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What’s the Brew Haha about Unlocking Cell Phones?

First of all, lets find out what a locked cell phone is. We’re not talking about your own personal 4-digit code you use as a safety measure so no one can access your voice mail or other personal information. We’re talking about a lock that is instituted by the cell phone manufacturer or cell phone service provider.

When we talk about a locked cell phone, we’re talking about a cell phone that is enslaved by the cell phone provider. In other words, that cell phone, in its locked state, can only use service offered by the “locker”. For example, an AT&T cell phone that is locked means that that phone can only use AT&T cell phone service.

Why Unlock a Cell Phone?

The need for unlocking the cell phone comes in when a cell phone owner decides to change cell phone service, but does not want to change cell phones or change cell phones without changing the service. Lets’ say you have the latest and greatest cell phone to suit your need, but you’ve found a more attractive cell phone plan offered by another provider. You want to take your cell phone and switch service providers for the more attractive plan.

If your phone is locked, you can’t. You are tied to your locker.

How to Unlock the Cell Phone

Before we can discuss how to unlock the cell phone, you have to know whether or not the phone is unlockable. This means that we have to take a step back to discuss the two most popular types of phone service. One type is unlockable, and the other isn’t.

There’s GSM, which stands for Global System for Mobile Communications and CDMA, which means Code Division Multiple Access. We’ll forget the technical names and use acronyms.


GSM phones are unlockable while CDMA phones are not (at least as of this writing). The best way toUnlock Cell Phone explain it is to think of the locking aspect of a cell phone as its heart and soul. Each cell phone service provider accesses the cell phone by connecting to the heart of the cell phone. Some cell phones have a “temporary” heart in the form of a SIM card, while other cell phones have a permanent heart built into the phone.

Cell phones with a temporary heart or SIM (subscriber identity module) card can be unlocked. Technically, you can perform a type of heart transplant by taking the heart out of one phone, placing into another SIM card compatible phone and you have effectively transferred the old personality, datebook phone numbers, etc. from one cell phone to the other. GSM phones embrace the heart transplant technology while CDMA does not (Although they are working on their own type of heart in the form of a R-UIM card currently available in Asia).

CDMA phones remain locked for life. If you wish to change phones or service on phones powered by CDMA technology, you have to buy a new phone and contact the service provider to have all of the information switched from one phone to another (provided you stay with the same service provider). If you switch service providers, you cannot transfer the data from the old phone to a new one.

Now back to the Question at hand…How to Unlock a Cell Phone…

About the author: LaForey is a parent and a freelance writer who has done quite a bit of research on prepaid cell phones.