AT&T iPhone Unlocking Process Detailed, Successful for Some

On Friday, AT&T released a statement that they would now be offering SIM unlocks for iPhones that are no longer under contract. The process of SIM unlocking a phone allows it to use SIM cards from other carriers. This feature is frequently used during international travel to allow the use of mobile service from local carriers. The Next Web detailed the basic steps required by AT&T.

The process is painless and only takes a few minutes in the chat. The only piece of information required by AT&T is the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, which can be found under Settings>General>About on your device.

Once you’ve completed the procedure, Apple pushes the unlock code during the next 72 hours to your email address, so the code comes from the mothership, not from AT&T. Once Apple completes the unlock request, a customer has to back-up and restore and tether the device to iTunes to complete the unlock process.

MacRumors readers shared their experiences on Sunday trying to unlock their out-of-contract iPhones in our discussion thread on the topic. Responses from AT&T service representatives were mixed with some seemingly unaware of the process.

iphone unlock
Confirmation email from AT&T

Others had better luck, such as Exegesis48, who was able to get his iPhone 3GS unlocked immediately.

I called AT&T Tech Support and was able to get my iPhone 3GS unlocked no problem. In fact, the representative waited on the line to ensure I received my unlock confirmation email, at which point he told me to backup and restore my phone to receive my unlock. I did this and was able to receive my unlock IMMEDIATELY.

Experiences may have improved over the day. Some early callers were told the process would complete on April 16th, while others were told to simply wait 48-72 hours for the confirmation email.

Top Rated Comments

pauliaK Avatar
128 months ago
Why can't they simply unlock all the imeis that have been sold more than two years ago, they're making such a mess out of such a simple procedure, I hate this kinda waste of human energy and time that could be used somewhere else, making a good use instead of solving crap that shouldn't be here in a first place...
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chupa Chupa Avatar
128 months ago
The '48 to 72 hours' sounds like 'script talk' to me. Like the old '7 to 10 days' for shipment... Unlocking my old Treo was pretty simple. I was emailed a code that I entered into the phone. *poof* an unlocked Treo. *cha-ching* no 'low AT&T international rates' ever again...
They want to build in a cushion. AT&T has to send the unlock request to Apple to update your iTunes acct. They don't have 100% control like they do when unlocking a Treo. It could only take 2hrs, but Apple is telling them it could take up to 72 hours depending on work load & other factors. If they tell you it will be 5hrs and Apple takes longer who do you get pissed at? Who's human resources do you tie up? AT&T. So yes, they give you worst case scenario.

As always the problem with AT&T is customer service. Look at the message I got on the "chat"

All representatives are currently assisting other customers. At this time, our average wait is 50 minutes and you are # 97 Thank you for your patience. A representative will be with you shortly.

Really?!?! 50 minutes!
Tens of millions of iPhones are suddenly unlock eligible & AT&T is getting slammed so no hard to believe. If there call center is 50k strong it's still under staffed today. I hate defending AT&T but give 'em a break in this.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Lilibobo Avatar
122 months ago
Iphone is unlocked

I recently bought 2 iphone 4 for my family, they were second hand, but it very good condition. We are allready on att, and to tell the truth, im totally not satisfied with their services. I was decided to unlock them and use it with sprint. I went online for searching how to do it, first i tried to unlock by att but they could not do it, they said its not possible because the iphone is not on my contract. I went online and searched, i found a great site at www.attiphoneunlocking.com The site seemed reasonable, and they were offering permanent unlocking for kind of phones like mine. My iphone was unlocked in 2 hours. I found the solution for my problem, so if theres anybody with the same situation, its good to know.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rdlink Avatar
128 months ago
What a glorious day that will be indeed when we have to pay the actual retail price for the phone (in the U.S.), instead of the low subsidized price that AT&T offers.

sarcasm.jpg
You pay the full price, anyway, via monthly fees. The subsidy is built into the price of your monthly fees on contract. The only difference is that they "finance" the price of your phone over two years, and they take value for that financing. The "value" they get back is:

--The ability to hold you hostage on their system for two years while you're paying off the phone.

--A premium over what it actually cost them to give you the subsidy.

--An indifference to customer service, since they have you by the short hairs.

--The ability to keep you from putting an international carrier's SIM in the phone when you travel to another country, thereby forcing you to pay their exorbitant international roaming charges.

A subsidized phone on any carrier is like "rent-to-own" furniture. Except that, unlike Aaron Rents, you get penalized if you terminate the contract early, because they don't have a provision for letting you return the equipment.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hinchesk Avatar
128 months ago
OK here is the logic that I don't understand.

If I am an AT&T user in good standing with a contract after buying the 4s I am either required to complete the contract or pay the ETF right?

So why not make us happy and unlock the phone now so that I can use it overseas with local sims, since even if I want to break the contract I will end up paying the ETF. There is no way AT&T won't get their subsidy money back for the iPhone.

The only reason to make this difficult is so that AT&T can continue to gouge us for international roaming.

I think it would have been better if they unlocked all users phones 90 days after buying the phone as long as the contract is in good standing - like verizon.

You hit the nail on the head there. The contract/ETF is how AT&T makes sure they subsidy is covered... and should be the only way they're allowed to do it by law.

However, they use the network lock anyway, saying it's about the subsidy but it's not... it goes much further than that. It's being used to force customers to continue to use AT&T as their carrier. It's anti-competitive and shouldn't be legal... but it is in many countries... for now.

At least AT&T isn't charging $50 to unlock like Rogers is... kudos to them.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WannaGoMac Avatar
128 months ago
Just was told on online chat I should just wait more cause they are swamped with unlock requests.

Frankly, I don't care about the wait. I care that they don't even meet their service commitment of getting me a code by April 16. If I didn't pay them on time they certainly wouldn't accept me saying "Just wait more, I will get around to paying you when I finish other things"
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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