plus (fingers crossed, however, it won’t be too long)

  • Patricia Howe said:

    I have been given an iPhone6 as a present. It was bought at PC World sim free and a separate EE sim bought from CPW. I have a Tesco sim in my old phone. I want to buy phone and data separately as it seems cheaper and keep my old number, and I know Tescos do this. Can I use my Tesco SIM card? or is that too easy! I want the advantage of the phone credit without a time limit, but the option to buy data credit as I need it eg on holiday. Your site is the only one so far that makes any sense.

      • Patricia Howe replied:

        Thank you. I am getting answers from you that I couldn’t get after a half hour chat session with Tescos! Looking at EE’s site, it looks as though I may have to wait 6 months to unlock it as a CPW card linked to EE has been put in it, though phone bought separately as Sim free. It also looks as though Giff gaff may be a better option than Tesco. One more question, if I change my number to EE from Tesco for the 6 months, will I be able to use it again with another provider?
        I am full of admiration and amazement at your knowledge and willingness to guide us through this minefield . Thank you for this public service.
        Patricia Howe

        • Hi Patricia,
          Thanks for the kind words and pleasure to be able to help out! If you need to unlock your iPhone from EE immediately, you can do this with an EE Pay As You Go SIM card (the SIM card itself is free but you’ll need to top-up at least £8.99). More information over on this page.
          With regards to your other question about transferring a phone number: no, there’s no limit on how many times you’re able to do this. So you can certainly switch your phone number from Tesco to giffgaff later on in a few months 🙂

  • Just discovered your informative site Ken as I was thinking of purchasing an iPhone 5s/c from Giffgaff and am a little unclear about your advice from different parts of your site. You state above “A SIM-free iPhone used on the giffgaff network will lock itself to O2. ” which fits with your advice to purchase it from Apple if one wants one that will not lock itself to the inserted SIM card.

    Your article on unlocking iPhones, however, suggests “Customers who bought their iPhone directly from giffgaff’s website (either with a one-off lump sum payment or with a monthly repayment plan) shouldn’t need to unlock their iPhone. This is because giffgaff provides a SIM-free variety of the iPhone which doesn’t lock itself to a network automatically.” This would fit with the advice from the community on the Giffgaff site that their iPhones remain unlocked.

    The different high street retailers offer totally contradictory advice of course and I am amazed at how uninformed (or misleading?) their advice is.


    • Hi Geo,
      Thanks for your comment. SIM-free iPhones sold by giffgaff are permanently unlocked for use on any network. They won’t lock themselves to the first network used (it’s the same as if you were buying the handset directly from Apple). I’ve seen this officially confirmed by the staff from giffgaff (though I can’t currently seem to find the relevant link).
      For a further technical explanation, a SIM-free iPhone sold by the Carphone Warehouse has a special activation policy known as “UK Carphone Flex”. It’s only with this special activation policy whereby the handset will lock itself to the first network used.
      Hope this helps to answer your question!

      • Many thanks Ken,

        The position you state is that which I believed it to be, but even after some hours on the internet I found it difficult to confirm (and also could not re-discover the link you mention!).

        I am sure your clarification will also be of use to others.


  • Hi i have done an o2 upgrade via the carphone warehouse but as i already have an iphone 6 i sold the brand new unit still sealed as unlocked to any network. Two weeks later the guy i sold it to is saying its not unlocked and he cant use it ! Is this the case as i don’t understand how they can lock a sealed unit ?!

        • Hi Brian,
          Oh, right… that would explain it. Unfortunately, iPhones sold by the Carphone Warehouse will only work on networks in the UK. From the small print on the Carphone Warehouse website: “iPhone will lock itself to the network of the first SIM card that is used in the phone. Subsequently attempting to use it on any other network, for example by replacing the SIM card, may mean it becomes permanently unusable. SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards.“. It might be possible to use the handset abroad but it will first need to be used in the UK and must then be unlocked from that UK network (though I haven’t actually tried this myself).

  • My husband purchased an iPhone 5s last year from CPW and wants to change network. We were told that phones purchased after Jan last year would not be locked but it seems to be locked to Vodafone even though he is sim only. He has filled out the unlock form and it comes back saying his imei is wrong which I suspect means they have no record of the lock. How can we proceed and is it worth the clear and restore option touted on the internet or is that just a waste of time?


    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, iPhones sold by the Carphone Warehouse are only unlocked at the point of purchase. They’ll then automatically lock themselves to the first network used. This is why you’re experiencing the problem of the iPhone not working on other networks.
      With regards to the IMEI number, did Vodafone tell you it’s an “invalid IMEI number” or did they simply state there’s no record of the handset? If the number is invalid, I’d double check the information here. If the latter, unfortunately you’ll need to persist in getting Vodafone to unlock it (only they can make the request to Apple).
      With regards to the clear and restore option, this only works once the unlock has been processed by Apple (essentially, the backup and restore process will force your iPhone to check its activation & unlocking status against Apple’s central database).

  • Hi I bought I phone 5 from pal in Scotland it’s unlocked to any network I live in ireland not recieved it yet just reading comments worried it won’t work
    here ?
    Awaiting ur reply thanks

    • Hi Gretta,
      Thanks for your comment. A SIM-free iPhone 5 from third-party retailers like the Carphone Warehouse will only work on networks in the UK (it won’t work on any networks in Ireland). If the iPhone was previously used on a network in the UK and has since been unlocked from that network, it should work with no problems when you’re using it Ireland. It might be worth talking to your friend in Scotland to clarify which of these applies to the iPhone.

        • Declan replied:

          Hi Gretta, Ken

          as a total aside as I couldn’t pass the coincidence, my mother’s called Gretta, what a lovely name, altogether aaah, ahem pardon me and my brother’s called Ken.

          anyway onto the tech question. This page tells readers CPW iphones which are SIM free lock to the first network card placed in the them. what about other phones from CPW, do they all behave in the same manner? perhaps a new term is required, something like pre- locked.


          • Hi Declan,
            Thanks for your comment, and hehe! 😉
            With regards to your question: no, the automatic locking will only happen for iPhones sold by the Carphone Warehouse. This is due to a quirk in how Apple implements locking on their handsets. Other types of handsets (including Samsung, HTC, Sony, Nokia, Microsoft, etc) will not lock themselves to the first network used.
            Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken,

    I wish I had found your site before I bought my iPhone!
    I bought an iPhone 6 from the carphone warehouse. I knew the first SIM inserted would lock the phone to that sim and was assured that it would be fine as I live in Malta. I inserted my mobile network’s SIM card (GOMobile) and it’s now showing me that my sim is unsupported. Does this mean I have to unlock my phone somehow or can I just try another providers SIM i.e. Vodafone Malta?

    I know you’ve gone over this before but I am so frustrated atm 🙁

    • Hi Carol,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, iPhones purchased from the Carphone Warehouse will only work on a network in the UK. My recommendation is hence to return the handset to the Carphone Warehouse: they should be able to give you a refund given the incorrect information provided by the store staff.
      With regards to using your phone on Vodafone Malta, this also unfortunately wouldn’t be possible 🙁 The iPhone is currently locked to UK-based networks (it doesn’t matter that Vodafone is also in the UK – Vodafone UK & Vodafone Malta are two entirely separate networks for the purposes of locking).
      Sorry I wasn’t able to be of any more assistance 🙁 I hope, however, this will at least point you in the right direction.

      • thx very much Ken it’s real depressing that their salesmen/woman don’t inform you explicitly that they only use UK providers and it just gives us unnecessary hassle.
        I now have the problem of getting my phone back to the UK and getting a refund because of their incompetence.

        I shall complain wholeheartadly to Carphone Warehouse about this 🙂

  • Hi Ken,

    We just bought a sim-free iphone 6 from CPW for my nephew in Ireland, I was assured buy the CPW agent that it would work in Ireland at the time I bought it. My nephew put his sim into the phone and it came up with a mesage that the sim wasn’t supported. Are they also region-locked to the UK?
    If so, are we’re gonna have to either pay to unlock it, or get ask our money back and pay the extra to buy direct from apple?

    Thanks in advance!


    • Hi Damon,
      Unfortunately, an iPhone 6 from the Carphone Warehouse will not work on mobile networks in Ireland. It’s a fairly common problem faced by readers of this website (e.g. see the comments here and here). My suggestion is to return to iPhone back to the Carphone Warehouse as you were incorrectly told it would work in Ireland. If possible, it’s better to buy your SIM-free iPhone directly from Apple: there, it’ll be unlocked for use on any network in any country.

  • hi ken!

    i am having the same problem as ed has described. I have contacted three and they send me the message that the iphone is unlocked now but it still not accepting any other sim other than 3. I had connected the iphone 6 to itunes as sugggesed by three and also used all the methods as Ed did. I dont know what options i am left with now.

  • Hello Ken,

    Thanks for the thorough guide. I recently got the iphone from a third person who bought it in CPW. It does work in the UK but not in Spain. How do I know what network is the phone locked to? If it worked with a giffgaff SIM, does that mean is giffgaff and I should try to call them?



    • Hi Al,
      Thanks for your comment. If the phone was previously working with a giffgaff SIM card, the chances are it’s locked to O2. The best way to check definitively is to take your iPhone into the nearest Apple store. You can ask them to check the ‘activation policy’ or ‘locking status’ of the handset. If you’d like to unlock the iPhone from O2, you can follow the instructions listed on this page.

  • Hi. Wondered if you could help me.

    I bought an iPhone with O2. I had it unlocked from O2 and never inserted my O2 sim into the handset. The first sim I inserted was my talkmobile sim. Once my talkmobile contract ended I left the company due to the poor signal in my area. I took out a new contract with O2 and had assumed my iPhone was unlocked as I originally had it unlocked from O2.

    It is actually now locked to talkmobile as its the first sim I put in.

    I have been trying to get it unlocked from talkmobile and have spent hours talking to various people at talkmobile.

    They initially said I need to speak to car phone warehouse, then said to speak to Apple and get them unlock it, then I was told that they would unlock it if I provide proof of purchase for my iPhone. Now they are saying they can only unlock iPhones purchased through talkmobile and are unable to unlock mine as I have not purchased it with them as they do not have the software to do this.

    It has been a nightmare. Every time I call I get a different reason why they will not unlock it.
    As clearly talkmobile are not going to unlock it for me. What should I do?
    I don’t want to jailbreak it, but at the moment I have little other choice 🙁

    • Hi Zun,
      Sorry to hear about your situation 🙁 Am I right in understanding your iPhone was purchased from the Carphone Warehouse? It wasn’t quite clear from your comment. If so, this is why it locked to Talkmobile (an iPhone purchased from O2 shouldn’t lock itself automatically to another network).
      Anyhow, the answer to your question is that only Talkmobile are able to unlock the iPhone from their network (there’s no point going to CPW or O2). You’ll need to convince Talkmobile Customer Services to accept the unlocking request – only they’ll be able to lodge the request with Apple.

  • Surely this is extortion ??

    The network operators are locking the phone to their network and then charging to free it, this is a little like filling a new car with Shell petrol and then having to pay Shell to enable you to use another brand.

    • Hi Keith,
      Thanks for your comment – you make a really good point. Several countries around the world agree with what you’re saying: they actually make it illegal for mobile network operators to lock a handset to their network. Their line of reasoning is that having unlocked smartphones will promote conpetition by making it easier for people to change network.
      In the UK, regulators have so far taken a hands-off approach. The reason being network-locked handsets are subsidised by the network (they’re normally offered at a lower price than SIM-free handsets). You’re also able to repay the subsidy (you do this when unlocking your phone) at which point you end up with a fully unlocked handset.

  • Hi Ken,

    I’m getting a new iPhone 6 from brighthouse, as it will be unlocked until I put a sim in the phone for the first time, would it be advisable for me to put a three sim in first, as three network phones are all unlocked for free now, just wondering if that would work ?


    • Hi Kerry,
      Thanks for your comment. Indeed, it’s definitely a good idea to put a Three SIM card into your SIM-free iPhone first. The iPhone may become locked to their network (at which point, you should be able to unlock it for free).
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken!
    Sorry if you’ve answered this elsewhere…
    My question is whether this also spplies to iPads. I’m interested in getting an iPad mini secondhand.
    One seller says it’s unlocked as bought “separately from the sim” (doesn’t say if direct from Apple) but that it’s had an orange sim.
    But from what I’ve read, Orange are the worst for making your device stuck – and impossible to unlock 2nd hand.
    She also says iPads don’t lock to sims like phones- which is definitely not true!
    Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Sara,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve done a bit of research regarding this issue: it sounds as if the iPad will lock in the same way as the iPhone. If the iPad was originally purchased from a third-party retailer (e.g. the Carphone Warehouse), it will lock itself automatically to the first network used. You’ll need to contact that network if you later wish to unlock it for other networks.

  • hi there.
    great thread!
    my wife has an iPhone 5 bought from ORANGE/ EE around 2 yrs 4mts ago.
    we asked for a pac code and then a handset unlock.
    bought a vodafone sim only monthly nano sim.
    the iTunes screen (full restore) and the real world Apple Store confirmed that the phone is ‘unlocked’ but the vodafone sim gives No Service in her phone.
    I tried my sim only Three Mobile sim in her iphone 5. it works.
    I tried her vodafone sim in my Apple Store bought iphone 6 and that works fine too.
    the manager of the vodafone store tried his vodafone sim in her phone – it didn’t work. and her vodafone sim in his device did work.
    is it possible EE didn’t fully unlock the device.?
    it works on Three but not on Voda.
    should we go to an EE store next
    to check its fully unlocked?
    I erased all contents and settings on the iPhone 5 and restored from a backup. still the same.
    one concern is when we restored the phone in iTunes the first time the MacBook Air with the back up was briefly closed during the unlock backup with a short time left
    to go. when I reopened it it said it was done. could it have not finished? could the back up itself now have an issue?
    seems crazy to bin a phone that works on some networks. we only wanted vodafone for reception issues.
    any help much appreciated.
    thanks in advance

  • Dave Cotton said:

    Hi Ken,

    Please help an old man!
    My son has just had his EE business contract iPhone 5 upgraded to an iPhone 6. He has had the iPhone 5 unlocked by Apple via EE and has passed it to me. I intend to use it on Talktalk utilising their “free sim” offer – which forms part of their TV package.
    Having read the various comments posted on your site my worry now is that my iPhone will become locked to Talktalk and I shall not be able to use another Provider when I wish to do so. I frequently travel abroad and had hoped to use local sims.
    A this phone was unlocked via EE can you advise please whether I can safely use Talktalk without the phone becoming locked. Thank you.

    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your comment. As far as I understand, the iPhone will only lock itself automatically when it was sold a third-party retailer such as the Carphone Warehouse. Futhermore, on CPW iPhones, it will only lock itself automatically the first time you use it. In your case, neither of the two apply and you’ve already paid EE to unlock it. Hence, I believe, it should now permanently be unlocked for use on any network. To be extra sure, I recommend double-checking with Apple directly.

  • Hi Ken, I bought an Iphone6. I had an I phone 4s. EE transferred my tel no to the IP6 on a basic £10 month usage contract as I bought the phone. I told them I wanted to give my IP4 to my mother so they sold me a £10 sim with a new tel no to go in the IP4. I cannot open the IP4 with my passcode – whether the new sim is in it or not. Its not on a contract and he knew I wanted it to be a PAYG and its way way out of any contract. Surely I don’t have to pay to unlock it when its got a PAYG from the same provider! thanks

    • Hi Helen,
      Thanks for your comment. It doesn’t sound like you’re having a problem with the iPhone being locked (rather, you’re seeing the PIN unlock screen which is something you set up yourself on the iPhone). Could you maybe have used the wrong PIN number on the phone? If you were having a problem with the iPhone being locked to a network, you’d see a message saying “SIM Not Valid”. As you’re still using the phone on EE and as the message appears even without a SIM card, you aren’t experiencing a problem with the iPhone being locked.
      Hope this helps,

  • Samir Bandali said:

    Hi I have brought an iphone from a reseller.

    The iphone had a sim of three in it.

    I have tried therefore getting carrier unlocked but it is not possible as they stated it is from carphone warehouse and it is locked three network as it is first sim that has been provided in that handset.

    I now have a iphone 6 that is only able to use three.

    Can you please help on otherways to get it unlocked.
    I have tried three
    carphone warehouse
    i have tried restoring
    i have tried connecting to itunes and restore.

    apple cannot help either


    • Hi Samir,
      Thanks for your comment. Have you tried asking Three to unlock the iPhone? They’ll do it free of charge regardless of whether you’re the original owner so there shouldn’t be a problem getting the unlock actioned (you’ll need to order a SIM card from Three before you’re able to request an unlock).

  • Hi my son has an iPhone 4s his contract is about to run out on Orange we have put an EE pay as u go sim in but it just comes up no service is this becouse the phone is locked to orange and doesn’t realise Orange and EE are the same provider

    • Further to my last comment yes ive found out from EE his phone is locked to the orange network and we have to pay £20.62 to get it unlocked

      • Hi there,
        For the purposes of locking, T-Mobile and EE are considered the same network. Orange is considered another network (hence, why you need to unlock your Orange iPhone before you’re able to use it on the EE network) though some newer Orange handsets will also work on EE. It’s unfortunate that EE will still charge you £20.42: especially given you’re staying on their network. It might be worth asking them to waive the fee though I’m not totally sure if they’ll be able to do this.

    • Hi Salim,
      I would strongly recommend unlocking your iPhone officially through a mobile network operator. Only your mobile network is able to unlock the iPhone legitimately (unofficial services may work unreliably or may sometimes turn out to be scams or otherwise).

  • Mark winthrop wallace said:

    I have brought an iPhone 5s from a seller on eBay – which was advertised as being locked to the EE network. I have just taken out an EE sim only contract to use the phone, after approximately 1 hour the phone tells me there is no service. I returned to the EE shop and they replaced the sim and again a hour or so later the same message appears. In the first hour I can make calls, but once the phone has the message ‘no service’ I am unable to – can you please help explain and hopefully explain a resolve so I may use the phone.
    Many thanks.

    • Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. This is a really odd situation and one I’ve never come across before! It does sounds as if your handset is working fine on the EE network (it’s able to connect and to make phone calls successfully). As for the handset no longer working after an hour of service, this might be due to a technical fault on the iPhone or it might be a problem on EE’s network. I’d probably advise taking your handset either to the Apple Store or your local EE shop (they should be able to investigate further).

  • Hello,

    I got a plan of buying a good-deal iphone on eBay that claims to be unlocked, I want to insert an O2 sim and then unlock with 15pounds. Do you think the phone will work with networks in Africa if I do this? As the main purpose is to present it to someone living in Africa.

    I definitely don’t want a phone that can only work with UK networks.



    • Hi Jay,
      Thanks for your comment. There shouldn’t be a problem using the phone in Africa providing you’ve checked the iPhone is compatible with local networks. With regards to using an unlocked iPhone abroad, this should also be possible (though some CPW-provided iPhones only work in the UK).

  • I was given an iPhone 5 by my brother who had been using it on the Vodafone network, but he got it unlocked before he gave it to me. To make sure it was unlocked before I ordered a nano sim from Three I put a colleague’s nano sim in who is the EE network and it worked. When I got the nano sim from Three though it wouldn’t work, the iPhone is now locked to the EE network. I thought that once a phone was unlocked that it was OK to use on any other network ? How can I sort this out ?

  • Hi Ken,

    I bought I phone 6 in CPW at uk. I have used first sim lyca australia now my mobile is locked. I have tried with my carrier. they said its not valid uk vodafone device and can’t unlock the phone. Could you please guide me how to unlock my phone.

    • Hi Raj,
      Is your iPhone 6 now locked to Lycamobile in Australia or Lycamobile in the UK (it wasn’t quite clear from the comment you left). If it’s now locked to Lycamobile in the UK, you could try using an O2 Pay As You Go nano-SIM. I’m not 100% about whether this actually works but it’s also worth a go as Lycamobile in the UK uses coverage from O2. If it does work on the O2 network, you could try unlocking it as an O2 Pay As You Go customer.

        • Hi Raj,
          Unfortunately, you’ll need to contact Lycamobile in Australia to get this problem resolved (for the iPhone, only the network for which the handset has been locked to is able to make an unlocking request to Apple). I’m sorry that I can’t help any further but I hope this will at least point you in the relevant direction.

  • Hi

    I’ve been offered an iPhone 5S from a friend who is on the Tesco mobile network. She paid the last few months of her contract off and her Mum bought her an iphone 6. As my android pay monthly phone is also with Tesco Mobile, would I be able to get an iphone sim from Tesco and then transfer my number? Or do I need to do something else? I did wonder about going onto Giff Gaff so how would I do that with this 5S phone?

    Many thanks

  • Hi Ken,

    I am looking at purchasing an iphone 6 plus from a friend who is signing to a contract with a phone provider.

    The phone is in its box and he has told me if I put my sim in it I will be able to use the phone.

    Do you know if it will be locked to his network even though the phone is unopened or will it automatically lock to my network company once the phone has my sim.



    • Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. The answer to your question will depend very much on where your friend gets the iPhone from. If the iPhone is purchased from a mobile network operator (e.g. with a new contract or upgrade) then the handset will be locked to that specific network operator (except from on giffgaff and Three where the iPhone will already be unlocked). If the iPhone is purchased from a third-party retailer (e.g. the Carphone Warehouse), only then will it automatically lock to the first network used on the phone.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken, I have received a replacement iPhone from protect your bubble insurance. I did say to them my network was O2 will the phone lock itself to the first network used or will if only work for O2? Thanks

        • I travel to Thailand a lot and have a Thai SIM card will the phone work in Thailand or will I have to get it unlocked again?

          • Hi David,
            Your iPhone should work with a Thai SIM card providing it’s unlocked for use on any network. You should either check this directly with Apple or you can test the iPhone with a different SIM card before you go abroad.

        • Hi David,
          Thanks for your comment. This will depend on the type of iPhone which was provided to you: it may or may not be locked to O2. If you’d like to check, I recommend bringing the iPhone to your local Apple Store (they’re able to check the locking status in their system).

  • Hi Ken
    My wife bought a iphone4s in the carphone warehouse in the UK just before Xmas telling them it was to used in Spain where we live,she was told this wouldn’t be a problem as the phone wasn’t locked to a network.When she tried her sim which is on Orange in Spain it says a code is needed for it to work,the Orange shop here in Spain said there is no problem with the Sim which is true as she is using it with another phone.Phoned carphone warehouse in the UK but no help there,my wife’s Sim was definitely the first sim to be tried on the phone as all sealed when she brought it home.Any help will be much appreciated.

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment. The reason why your SIM-free iPhone isn’t working in Spain is because CPW iPhones can only be activated on a UK mobile network. From the Carphone Warehouse website:
      “iPhone will lock itself to the network of the first SIM card that is used in the phone. Subsequently attempting to use it on any other network, for example by replacing the SIM card, may mean it becomes permanently unusable. SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards.
      The sales staff in CPW should have made you aware of this so you’d probably have a strong case if you wanted to return it.
      Apologies I wasn’t able to offer a solution to your problem but I hope this can at least point you in the right direction.
      Best regards,

      • Hi Ken again,
        I was thinking if I got the phone activated in the UK with a Orange sim would I then be able to take it back to Spain and use the spanish Orange sim?because a few years ago I bought a a second hand phone on e-bay UK that was tied to orange and brought it back to Spain and just put my spanish orange sim into it and it works perfectly,what do you think,thanks again

        • Hi Michael,
          Unfortunately, mobile phones are locked to a specific network in a specific country (i.e. your iPhone would be locked to Orange UK rather than to all Orange networks globally). Orange UK and Orange Spain are treated as two separate networks despite the fact they share a common brand (the ownership structure of the two companies is actually radically different: Orange UK is owned by EE whereas Orange in Spain is owned by France Telecom).
          If you wanted to first use the phone here in the UK, you would need to unlock it before taking it to Spain. My personal recommendation is to use a Three UK SIM card: it’s free to unlock an iPhone from Three. It’s also much easier than getting an unlock from Orange (there are much fewer hoops you’ll need to jump through).
          Hope this helps,

          • Hi Ken,

            Thanks for the article, it describes the issue I’m having right now. I have a similar issue to Michael above where I bought the iphone 4s as a gift for my dad in Ireland. I went into a carphone warehouse to confirm there would be no problems with this and they said it would be fine however they say because I later went home and bought it online and it says about being only UK sims in the T&C’s that they won’t accept the phone back. (It’s not the obvious on the website I might add – under a heading saying “why you’ll love an iphone”).
            I currently use a iphone 4s myself on the three network in the UK. If I put my own sim in the new iphone 4s it will then obviously lock the phone to three in the UK, from the article above I understand I can call three and then get it unlocked. So the phone will then be able to take any UK sim, the bit I’m worried about is will they unlocked to accept any worldwide sim or will it still have to be UK only? i.e. will I then be able to give it to my dad to use an irish sim with it?


          • Hi Cormac,
            I believe the iPhone should accept foreign SIM cards once it has been unlocked. However, I haven’t actually tried this on an iPhone myself so I’m unable to give you a definitive answer (it’s probably best to check with CPW or Apple). My personal recommendation, if at all possible, would be to return the handset back to Carphone Warehouse. You could then buy an iPhone from Apple instead (these are truly unlocked and will work on any compatible network across the world without further complications).

  • Galyeston Fernandes said:

    Hi Ken! need some advice,i just bought tesco mobile iphone5s with 3 network pay as you go. And i havent activated the sim yet does that mean its still locked to the network? or do i have to activate the sim if its locked to the network to unlock it? or can i get it unlock without activating the sim? sorry i might sound bit confusing but any advise or help would be great! thanks.

    • Hi Galyeston,
      Did you buy your iPhone directly from Tesco Mobile? If so, it’ll be locked to the Tesco network regardless of which SIM card you first put inside the handset. The automatic locking only happens for first-time usage of SIM-free iPhones.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the great article.

    I have an iPhone 4s that I’ve just discovered is locked to T-mobile. I bought the iPhone (brand new/SIM free) from a friend a couple of years ago after she won it in a competition, and bought a SIM-only plan from T-mobile. Throughout my plan, I have been without voicemail. T-mobile were unable to resolve this issue. I now wish to change carrier (I need voicemail, but also my fiance has changed carrier away from T-mobile), and T-mobile tell me that because I have no proof of purchase they are unable to help unlock the phone. I went into a local unlocking shop, who tell me that they will charge £99!

    So, it obviously can be unlocked, but I want to find out what you would recommend my next steps to be. Should I just be pursuing T-mobile customer services?

    Many thanks

    • Hi Kathy,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not actually aware of T-Mobile requiring proof of purchase before they unlock an iPhone (they certainly didn’t in the past but things may have changed since the migration to EE). It might be worth trying with Customer Services again in case another agent is able to progress this unlock for you (you could also try the online unlocking form on EE’s website). In general, I’d strongly recommend against using an unlocking shop (I’m not totally sure how they achieve this but it certainly isn’t using authorised methods… you may find the unlock will stop working if you upgrade the phone’s software sometime in the future) – it’s always best to go via your network operator.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken thanks so much for this helpful article. I have just bought an “unlocked” iPhone 5s from currys as I am leaving the UK permanently so didn’t want to commit to a phone contract. I am currently an O2 pay monthly customer and would like to use my new 5s in the UK before I leave. I presume it will automatically lock to O2, do I then need to buy the £15 pay-as-you- go sim etc or can I ask O2 to unlock the phone as I am already a customer? Also, just wondering if you or anyone has heard of Currys /PC world preventing unlocked phones being used out of the UK? ( other comments seem to say car phone warehouse don’t allow this…if the same applies to currys I will need to return my phone!)
    Many thanks and happy Christmas!

    • Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for your comment and Merry Christmas to you too!
      It shouldn’t be necessary to get a new Pay As You Go SIM card – you can use the existing contract to unlock your iPhone from O2.
      With regards to using a Currys/PC World iPhone outside of the UK, it’s probably something to check with them directly (I’m not quite sure the answer to this myself!).
      Best wishes and do let me know if you get an answer from Currys!

  • Hi ken
    I bought my iPhone 5s from phones4u in the UK without contract, then I started to use lebara SIM card, now I want to change to another carrier but my mobile phone says that not supported for other carriers. What do I have to do to unlock? Because I want to use any carrier and anywhere.
    Kind Regards
    Delgime Neto

    • Hi Delgime,
      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news: a Phones4u iPhone will automatically lock to the first network you use (in this case, it’ll be locked to Lebara). Unfortunately, as Lebara Mobile doesn’t currently offer an iPhone unlocking service it won’t be possible to unlock the handset for use on other networks. Sorry 🙁

  • Louisa Ritchie said:

    Hi, I’ve just bought an iPhone 5s from T-mobile but I don’t want it locked to that network. My daughter has an o2 SIM in her old phone – could that SIM be put in the new phone so it locks to o2 first (then I can unlock it before using T-Mobile). I’m confused, could you help?

    Thank you for reading.

    • Hi Louisa,
      Thanks for your comment. Did you buy your iPhone directly from EE/T-Mobile or did you buy the handset from a third-party retailer (e.g. the Carphone Warehouse)? If you bought the iPhone from EE/T-Mobile, it’ll unfortunately be locked to T-Mobile regardless of which SIM you use first in the handset. If you got the iPhone from a third-party retailer then you would be able to do as described. For an even cheaper option, grab a SIM card from Three as they’ll unlock the iPhone totally free of charge.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken,

    I am feeling a bit confused and I’m hoping you might be able to help. I have an iPhone 5s which I bought sim free from carphone warehouse, I knew it would lock to the first network sim it was activated on. I had a talkmobile contract and that is the sim I put in the phone, my talkmobile contract is nearing the end and I wanted to get the phone unlocked. I presumed the phone would be locked to talkmobile but I have ran my emei through a phone unlocking website and they have reported my phone is locked to vodafone. I know talkmobile piggyback vodafone but what I don’t know is if talkmobile have there own simlock or it automatically is done by vodafone.

    • Hi Neil,
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news though as far as I’m aware, the iPhone will now be locked to Talkmobile. As they’re not a network that officially sells the iPhone they won’t be able to unlock the handset. This means the handset is probably locked to Talkmobile for good. You can see this information on Apple’s website (the “Carrier offers Unlocking” column is left blank for the Talkmobile network). One thing that might be worth doing is taking your handset to an Apple Store. Ask them to confirm which network your handset is locked to. If they say Vodafone, then you could try to unlock via Vodafone (you’ll need to order a SIM card from Vodafone and you’ll need to top it up by £20 or more).

      • Neil Kenny replied:

        Hi Ken,

        Thanks for the prompt reply. I have spoken to Talkmobile and they do offer an unlocking service, as long as you are nearing the end of your contract. They also charge £20, but state they cannot guarantee the unlock and if unsuccessful the charge will still stand.

        • Hi Neil,
          Thanks – fantastic to hear that Talkmobile is offering an unlocking service (especially as they’re part of CPW, the company which is selling SIM-free iPhones that lock automatically). It seems as if Talkmobile’s service isn’t publicised much (Apple’s website still doesn’t mention them offering such a service). If it’s OK with you, would you mind keeping us updated? I’m sure lots of other people who have used their iPhone on the Talkmobile network would be really interested in knowing whether you were able to unlock it.
          Many thanks,

          • Neil Kenny replied:

            I certainly will, Ken. I have been told to call back on the 7th of Jan as then I will be eligible for unlocking. Watch this space.

  • iain williamson said:

    Hi I am on the virgin network can I use my virgin sim I have applied for the nano size sim, in a new unopened EE/T-MOBILE/ORANGE, iphone 6. been offered the phone for my daughters Christmas its a unwanted upgrade from EE

  • Hi Ken,
    I did upgraded my contract to iPhone6 from Carphone warehouse this week. And the network is O2. I want to unlock my iPhone because i’m going to other countries next month for my vacation. But i contact to O2 customer service,they said now they don’t provide the unlocking service on iPhone6 or iPhone 6 plus. So should i activate my iPhone with Three sim?

    #PS/ I haven’t activate my iPhone. It still new in box and not yet open.

    Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.

    • Hi Calvin,
      Thanks for your comment. As you say, O2 typically won’t unlock new models of the iPhone until six months after release (for the iPhone 6 Plus, you’ll probably need to wait until March 2015). The solution you’ve suggested which is to activate the iPhone on Three would therefore sound like a reasonable idea – it should in theory be fairly straightforward & totally free to unlock the iPhone from Three. Before buying I would, however, double-check with CPW & Three. The information provided on this website is for information-only and I can’t take any responsibility if things go wrong (e.g. if Three refuses to unlock the handset).
      Good luck and hope you have a lovely trip next month”

  • Hi,
    I’ve recently taken out a contract with Tesco mobile for an iphone6 for my daughter for her Christmas. My plan was to give her the iphone6 and for her to use her existing 3 sim in the iphone6 – will this work? Or will the iphone be locked to Tesco mobile. I was also planning to use the Tesco mobile sim in my own handset.
    Hopefull you can enlighten me.

  • heloo. i bought a few days ago an iphone 6 from apple store in london , but with a 24 months contract on EE. i want to know if the phone is locked on EE network or i can used in other networks, especialy because i want to go home for christmas in other country and use there

  • Hi, I have iPhone 6 from EE network and I like to use other network
    If I “for example” put abroad in Spain, France, Poland their net operator sim card This means iPhone first time will lock to the first sim card….?
    Just lest You now If I put Vodafone sim to iPhone 6 this show full 5 bar and 3G but iPhone was never activated
    Sorry for this but all the answer a very confusing……
    Thank You

    • Hi Kuba,
      Thanks for your comment. I didn’t quite catch your question: was the iPhone 6 bought from EE or from a third-party retailer (e.g. the Carphone Warehouse)? If you bought the iPhone from EE and unlocked it for use on other networks, there won’t be a problem using a different SIM abroad. If you try to use it without first unlocking your iPhone, you’ll receive an error saying the SIM card is not supported.

  • I am looking to buy a friends iPhone 6 from him after he upgrades from carphone warehouse. If he gets his contract on EE, would I be able to put my O2 sim into the iPhone? Essentially will it be unlocked until I put a sim in it (my O2 one)?

    Any help would be appreciated, cheers!

    • Hi Matthew,
      I think this shouldn’t be a problem for iPhones purchased via the Carphone Warehouse – it’ll simply lock to o2 on first time usage as you mentioned in your comment. However, to be sure, I would probably recommend double checking with CPW directly before you buy the handset.

  • Hi Ken, I really appreciate you taking the time to explain this topic. Unfortunately, I require your expertise…I recently bought an iPhone 4s from Carphone Warehouse in the UK that was carrier-unlocked, however when i brought it back to Africa, it still says that the sim-card is not compatible with the carrier. How would I go about solving this issue?
    Would really appreciate your help, thanks.

    • Hi Jordan,
      According to the Carphone Warehouse website, their SIM-free iPhones will only work on a network in the UK. I can’t think of any obvious solution to this problem: your best bet would probably be to consult an Apple Store or a Service Centre in your area.
      Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful,

  • Hi I’m buying a iPhone 6, from someone who upgraded from three and the phone is still boxed and not opened, I’m going abroad for work and I want to get the phone unlocked, what’s the best way to do it? Thanks

      • Hi, rather frustrated as my colleague has put his EE sim (which is on my business contract) into his brand new iPhone 6+ (From his new contract with Vodafone) by mistake. When he puts his Vodafone sim in its says invalid sim. His Phone now seems locked to EE. spoken several times to EE and they say there is nothing they can do as it should automatically switch back to Vodafone if he does a full restore with Vodafone sim in. iTunes won’t do this as it is “invalid”. EE say they can’t do anything and blame Apple. Apple blame EE Vodafone blame EE. Colleague now stuck with a new contract phone he can’t use with his contract. Please shed some light if you can. Very very frustrated. Next call to EE I am cancelling my contract of ten years.

  • Hi mate
    I’m thinking about buying a sim free iphone 6 plus when it’s available from carphone warehouse I currently have a monthly sim only contract with virgin I don’t want the phone to be locked to virgin so what you’re saying I should do is buy a pay as you go O2 sim put in the iPhone then the iPhone will lock to O2 but if I top up £15 and call up O2 they will unlock the iphone for no extra charge allowing me to carry on using my virgin sim.
    Once O2 unlock it will it stay unlocked even after I put in my virgin sim so if I later on want to put in a tesco sim it should still be unlocked regardless.

    • Hi Adam,
      Indeed – if you don’t want your iPhone to be locked to Virgin then it would definitely be worth doing this first. Alternatively, you should also consider buying your SIM-free iPhone directly from Apple (this will be factory unlocked and will not lock itself to the first network used). It’ll probably save some hassle and the overall cost might be less than buying via the CPW.

  • Hi, would like to know if a buy and vodafone iphone 6 via carphonewarehouse , would it be lock in to vodafone or in to the first sim i use it with?

    And if it comes vodafone locked which may be , can i unlock it by paying to vodafone even if i got it from a different shop?

    • Hi Robert,
      Thanks for your comment. As far as I’m aware, the Carphone Warehouse only hold one type of stock for the iPhone 6. This is the type which will automatically lock to the first network you use. Hence, the best thing to do is to actually use the SIM card that came with your iPhone (otherwise, the phone will get locked to a different network). Alternatively, if you want to save a bit of money, you could use a SIM card from Three as they’ll unlock your handset at no extra charge. As always, however, it’s worth double checking these details with CPW directly especially if it’ll make a big difference to your eventual buying decision.
      Hope this helps!

      • Thank you for your answer, it seems like i havent express myself clear enought, my main question is if i buy it from vodefone trough carephone warehouse and then i unlock my iphone by paying to the vodafone company, will it lock again when i change my sim card ¿? or will it not?

        I have been at the vodafone store, and the say to me there is a posibility that it locks again but they dont know so it will be worse to ask in to an apple store, so i went to an apple store and the answer was: if you unlock your iphone it should stay unlocked.

        So i am not sure about all of these, it makes a very big difference for me at the time of buying such an extremely expensive terminal.

        • Hi Robert,
          I believe the guys at Apple are correct: the iPhone will only lock itself automatically on first time usage. Once the iPhone has been unlocked through your mobile network operator, it’ll permanently be unlocked for use on any network.

  • Just like to point out that if you buy an iphone 6 from giffgaff it is completely unlocked and will not lock to the first sim you put into it. I know this because I have bought 2 of them.

  • Hi
    Thanks for all the useful info
    I have just purchased a iphone 6 128 on eBay (unopened box) which was an unwanted upgrade from Vodafone. My network is Lebara.
    Can it be unlocked?
    Thanks again

    • Hi Stewart,
      Thanks for your comment. Do you know whether the iPhone comes from Vodafone directly or whether it comes from Vodafone via a third-party retailer (e.g. the Carphone Warehouse)? If from Vodafone directly, you should be able to unlock the iPhone using a free SIM card (you’ll need to put at least £20 of credit on the SIM). If it comes from a third-party retailer, the iPhone will lock itself to Lebara.

      • The phone was supplied by Vodafone.
        I wish to use it on Lebara (which I believe uses the Vodafone network) but it makes sense to unlock it before using it just in case

        You say if I put in Lebera sim first it will lock it to Lebara. Does this mean Lebera only or could any Vodafone SIM card also work?

        Also if I put in say, an O2 sim, would it work, and I assume it would be locked then to O2?
        Thanks again

        • Hi Stewart,
          An iPhone supplied by Vodafone directly won’t lock itself to the first network used. Instead, it will only be locked to the Vodafone network. You can follow the instructions on this page if you’d like to unlock an iPhone from Vodafone.

  • Hi Ken
    I have a upgraded phone from CFW- IPhone 4s- brand new in box not opened.

    if I gave this to my son in NZ to use could he use it ok has it has yet to have any SIM card inserted and could he just put a NZ sim in?

    Many thanks Ken in advance.


    • Hi Dave,
      I’m not sure whether the CPW iPhone will work in New Zealand… according to the Carphone Warehouse website, “SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards.”
      If you had bought the iPhone from Apple or from a mobile network operator (e.g. Three or O2) then it should work in New Zealand without any problems.

  • Hi, if sim free iphone locked to the first network I used, is it possible by restoring the phone as a factory default and bring back to sim free?? I already used EE in my iphone, I really want it to locked to O2. EE customer service said that if I restore to factory default then it might go back to sim free. Then I can choose any other network that I really want to use. Any help?? Thanx

    • Hi Tareq,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not 100% sure about the answer to your question but I strongly suspect the answer would be no. In general, locking or unlocking goes a whole layer deeper into the handset than a factory reset would ever be able to touch (e.g. if you were to factory reset a handset that has been unlocked, it wouldn’t become locked again automatically). As a logical extension, a factory reset also wouldn’t help in the situation. That said, the iPhone is unique in having this automatic-locking behaviour so I can’t answer with absolute certainty.

      • Spirittamer replied:

        The iPhone locks by IMEI/SN centrally with Apple. Therefore no reset whatsoever will make the iPhone Sim Free again.

  • Hi ken,

    I live in Brazil and i have an uncle who’s going to Japan in October. Apple.jp is selling the sim-free version of the iphone 6. If i buy one directly from there will i be able to use it with a Brazilian sim card? Do i have to activate it first using a Japanese sim card?

    Thanks in advance!


    • Hi Matheus,
      Thanks for your comment. According to this discussion over at Apple.com, you can use a SIM-free iPhone purchased from Japan in other countries across the world. I would, however, strongly recommend double-checking with a sales rep locally. You should also double-check the list of frequencies supported by the phone. The model number of iPhone 6 sold in Japan is A1586 (see this page for more information). You’ll need to make sure the frequencies are compatible with your local Brazilian network.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken

    My brother-in-law got an iPhone 4 from Orange 2 years ago and his contract is ending next month. He’s selling me the phone and will be contacting Orange before the end of his contract to request the phone to be unlocked. I’m with T-Mobile.

    My question is this: as the phone wasn’t sim free when he bought it (it was locked to Orange), after it’s unlocked will it lock itself to T-Mobile when I insert my T-Mobile sim card, or does that just apply to iPhones which were bought unlocked from vendors other than Apple, e.g. CPW etc?

    Many thanks


    • Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your comment. AFAIK, automatic locking only happens on first-time usage of SIM-free iPhones bought from a third-party retailer. Hence, an iPhone that you’ve previously unlocked from Orange will be permanently unlocked and will not subsequently lock itself to T-Mobile.
      Hope this helps!

      • Hi Ken

        Thanks for the reply – it certainly does help 🙂

        Just have to wait to get the phone now and for Apple to unlock it!

        Many thanks


  • does this apply for the new iPhone 6, when i got my iPhone 5 from o2 it locked to them, and they wouldn’t unlock it for 6 months, now I’m ready to upgrade to the iPhone 6, so I’m thinking of buying direct from apple, as i need to swap sims a lot due to travelling and using different countries sims, so does this mean buying from apple,i can use any sim whenever i want ??? as I have heard that if you use a o2 sim even in a unlocked from apple phone it will still lock to there network ?

    • Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment. O2 are yet to announce their policy in regard to unlocking an iPhone 6 from their network. However, it’s a reasonable assumption that you’ll need to wait until April 2015 (O2 typically won’t unlock an iPhone if it was released in the past 6 months). Hence, in your case, I would recommend having a look at buying a SIM-free iPhone directly from Apple.
      A SIM-free iPhone purchased from Apple won’t lock itself to the first network used. This will only happen if you buy the iPhone from a third-party retailer (e.g. the Carphone Warehouse).
      Hope this helps,

      • thx for your reply, yes that is what I’m going to do, i will buy direct from apple, just to be clear, if i buy direct from apple and then put in my current contracted o2 sim, it will not lock to them? and i could take it out and use another sim, straight away ?

        • Hi Sam,
          That’s right – a SIM-free iPhone bought directly from Apple won’t lock itself to the first network used. The automatic locking only happens on the stock of SIM-free iPhones sold by a third-party retailer.

  • Non-apple lover said:

    Hi Ken,
    I recently bought an i phone 4s. I live in Ireland but it says no service with my Irish 02 sim card but takes any UK sim card

    • Hi Non-Apple Lover,
      Where did you buy the SIM-free iPhone? The Carphone Warehouse website currently states: “SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards”. I wonder if this limitation might be why you can’t use an Irish O2 SIM card? Why they have this limitation I’m not really sure, but it sounds as if it could be a possible explanation?

        • Hi,

          I am having the same problem I bought a sim free iphone 5s from the uk car phone warehouse store but now that I am back in Ireland my Irish vodafone sim won’t work in it but it accepts my uk sim, where did you go to get it unlocked?

  • Good day Ken, I have a CDMA iPhone which was given to me as a gift. I’m a little bit lost here, I don’t really know how to go about getting it conected to a CDMA network provider. Can you tell me what to do, please!
    Oh! I’m from Nigeria.

  • Hi there!
    Bought my iphone4 last year from carphone warehouse and used my virgin sim as first network and now it’s locked into Vergin.
    No one would take responsibility for unlocking it!!!
    Is it really impossible ?

    • Hi Magic,
      Sorry to be the messenger but unfortunately that is the current situation with SIM-free iPhones bought from the Carphone Warehouse. There’s no solution to the problem at present: neither Virgin Mobile, the Carphone Warehouse or Apple will currently be able to unlock your handset. If you feel misled, it may be worth trying to return your handset back to CPW – otherwise it may have to be the case that you’ll need to sell the handset and replace it with another.
      Sorry I couldn’t be of any assistance,

      • Hi I bought a iphone from eBay it states as unlocked not sim free will it worth to take a chance to use any sim card because I am taking with me to abroad
        Kind regards

        • Hi alibaba,
          Thanks for your comment. If it’s a new unused iPhone and if we’re not 100% confident where the handset was originally bought from (i.e. whether it was from Apple, a network operator or a third-party retailer) it’s probably a good idea to first use the iPhone on your normal home network.
          If the handset is used or if you know the original source, there shouldn’t be a danger in using it abroad first.
          Hope this helps!

  • Great sim free tips, thanks, but can’t see my problem among them. Have bought an iPhone 5c locked to Sprint network in USA. The phone has no number so they can’t access the account to issue a unlocking and say the imei number alone isn’t sufficient. Apple says the imei shows it’s 100 days left in warranty. Any unlocking ideas?

  • Hi…Iv just got a i phone 5s on contract vodaphone but i want to use my orange pay as u go sim. will it lock to orange when put the sim in? and will that continue to work ok?

    • Hi Kev,
      Thanks for your comment. Vodafone will normally lock the iPhones they sell – it’s £19.99 to unlock it for use on another mobile network (free if you’ve had the contract for more than 12 months). Alternatively, if you bought your phone from the Carphone Warehouse or a third-party retailer, it may work on Orange directly. I’d strongly recommend against doing this – you may find the iPhone then becomes locked to Orange (it’ll be virtually impossible to unlock your iPhone from Orange as you didn’t buy it from them in the first place).
      Hope this helps,

  • I bought an iphone 4 from a friend and is a sim card free can’t even see any space provided to put my sim card and am living in nigeria what can I do to get any network service here

    • Hi Don,
      It’s possible you might have bought a CDMA version of the iPhone (unfortunately, this won’t work on a GSM mobile network). Could you kindly check the model number printed on the back of the handset? If it says A1349, it’s a CDMA model with no SIM card slot. If it’s A1332, there should be a slot for the Micro SIM. See the Apple website for more information on identifying your iPhone.