Is a carrier unlock (eg. T-mobile) as good as factory unlocked?

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by g35, Jul 22, 2014.

  1. g35 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2007
    By this I mean could my iPhone ever become locked again if done through the carrier? If I need warranty service at the Apple store, would the new iPhone also be unlocked, even if my original purchase was not unlocked but done afterward through the carrier?

    My understanding is that all iPhones are made the same, then they are locked at time of purchase. And at the apple store they have some kind of registry they use for the unlocked iPhones. So when the carrier unlocks it for you, does it go into the same registry?

    I'm on prepaid and I'm wondering if it's possible to get an properly unlocked iPhone through my carrier before they go on sale through (usually in November)
  2. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Yes, it goes into the same registry. If your phone is carrier unlocked and you have to have your phone swapped out under warranty, the unlock status will follow on to the replacement device.

    Highly unlikely. iPhones tend to be in short supply at launch, and while it's not impossible, it's very hard to an unlocked phone for the first month.
  3. g35 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2007
    Thanks for your reply. To clarify, the idea is to buy it at full price through my carrier, probably T-mobile ($649?) locked to the carrier. Then 90 days down the line or whatever have it unlocked once I've met their requirements. Effectively giving me the SIM-free iPhone after 90 days at the same price as without the initial 2month wait for apple to start selling them
  4. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
  5. CEmajr macrumors 601

    Dec 18, 2012
    Charlotte, NC
    Just buy it straight from Apple at launch. Their "T-Mobile" version is factory unlock and you don't have to worry about going through your carrier to get it unlocked. They did this last year with the 5S. I bought mine factory unlocked on day 1.
  6. Woochifer macrumors 6502a

    Apr 22, 2007
    Just to clarify, if you buy at the Apple Store, the T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T iPhones are all available unlocked. With the Verizon and AT&T models, you must specify that you want the "phone only" version and pay the full retail price up front. If you buy one of the Verizon or AT&T contract models, then it will come with the carrier lock enabled, even if you buy through the Apple Store. I've heard of people not specifically requesting the phone-only model, and ending up with a locked phone, even though they paid full price.

    Only with the T-Mobile version do you know for certain that any phone you buy at the Apple Store will come factory unlocked. It's no different than the official "unlocked" phones that Apple starts selling about a month or two after the release date, except that the phones labeled as "unlocked" don't come with the T-Mobile SIM card preinstalled. I didn't want to take any chances when I bought my 5s, so I went directly with the T-Mobile variant from the Apple Store (plus, I intended to activate my phone on T-Mobile anyway).

    With Sprint, you get a locked phone no matter what. The only carrier unlock they will allow is for international SIM cards. Otherwise, you can only use a Sprint phone on Sprint's network.

    Also, if you buy an iPhone at a carrier store, they will come locked as well. Even T-Mobile sells locked phones at their stores. Not sure if the unlocked option is available directly through the carrier stores if you pay full price. I know that T-Mobile requires that you sign up for at least 40 days of service, and at the end of that period, they will unlock the phone.

    As long as you have the IMEI info, you can always check whether the carrier lock remains enabled. It all comes down to the level of assurance you want at the time of transaction. My understanding is that once a phone is unlocked, it stays unlocked.

    Here's a master list of carriers and which ones allow for unlocking.
  7. g35 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2007
  8. chestvrg macrumors 65816


    Dec 13, 2010
    It is simple, once unlocked always unlocked.

    Even if you take it for repair or exchange, the unlocked attributes will carry over to the new device.

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