quick q for a buddy: when does the iPhone get locked to carrier?


macrumors 601
Oct 5, 2003
Dark Castle
Not shure how it is done at the burrows.
However in the US, they activate the phone before you leave the store, they do that in front of you.
Unless you buy a unlocked one.


macrumors 6502
Mar 19, 2006
Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

I believe it's already locked by the time it arrives to the Apple Store.


macrumors 604
Apr 6, 2007
In the US, a few things happen:

(First, understand what an IMEI is, and what an MEID is.)

1. The iPhone is activated (carrier locked) at the store,
2. The carriers each have an inventory database of IMEIs (AT&T, unlocked) or MEIDs (if for Verizon/Sprint) that match up to the iPhones that are sold for their respective carrier. Unlocked iPhones won't match up with any carrier's database.

Even if you happened to walk away with an unactivated iPhone, or bought a factory-unlocked iPhone in the US:

2a. Sprint/Verizon will not activate any iPhone with an IMEI. This includes the factory-unlocked iPhone 4S. They will only activate "their" iPhones (ones that have an MEID that match up with entries in their respective inventory databases). They will not activate an AT&T iPhone, even if unlocked. Sprint won't activate a Verizon-designated iPhone, and Verizon will look at you funny if you bring them a Sprint-destined iPhone, and probably won't activate it.

2b. AT&T will activate any factory-unlocked iPhone on their network. Technically, there shouldn't be anything stopping them from activating a CDMA-carrier-bound iPhone 4s if it's been fully unlocked. But, if they see an MEID where they're used to seeing an IMEI, they might look at you funny. Also, there's no telling what their software will do with that. So, I wouldn't count on it working.

3. Lastly, All of the carriers have procedures in place for those who buy a subsidized phone and don't activate it. In a Nutshell, they'll either get their money, or they will ruin your credit.
Last edited:


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Jul 15, 2010
the burrows
Thanks. Didn't know about MEIDs. Good info. This question was prompted by a discussion about the "unofficially" unlocked iPhone 4s that folks have, i.e. the unsubsidized version. And whether AT&T could/would lock it.
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