Many iPhone users consider their phones one of their most prized possessions. Like any valuable item, it warrants increased security measures like a SIM PIN to protect it from thieves.
A thief could work around other security measures, but a SIM PIN is difficult to bypass. They can’t use your SIM in another phone or reset your phone without knowing your PIN.
But what to do if the SIM card is locked on your iPhone? Read on to find how.
Part 1. Why Is My SIM Card Locked on iPhone?
Many people set a SIM PIN as an added layer of security on their iPhone. This prevents any phone calls or internet access, making it useless for a thief. It also means they can’t do anything that may add charges against your account.
If you have a SIM PIN activated on your iPhone, anytime you restart the phone it will present a “SIM is Locked” message. You’ll also get this message if you take your SIM out of your iPhone and place it in a different device.
This is a security feature to prevent the use of a stolen SIM card to make calls.
Part 2. What Is a SIM PIN?
A SIM PIN is a security feature added to iPhones in the past few years. It allows you to require a code that must be entered before using the SIM to make calls. This prevents others from taking your SIM and placing calls that are charged to your account.
- SIM stands for subscriber identity module. It’s essentially a unique identifier so your cell carrier can identify you on the network.
- PIN is short for personal identification number. This is the number that you use to unlock your SIM for calls.
On an iPhone, you set the SIM PIN by going to Settings>Cellular>SIM PIN. Write down whatever code you select when you enable the SIM PIN, because you’ll need to know this number later. Whatever you do, don’t lose this number!
You don’t want to guess when entering your SIM PIN. You only get three tries, so be careful when entering. Fat finger the number once and you’re fine, but if you have a second typo then be very careful when trying your third and last time.
Part 3. 2 Ways to Unlock the SIM Card Locked iPhone
If you have a locked SIM on your iPhone, you’ll need to enter a PIN before you can place calls. This can even happen on a new SIM card, since some service carriers may set a default PIN before shipping it.
If your carrier set a default PIN for your SIM and you haven’t changed it yet, you’ll need to know that PIN before you continue. This should be in the documentation you got with the SIM card. You’ll need that PIN to remove SIM Lock on iPhone, set a new PIN, or disable the SIM PIN feature.
When you have a locked SIM, there are a couple of ways you can unlock it.
1. Make a Call
Probably the easiest way to get the “SIM is locked” screen to come up so you can enter your PIN is by making a call.
Place a call to any phone number and you’ll get back to the lock screen where you can enter the PIN to unlock your phone.
2. Through the Settings App
You can also get back to the “SIM is locked” screen by using the Settings app. Once in Settings, tap on Cellular, then on SIM PIN. Here you can enter the PIN.
What to Do if You Forgot the SIM PIN
The first thing to remember if you forget your PIN is to never guess. Too many wrong guesses and you may completely lock your SIM and make it unusable in the future.
If you think you know the PIN and try it a couple of times, you may still be able to reactivate your SIM by calling your carrier. But if you try more than a handful of times and haven’t gotten the PIN right, you may not even be able to unlock it with help of your carrier. In that case, you’ll need a new SIM.
If you forgot your PIN, here are the steps to take to unlock your SIM:
Step 1. Try your PIN 3 times.
Step 2. If you were incorrect with all three attempts, your phone should ask for something called a PUK code. PUK stands for personal unlocking key. It’s sort of like an extra override code to bypass the SIM PIN.
The PUK code is unique for each SIM. You may be able to find it on the plastic card you punched your SIM out of, if you still have it. Here is an example of the kind of card you may have:
If you don’t have a similar card or your card doesn’t have a PUK code, you may need to call your carrier to obtain that code.
If you don’t know the name of your carrier, remove your SIM card. Usually, there is a logo from the carrier printed directly on the SIM card, and you will be able to find your carrier name there.
Step 3. Enter your PUK code when your phone prompts for it. Your phone should be unlocked at this point, and it should ask for a new PIN.
Step 4. Enter the new PIN, making sure to write it down in a safe location.
You can now go back in and change or disable your PIN whenever you like, as described below.
How Do I Change My SIM PIN?
Changing your SIM PIN is very simple.
Step 1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
Step 2. Tap on SIM PIN.
Step 3. Tap on Change PIN.
Step 4. It will ask for the current PIN if there is one set, so enter that number here.
Step 5. Now you can enter a new PIN or disable the SIM PIN on your iPhone.
Make sure to write down the new PIN in a secure place.
You will need this number if you reset your iPhone or get a new iPhone and move your SIM card over to it. You’ll also need it if you decide to change or disable the SIM PIN in the future.
Bonus: How to Unlock a Carrier Lock
Many people get their iPhone through a cell service carrier. While the carrier may say “free iPhone with new service”, the iPhone isn’t really free. You pay for it a little each month when you pay for your service.
Because of this, the carrier often locks the phone into their network. This prevents you from using the phone on another carrier before completing your contract with them. That ensures that you’ll pay them for the iPhone before using it elsewhere.
The downside to this is that the iPhone remains locked when you complete your contract. That makes leaving your current carrier and using your existing iPhone on another carrier more difficult.
Luckily, carriers will release the lock from your phone once you’ve completed the requirements of your contract.
Some carriers go out of the way to make it difficult to factory unlock an iPhone you got from them. Stick with it and you should be able to get them to unlock your phone.
Follow these steps to remove the carrier lock on your iPhone:
Step 1. First, make sure you have the following information ready before calling your carrier:
- Account holder’s name
- Account number
- IMEI number of your iPhone
- Account password
Step 2. Contact your carrier and ask them to remove the lock. They will verify that you meet the requirements for unlocking and that your phone hasn’t been reported stolen. This may take a few days to complete, so be patient.
Step 3. Once they’ve verified your iPhone is eligible to unlock, you should receive a confirmation.
Step 4. If you have a SIM card from your new carrier, insert it at this point and follow that carrier’s activation process. If you plan to sell the iPhone instead, make sure to erase all your data and reset your phone.
How to Tell if Your iPhone Is Carrier Locked
There are a couple of easy ways to tell whether your iPhone is carrier locked.
Using the Settings App
- Open the Settings app on your iPhone
- Tap on General
- Tap on About
- Scroll down to Network Provider Lock
- If it says “No SIM restrictions” then your iPhone is unlocked
- If it says “SIM locked” then your iPhone is carrier locked
- If it says “No SIM restrictions” then your iPhone is unlocked
Using a SIM Card From a New Carrier
- Power off your iPhone
- Insert the new SIM card
- Power on your iPhone
- If the phone works correctly and can call or send messages, then your iPhone is unlocked. If it doesn’t, and the SIM card has been properly activated, it’s locked.
As we’ve explained, SIM PINs are a strong added security feature on an iPhone. While it may be difficult to unlock a phone when you don’t know the PIN, it is possible by contacting your carrier and using a PUK code.
And, as we’ve made clear, you should always keep your SIM PIN written down in a secure location for future use.