Factory Unlocked iPhone Meaning & Guide to Unlock

You may have recently bought a locked iPhone for use with your local mobile service provider but now realize the extent of your mistake.

Maybe it’s time to change your carrier, or you’re moving out to a new country and are wondering whether your iPhone is locked or unlocked.

If so, what should you do? Don’t worry; you’re in the right place.

Today’s article looks at factory unlocked iPhones, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as how to tell if yours is locked or not.

Let’s get started.

Part 1. What Is Factory Unlocked iPhone?

When considering buying an iPhone, you may come across terms such as locked iPhone, user-unlocked iPhone, and factory-unlocked iPhone.

What are they? First, we need to know what a locked iPhone is.

What is a Locked iPhone?

iphone sim not supported not valid

Originally, Apple “locked” all iPhones sold in the United States to their original carriers.

In other words, you are restricted to using the iPhones with a specific network provider.

For example, you can’t make a call with your AT&T SIM card if you’re using a T-Mobile-locked phone.

Now let’s define what a factory-unlocked iPhone means.

What is Factory Unlocked iPhone?

A factory-unlocked iPhone is an original iPhone that is not “locked” or linked to a specific mobile carrier such as T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T. You can use it with any global mobile carrier.

In essence, you can use your T-Mobile SIM card on any unlocked iPhone, unlike Apple’s original locked phones, which only accepted dedicated mobile carrier cards.

Part 2. Disadvantages of Factory Unlocked iPhones

High Initial Cost

One big disadvantage of buying factory-unlocked iPhones is their high cost.

Owning a factory unlocked iPhone is expensive since you won’t access the carrier subsidy with carrier-locked iPhones. Service providers offer these discounts to hold on to their customer base and attract more to their service.

The subsidy is only beneficial to the service provider if they can buy your loyalty. They’ll then recoup their money since you’ll be locked or “married” to their service.

Unlocked iPhones Still Have Similar Limitations as Locked Ones

Unlocked iPhones still come with Apple restrictions on the apps to use, run, or purchase hence leaving most people with no option but to jailbreak their devices.

Jailbreaking enables you to enjoy an improved Safari experience, apply customized system themes, better file management, run apps in windowed mode, etc.

Part 3. Advantages of Factory Unlocked iPhones

They Are Beneficial for International Travels

An unlocked iPhone is your best accessory if you frequently move in and out of the country during business travels or vacations.

They enable you to use your phone with a new SIM card, which saves some money in the long run; roaming charges are always more expensive.

Additionally, you may sometimes find that your cell phone provider doesn’t have roaming agreements with any provider in the country.

Therefore, you can opt for an unlocked iPhone or check if your service provider has any roaming agreements with international service providers.

Regardless, roaming is expensive, and if you’re going to spend a long time abroad, it’s better to have your phone unlocked or purchase an unlocked one for use.

You Can Easily Switch Service Providers

Factory unlocked iPhones have a great advantage in their flexibility and freedom.

You would want to purchase a factory unlocked iPhone because you want to use different mobile carriers without fearing the high roaming charges.

We’ve all been in a situation whereby one mobile service provider has a better offer than the other, but we can’t access the service because our iPhones are locked to an expensive one.

With a factory unlocked iPhone, if you’re not satisfied with the rates you’re getting from a service provider, all you need to do is eject their SIM card and insert the one you desire.

Factory Unlocked iPhones Are Cheaper to Use

As we’ve already seen, unlocked iPhones will save you a lot of money as you’ll be free to hop from one service provider to another whenever there are promotions and better rates.

Currently, T-Mobile has some extraordinary offers, such as low-cost data plans, excellent perks for its subscribers, unlimited plans, and a fast-growing 5G network.

On the other hand, Verizon has extensive network coverage, excellent prepaid plans, and a fast mmWave 5G available to its clients.

However, the phone carrier’s unlimited plans are generally expensive, and its 5G coverage is limited.

From the two examples above, the two mobile carriers outperform each other in certain areas. And as a customer, you should maximize the offers and promotions you get to lower iPhone usage costs.

Allows You to Use iPhones Worldwide

Have you ever been to a country whose phone carriers don’t support roaming, and you instantly wished you’d bought an unlocked iPhone?

It happens as you can find certain carriers don’t sell iPhones and will only work with the unlocked versions.

iPhone made a deliberate step to have their phones unlocked to expand their reach into international markets.

Furthermore, there are thousands of phone carriers across the globe, and it would be expensive to lock iDevices to each of them.

Additionally, people were finding the factory-unlocked Android devices to be user-friendly.

No Need To Hack/ Jailbreak Your Phone

Jailbreaking your iPhone to unlock it is a dangerous practice that voids Apple’s warranty, limits the services you receive, compromises phone security, reduces battery life, and increases system instability.

Traditionally, most iPhone users outside the US would use third-party software to unlock their iPhones.

Unfortunately, this exposed their devices to many dangers that come with reduced security.

But now, they no longer need to hack their iPhones as they’re legally using unlocked ones.

Factory Unlocked Phones Have High Resale Values

A factory unlocked device has a higher resale value than a locked one, as you can easily sell to anyone in need of an iPhone.

It’s unlike yesteryears when locked iPhones were common, and you could only sell an AT&T iPhone to an AT&T SIM card owner.

Part 4. How to Know if iPhone is Factory Unlocked

Check from Settings

You can easily check the unlock status in Settings app. Here is how:

Step 1. Open Settings app on your iPhone.

Step 2. Navigate to General > About > Carrier Lock.

Step 3. If it says “No SIM restrictions”, then your iPhone is factory unlocked and your can use it with any network carriers.

iphone carrier lock no restrictions

However, some users reported that there is such info in the About page of Settings app, if that’s the case for you, check out the next method.

Check with SIM Card

Checking if your iPhone is factory unlocked using the SIM card isn’t as straightforward as checking in the Settings but still easy. You’ll need to have a SIM card from a different mobile carrier.

Here’s how to tell if your iPhone is factory unlocked using SIM card:

Step 1. Power off your iPhone

Step 2. Locate the SIM card tray and carefully eject the current SIM card

Step 3. Place a Similar size SIM card, from a different carrier, into your iPhone’s SIM card tray

Step 4. Push the SIM card tray into its default position

Step 5. Power on your iPhone

Step 6. Make a call to any working number of a friend or family member

Step 7. If your call goes through, you’re using an unlocked iPhone. However, if it doesn’t, your iPhone is locked.

Part 5. What is Semi Factory Unlocked iPhone?

To understand a semi factory unlocked iPhone, we need to look at how the GPP chip works.

It is possible to unlock your network-locked iPhone using a small chip called a GPP.

GPP chip a special device that you place on top of your SIM card before inserting it into your locked iPhone and works by faking the Integrated Circuit Card Identifier (ICCID) of the SIM card.

Hence you can “deceive” a network-locked, factory-locked, or country-locked iPhone into thinking that the restrictions above don’t exist.

However, resetting your iPhone locks the device again to the previous network, and you’ll have to unlock it with the GPP chip once more.

The most effective GPP chip to semi-factory unlock iPhones is UB SIM.

Part 6. How to Factory Unlock Your iPhone

According to Apple, your carrier can unlock your iPhone. Therefore, you’ll need to contact them to unlock it for you.

You’ll also have to meet their requirements, and this process might take several business days.

Follow these steps once the check is complete and your carrier confirms that they can unlock your iPhone.

You have a SIM card from a different carrier:

  1. Remove your SIM card.
  2. Insert the new SIM card, and your device activates automatically.

You don’t have any other SIM cards with you:

  1. Start by backing up your iPhone.
  2. Erase your iPhone once the back is complete.
  3. Restore your iPhone from the backup.

For more details, check out our guide to unlock a carrier locked iPhone.


A challenge with buying an unlocked iPhone is having to spend more and pay the entire amount upfront before receiving your device.

Therefore, the pricing comes across as one major disadvantage of buying a factory unlocked iPhone.

But as we’ve seen, there’s so much you’ll gain from it. I believe that you shouldn’t be tied to a service provider, and buying a factory unlocked iPhone is the way to go.

Related Posts

About the Author

Darren is an Apple Certified Independent Technician with a passion for researching all aspects of phone locks, including Activation Lock, carrier lock, screen lock, FRP lock, and more. With years of experience in the mobile phone industry, Darren has become a leading authority in his field and has been a sought-after consultant for individuals and businesses seeking to unlock their devices.

Leave a Reply