By Fiona Mcsweeney - 08/07/22 09:27
AT&T's a big name in mobile communications. And it's getting bigger. With a 45% share of the wireless subscriptions market, it serviced 201.79 million mobility subscribers and connections in 2021. And it’s added 68 million to that figure in the months since then.
So, what's the story behind its popularity? High data caps, comprehensive 4G coverage (with a fast-moving 5G rollout), and competitive download speeds all make it a compelling choice for many.
But not everyone.
Whether it's more choice or flexibility, a cheaper deal, or better coverage as you travel, there could be a number of reasons for wanting to move away from AT&T. But if you’re one of those 200 million AT&T subscribers and thinking of changing to another carrier, the process may not be as straightforward as you might think.
Keen to keep customers tied to their network, most mobile carriers apply locks to the phones they provide. A SIM lock, network lock, carrier lock or master subsidy lock (they all mean the same thing) is a software code that tells your phone to connect only to a specific network. It's not something you can see or remove simply by fiddling around with the keypad on your phone. And that's what makes it so powerful.
But not that powerful. There is a way to unlock phones. You just need to know where to go for help.
In this blog post, we take you through the unlocking process and reveal the fastest and easiest way to source your AT&T device unlock code required to unlock your phone from the AT&T network.
Our comprehensive device guide quickly explains how to get control over your handset.
It has full details about how to unlock your AT&T phone using an independent phone unlocking service, and the reasons for wanting to do this. But first, here are answers to some of the questions you might have about unlocking your AT&T phone.
The short (and reassuring) answer is 'no', it isn't illegal to get your own phone unlock. In fact it's your right as a consumer. Thanks to President Obama the process was made illegal in America in 2013 when he introduced the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.
He observed that, while most phone providers claimed to put locks on phones for security purposes, that wasn't the only reason.
While there is some credibility to the claim that locked phones are less desirable to thieves because they're harder to sell on, it's not the whole (or even a big part of the) story. The truth is that locked phones are good for business. A locked phone keeps customers tied to a network they may no longer want to use. Which, in turn, drives profits.
So, while it may be perfectly legal to unlock a phone, this won't stop your network provider from locking it in the first place.
Most wireless carriers run on one of two 2G and 3G radio networks: CDMA and GSM. CDMA stands for ‘Code Division Multiple Access’. GSM stands for ‘Global System for Mobiles.’ 4G and 5G Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices will soon make CDMA and GSM a thing of the past. But there are still lots of legacy devices on the market that need access to one of these networks to function.
AT&T runs on GSM networks. You can check their unlocking protocol here: https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/unlockstep1
As does fellow mainstream mobile service provider, T Mobile, and all of the mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) powered by them, such as Boost Mobile, Mint Mobile, Red Pocket and Tello. Other service providers (US Cellular, and the old Sprint network) use CDMA technology as do Verizon. See full details on how to unlock a Verizon phone with Mobile Unlocked.
The more up-to-date the model of your phone, the more likely it is to be compatible with any carrier after it’s unlocked (irrespective of whether it uses a GSM or CDMA network). Most 4G LTE and 5G-enabled devices, for example, should work on any network, once the network unlock code has been activated. Older, 3G models will only function on the network (CDMA or GSM) they were originally manufactured for. This means if you've got an older AT&T device, your choice of carrier will be limited to those that use the same GSM network.
There are lots of benefits of belonging to a major network like AT&T. But nothing's perfect and what was right for you at one time may not be right for you now.
Cost is one of the main reasons people change from AT&T. AT&T plans can be significantly more expensive than others on the market. For many, the extra phone data that comes with this makes the higher price worth it. But for just as many. those who don't actually need or use all of that data, the cost outweighs the benefits.
Signal coverage can also be a factor. AT&T’s network is far-reaching, hitting about 68% of the US (84% if you include its 5G network). But most of its coverage is focused on metropolitan districts, leaving a number of frustrating signal black spots, particularly in rural areas.
Then there's streaming. Even if you pay extra for a high definition service, the video streaming quality of AT&T often doesn't match up to other providers, particularly if you're streaming on-the-go.
Perform an unlock sim on your phone and you win back power.
Change to a SIM-only deal if you don't want to commit long-term to one provider.
Swap your SIM and use a local sim card when traveling abroad to avoid high roaming charges.
Get the right network for you according to whoever has the best signal in your area.
Unlocking your AT&T device makes it worth more if you decide to sell it on.
Secure the best deals by comparing prices and packages across all carriers (national and international).
So, there you go. All pretty compelling reasons for wanting to unlock phones. But how to do it? Through an unlock code is how. Let’s look at the unlocking solutions available and the best way to source that all-important unlock code.
You can try and go through your service provider network, in this case AT&T, to source an unlock code. But the process is notoriously time-consuming and admin-heavy with a number of account information forms to fill in, eligibility requirements to meet, and long calls to customer services to endure. To avoid all the admin and agro associated with unlocking your phone through AT&T, the fastest and easiest way is to use a third-party provider like Mobile Unlocked. Mobile unlocking specialists and experts in their field, they have the software and the processes in place to fast-track your unlock request with minimal input on your side. In fact, all they need is your phone's IMEI number.
IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. It’s a unique 15-digit number that links your device with the SIM card inside the device. The first 14 digits are defined by the GSM Association. The last digit is generated by an algorithm. Your IMEI is like your phone’s fingerprint. It’s completely unique and every phone has one. Unlike a SIM card which is linked to a user, and can be transferred from one phone to another, if unlocked, your IMEI is fixed to your device.
The good news is, as long as you have your phone to-hand, your IMEI is quick and easy to find. To locate it you can do either of the following:
As soon as you have your IMEI number, share it with your mobile phone unlocking service provider and they'll do the rest. Depending on the make of your phone, your unlock will either take place automatically 'over-the-air' using wifi (this goes for iPhones and other Apple devices). Or, thanks to an AT&T unlock code generator, you'll be sent an unlock code or unlock pin to input (this is the process for Android models).
If your phone prompts you with a 'SIM network unlock pin' request when you insert a new SIM card it means your phone is still locked. Using a third-party unlocking solution minimizes the chances of this happening to you.
There's no difference between an unlock pin and an unlock code (other than the wording). If your phone is locked it will present you with a message prompting you to get a SIM network unlock pin. This is the same as the unlock code you'll be sent by your unlocking service. And both mean freedom for you and your phone.