Having an unlocked phone gives you freedom, so before you know whether your mobile is unlocked or not you need to understand what it is about. Buying an unlocked mobile or smartphone can mean that your mobile can be used on any network carrier, or, you are free to install any application on it.
With the price of today’s smartphones running to several hundred dollars, the phone manufacturers and the network carriers have to provide some tempting offers to get people to upgrade their phones or get the latest smartphone. The most common tactic is to offer the phone for free, or at a deep discount, and in return, you sign up for a contract where you agree to pay a minimum amount each month.
But the sting in this purchase is although you get the latest phone worth hundreds of dollars, it’s often locked to the carrier you took the contract out with. If you want to switch carriers or move to a pay-as-you-go plan when the contract expires, you’ll have a hard time taking your phone with you.
Here is how to know that My Mobile is Unlocked
You always need to check whether your phone is unlocked or not if you want to use a different SIM card when abroad for cheaper calls on texts or want to switch networks. Or perhaps you’ve purchased a phone online and want to know if it’s locked to a particular network, or want to make sure it’s unlocked in order to sell it.
Locked phones are much less common now than they used to be, and it is much easier to unlock them if they are locked, so there’s no need to worry if you discover it is. It might cost you a small fee, and sometimes you’ll need to wait until your contract is up to unlock the phone, but that will depend on the network the phone is locked to.
The fastest way to find out if your phone is locked
The fastest way to find out if your phone is locked to a network carrier is to insert a SIM card from another carrier, then see if you get a signal, and can make and receive calls. If you can’t, you probably have a locked phone. The ‘lock’ isn’t a physical lock but a program deep within the operating system – may be even hardcoded into the core OS – which checks that the network carrier is valid and blocks any attempt to connect to another carrier.
A good way to determine whether the new SIM card is working is to try making a phone call. If it doesn’t connect, it’s likely that your phone is locked.
If you don’t have the phone because you’re buying it, you’ll have to ask and trust the seller to find out. But even if it does turn out to be locked there’s an easy fix in most cases so it’s unlikely to render your new phone useless.
You may find apps claiming to be able to tell you if your phone is unlocked but avoid using this method as they can’t necessarily be trusted. Simply trying different SIM cards is your best option.
Also, there are many third-party apps that unlock your phone but it’s hard to trust them.
It is possible, although somewhat risky, to unlock a phone either by entering a sequence of numbers from the keypad or hooking it up to a computer which has some software to erase or reprogram the core files. You won’t find any chain stores offering this service but certainly, the small, individually-owned mobile stores will offer this service for a fee if you ask them. However, be warned that if you do decide to unlock your phone to be used on another carrier, it probably voids the warranty on your phone and there is always the danger that it could wipe the system memory altogether.
The other type of locking is the restrictions put in place by the manufacturer. The Apple iPhone is notorious for this because Steve Jobs decided that he doesn’t want people messing with the operating system or installing unapproved applications. This has given rise to the term ‘jailbreaking’ for the iPhone and many people attempt to break free and unlock their iPhone by jailbreaking it but, in doing so, void their warranty and any support they need if things go wrong.
By contrast, Google’s Android phones are open-source, providing the freedom and flexibility to customize anything and everything. Developers are free to develop and install any type of app, which many argue makes Android a superior operating system because there’s no need to unlock it, jailbreak it or circumnavigate restrictions that have been put in place. That said though, many network carriers will try and lock the phone to their network and you may need unlocking services from a local mobile store.
What options do you have if you want to use an unlocked phone abroad?
Current GSM mobile phones use a SIM card. This SIM card is easily changed so when you go to a new country you can simply buy a local SIM card and insert it into your Unlocked GSM phone and use a local carrier rather than your home carrier.
When you visit a country you want a local Prepaid, No Contract plan. This is a plan where you can purchase it for a set period of time, there is no contract, there is no ability to go over the amount purchased. There will never be a surprise roaming bill with these plans.
1. World Travel SIMs
There is another category of SIMs, that is world travel SIMs, there are services that cover many countries. But these world SIMs typically only have good rates in a few countries and can in some cases be worse than roaming with your home carrier. Research and reading the fine print is critical. Customer service is another issue. Covering many countries with adequate customer service is not always effective.
You should choose the right SIM and plan as there are many different carriers. When choosing a SIM Planning your own needs is the most important factor. The carriers all have different benefits, in a competitive environment, they are all working hard for everyone’s business.
2. Pay as you Go
You can choose to Pay as you go Vs Unlimited. With Pay as you Go you purchase a refill in a specific dollar amount for a specific period of time and use the mobile services as per a fee schedule. As the services are used, the account balance declines, and then when empty the account is refilled or topped up again.
The other option is unlimited, where the plan is for a set period of time, with unlimited service for that period of time. With overconsumption of data, many unlimited plans now have Unlimited calling and text but limits on data.
3. Use Data Managment App
The large issue with roaming is data use on a smartphone. Your smartphone uses data without you knowing it. The average smartphone user will consume between 10 and 20 MB of data per day, without ever knowing it. It will surprise you what applications use data, and even the operating system does checks for updates. Apps like weather Apps, GPS and maps, voice recognition like SIRI etc. all use data without you realizing it.
A very good practice is to install a data management application that will measure and report to you the amount of data used in any given period, along with the Apps that are consuming the data. You should know how much data you use, and how much you are willing to pay.