Have you ever had an experience with customer service that pushed you to switch away from Verizon to other carriers? Or maybe you’ve gotten sick of them throttling your data? Either way, if you want to continue using your device after you cancel your plan, you have to know how to unlock your Verizon phone to use it with another carrier.
In this guide, we’ll tell you exactly how to do that. But first, what is a locked phone and why should you unlock it?
Table of Contents
- What Is a Locked Phone?
- Why Are Phones Locked?
- Why Should You Unlock Your Phone?
- Verizon’s Phone Unlocking Policies
- Unlocking your Verizon Phone
- What Networks Can Your Now Unlocked Phone Use?
- How to Check if Your Phone Is Unlocked
Now, for an obvious question, what is a locked phone? Locked phones are the same as any other Android or iPhone phone with one exception. These are “locked” to the carrier you’d bought them from. This is regardless of whether you bought one from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or other carriers. It also affects both prepaid and postpaid plans as well. Unless there’s specific inclusion of an “unlocked phone” in your carrier’s contract or you bought the phone separately, most plan phones are delivered with a carrier lock.
You may be wondering why these phone locks exist in the first place and you wouldn’t be the first. Verizon’s statement on the matter is that it “helps prevent theft and protect customers from fraud.” They believe that a device “locked” to a carrier would be a deterrent to thieves by being less attractive to them. This necessitates unlocking your Verizon phone.
As explained earlier, carrier-locked phones are tied to whatever service or carrier they were bought from. You should unlock your phone to give you free access to whichever carrier or mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) you wish to sign onto. This includes having SIM cards from different carriers on one dual-SIM phone.
Unlocking your Verizon phone also allows you to use it with international SIM cards. Aside from carrier freedom, you can also save money on an unlocked phone. Most carriers have “Bring Your Own Phone” initiatives.
We also have a more in-depth explanation of what an unlocked phone is you can read up on.
So, what are Verizon’s specific phone policies? As their July 19, 2019 policy update states, you need to keep an active mobile plan subscription for sixty days before your phone automatically unlocks. This “lock-in” period covers all phones from Verizon and its retail partners. The period starts from the day of the phone activation until the 60 days are over.
This 60-day lock-in includes and will continue for those who’d canceled their Verizon service before the lock-in period ended, for those moving onto a different carrier, and for those who’d fully paid off their devices. You should settle your device and other payments with Verizon before the 60-day lock-in period expires to have your phone automatically unlocked. Verizon may also continue to lock your phone if there is suspicion of fraud associated with the device or if your device has been listed as stolen or lost. There are of course exceptions to the 60-day lock-in period to let you unlock your Verizon phone.
Verizon has a special exception for customers in the military who have received orders and are to be relocated to locales outside of Verizon’s coverage area for “no less than 90 days.” You must apply to have your device unlocked with Verizon through their online customer service or visit a physical store. The application must cite this exception with your deployment orders to be accommodated. This is valid only for those who have paid their phones fully and would apply even within the 60-day lock-in period.
If you do not want to end your contract and instead want a suspension of your services, Verizon follows the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This would allow you to suspend your Verizon service for up to three years and 90 days as part of their Military Deployment Suspension program. More information on this service is available on the Verizon suspension support page.
Verizon has “Phone-in-a-Box” offers that have a different lock-in period compared to their other phones. This is mainly due to the special rates Verizon offers for those taking this service and the reduced prices of the paired phones. You should look at the box properly to find the lock-in period of your particular device.
Verizon’s 60-day lock-in period only applies to phones bought after the new policies were put into effect on July 19, 2019. The phones you’d bought before that date would have different policies and lock-in periods dependent on the contract. If you’re unsure if your phone is unlocked or not, the next segment will explain how to know if it is and how to unlock it.
Now, onto how to unlock Verizon phones. There are two main things to keep in mind when you’re unlocking a Verizon phone. The first is whether you’re already past that mandatory lock-in period. As explained, there aren’t any other ways around that lock-in aside from the earlier exceptions. The second thing to keep in mind is whether your device was purchased before July 19, 2019, the day Verizon changed its unlocking policies.
Your Verizon phones bought past the policy update date automatically unlock after the mandatory 60-day lock-in period. If they haven’t, it may be due to several reasons. The first may be due to unpaid bills, especially those for the device itself. Another reason may be that your phone was reported as stolen or lost. For both cases, you should contact Verizon customer services online or through 888-294-6804, or by dialing *611 on Verizon phones.
Older phones like the ones from 3G World Device packages or older models aren’t part of the automated unlocking Verizon does nowadays. To unlock phones like these, they need “Change Carrier Codes” instead. You should do the following to unlock these Verizon phones:
1. You should first power down your phone.
2. Insert the sim card of the provider you’re switching to.
3. Boot up the phone and you’ll be prompted with a “Change Carrier” prompt. If you aren’t, that means your phone is already unlocked.
4. Input “000000” or “123456” into the prompt.
5. Wait for your phone to connect with the new provider’s network.
Carriers and MVNOs have two types of infrastructure in place for their customers. These are Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM). While the two systems will slowly be phased out, they would limit your carrier choices for 4G and earlier phones. Verizon is a CDMA carrier and most of their phones would only work with other CDMA systems like those with US Cellular and Sprint (now owned by T-Mobile). Newer Verizon phones, especially those with 5G compatibility are GSM and CDMA capable.
There’s one quick way to know if your phone is CDMA, GSM, or both and it’s relatively quick to do. You open up the “About” page on your iPhone or the “About Phone” page on your Android. There should be at least one entry of either Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID), Electronic Serial Number (ESN), or International Mobile Equipment Inventory (IMEI) listed down. CDMA network phones would only have MEID or ESN numbers while GSM phones have IMEI numbers. If you have all three then your phone is compatible with both systems.
You may also read our article on CDMA vs GSM for a further explanation of these systems.
There is only one accurate and certain way to know if your phone is unlocked. All you need is a SIM card from another carrier. After slotting in the non-Verizon SIM card, you’ll immediately have a cell signal to your device. Congratulations, your phone was already unlocked. Androids and iPhones that are locked would have “SIM Not Supported” or a variation of it displayed on the screen.
We’ve taught you how to unlock your Verizon phone and you now also know what you could do with them. Hopefully, you can find a better plan for yourself with your existing phone. Going forward, you may want to buy an unlocked phone instead of a carrier phone. To help, here’s our list of the best unlocked phones around.