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How to: Get your O2 iPhone officially unlocked

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Whether you’ve literally just got an iPhone 3G or 3GS or even if you’ve had it for a while, the chances are you’ll want to unlock the handset so you are free to put any sim card you like into the handset.  By doing so you’ll be free to chose which operator/carrier you like at any point.  Until recently, the only way to achieve this was by carrying out a process known as jailbreaking and subsequently software unlocking your iPhone.  Such a process sometimes caused confusion and in some rare cases, rendered users handsets useless to them because they didn’t carefully follow the provided instructions.  Thankfully, if you have an iPhone tied to the O2 network, there’s great news – you can now get your iPhone officially unlocked and in some cases for no fee!

If your handset was either sold with an O2 contract or under an O2 “Pay an Go” scheme then please read on – I’ll be outlining the necessary steps to get unlocked and giving you all the information you’ll need to ease you through the process.  If you aren’t tied to the O2 network with your iPhone then you should contact your provider to see if they are offering an unlock service; if they aren’t then I’d encourage you to please read our guidance for how to jailbreak and software unlock your handset until such time as your operator is prepared to provide an official sim unlock.

Important Notes

If you are a contract customer of O2 then this process will cost you nothing.  On the other hand, if you are what is commonly referred to as a Pay-as-you-go customer, or as O2 like to refer to “Pay and Go” then there is a fee of £15 levied by O2 for unlocking your iPhone.  Until very recently, O2 would only unlock iPhones contract customers within 12 months of ownership – Pay and Go customers were expected to wait until they’d had their handset for at least a year.  Thankfully this policy has now been amended, and all O2 locked handsets can be unlocked at any time.  It is important to note, that if you have had your handset on a Pay and Go tariff for under twelve months, unless you choose to pay O2 £10 per month, you will lose the 12 month web bolt on O2 gave you when you purchased your iPhone – not great deal if you intend to move to another network!

Preparation

There are a few key things that you need to be able to do your unlock, these are outlined below.  Pay and Go users have a few additional steps, so we’ll look at them first:

As I mentioned earlier, O2 will charge Pay and Go customers £15 to unlock their iPhone.  This fee is taken from your air time credit.  It is essential that you top up before submitting a request and ensure sufficient balance remains for the process to work.  O2 will not take the credit upon submission of your request, but at the time they process it.

If you haven’t used your O2 sim card for over six months then O2 will have deactivated the sim and wiped any unused credit.  As frustrating as this might be, there’s nothing you can do about it.  Simply ring O2 (from a landline) on 0844 875 2302.  Ask them to reactivate your O2 sim.  Once they have done so, it’s extremely important that you put this into your iPhone and perform a sync with iTunes so that iTunes has seen that sim card active.

You need to have made at least two chargeable calls before you’ll be able to proceed with your request.  Make sure that these are to two different numbers.  Simply ring two desired numbers and make sure you get answered and keep the line open for around 10 seconds.  Keep a note of these numbers.

Beyond this, the process is essentially the same:

Requesting your iPhone unlock

Go to this link (it’s the O2 unlocking form)

Complete the first page with your details.  When it asks for your phone number, it’s referring to the phone number your iPhone has when your O2 sim is inserted.  Your alternative number should be an active alternative mobile or your home number

Once all the boxes are completed appropriately, click the next button to proceed to page 2 of the unlocking form.

Complete the second page with your details.  It asks for details of when you last topped up and how much credit you added. If you don’t remember then have a look back through text messages since O2 send this information to you as a record.  It also asks for details of your two commonly dialled numbers – they don’t have to be the most dialled, just ones you’ve rung.  Above I encouraged Pay and Go users to make two chargeable calls – the two numbers you rang are the two you use here.

Once all the boxes are completed appropriately, click the next button to proceed to page 3 of the unlocking form.

You will be asked to provide your phone model number and IMEI number.  If you have an iPhone 3G, put iPhone 3G.  Equally if you have an iPhone 3GS, put iPhone 3GS.  Instructions are provided for how to obtain your IMEI number – make sure you are accurate when recording this.

Once all the boxes are completed appropriately, click the next button to complete the unlock request.

You will not be emailed, nor will you be texted to confirm your request.  Within 14 days you will receive a text message to tell you if the unlock request has been a success.  Contract customer that I know of have had their request processed within 1 working day and others over a week.  My own request (Pay and Go) took nearly two weeks.

Receipt of the text message does not indicate the iPhone is unlocked.  There’s a final step to do in order to complete your iPhone unlock.  If you’ve not carried out the process described earlier as jailbreaking, your unlock is simple and is detailed below in Scenario A.  If you have performed a jailbreak and software sim unlock then your unlock is detailed in Scenario B.

Scenario A – iPhone that hasn’t been jailbroken

Put a non-O2 sim card into your iPhone.

Connect to your PC or Mac (where iTunes is installed)

Synchronise your iPhone with iTunes

iTunes will display the following message if your unlock has been a success

iPhone unlocked in iTunes

Scenario B – iPhone has been jailbroken and software unlocked

It was my experience that if your iPhone has been jailbroken that iTunes can’t officially unlock you.  No errors appear, you just don’t get a confirmation screen.  In order to unlock your handset properly, you need to carry out the following:

Backup your iPhone (connect to iTunes, right click your iPhone, choose backup)

Make a note of all those lovely Cydia apps you’ve got installed

Ensure you have a non-O2 sim in your iPhone

Select the option to restore your iPhone

Accept that the iPhone will be wiped

Allow the iPhone to be reset to factory defaults

Allow the iPhone to sync for the first time

You should now see the above screenshot telling you that iTunes has unlocked your iPhone

You are safe to re-jailbreak if you desire – I used blackra1n to re-jailbreak my handset; you just don’t need to install any sim unlock software now since you are open to all sims.

If this has been of use to you then please let us know, equally if you’ve questions feel free to ask them in our comments box below.

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