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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.

  • Is there a time limit after receiving your text and carrying out the unlock? I'm waiting for the jailbreak of the newest OS, and rather than going through the re-jailbreaking process twice, I want to do them at the same time…should I wait before applying for the unlock?

  • Rob

    I'm not aware of any limit on how long. In theory there isn't any. I'll give you an example: Gina had hers unlocked and then a couple of months later had to have the handset swapped by Apple. Apple changed over the owner Ids at their end so that when she got her replacement handset home (which was of course O2 locked) she was able to connect it to iTunes and iTunes unlocked it for her (since her account is flagged for unlock).

    If I were you, I would submit the request and then it's in and done.

  • I've requested it. Cheers.

  • sergio

    Hello i do the tutorial with a pay & go iphone from o2. I'm in spain and i recibed a sms that tell that my iphone is unlocked but i put and other sim card on my phone and doesn`t works, any idea?

  • Rob

    Hi,

    If you've received your text message there's still work to be done on your part.

    You need to connect your iPhone to iTunes, sync it and iTunes will then unlock the iPhone. The text message is to notify you that your handset is ready to be unlocked, not that it is now unlocked.

    Cheers!

  • Sergio

    I restore de iphone and now works fine.

  • Markus

    Okay, this might sound off the topic but i have no choice. What does a blocked phone on certain UK carrier mean ? Can it be unlocked?…a possible scenario: An international bidder buys an iphone on ebay on a real cheap price, only to find out that it is blocked on certain UK carrier e.g. vodafone or O2…so, does it mean paying certain amount will get that phone unlocked?

    Or, am i too noob to differentiate the terminologies “blocked” and “locked”…enlighten me plz

  • Rob

    Locked means the handset has been restricted to only allow one or more mobile networks to use the iPhone.

    Blocked means the handset has been reported as stolen and blacklisted therefore rendering it useless on all networks (unless the handset's unique identifier (IMEI) is unblocked). Unblocking can only be done by those that blocked it in the first place.

  • Markus

    I appreciate your reply. And this is a nice informative website by the way…

  • Ccoulter241

    if you have jailbroken your iphone do you still need to request the phone unlock from O2? If so how can I unlock my iphone without the request?

  • Rob

    If you jailbreak then you can, depending on what version of the iphone's “baseband” software unlock your handset to be able to use other networks however it is not a permanent unlock. The described unlock in this article is permanent.

  • Ccoulter241

    so how do I unlock even temporarilly?

  • Rob

    You need to install a suitable software unlock for your iPhone baseband and model. I recommend you read up on blacksn0w and ultrasn0w. If you have an iPhone 3G running iPhone OS 3.1.2 then you'll find guides on this site.

  • Rob

    Just to clarify (having re-read your comment not on my iPhone screen), I would still request an unlock from O2 since your handset will be worth more when selling it “factory” unlocked.

  • i dont' remember my mobile number now ! and i am outside UK
    it is more than a year now since i purchased my iphone
    is there another way to unlock it officially ?

  • Rob

    Sadly not. Just the jailbreak and soft unlock we've covered in recent posts to the site this week.

  • Greenwood_ma

    I put £20 on my jailbroken/unlocked PAYG o2 iPhone and filled in form correctly. They took £15 off my balance but I never received a text saying the unlock went through. When I rung CS they said the money had been taken off but couldn't confirm if the unlock had gone through and advised I would need to wait for a manager to ring me back in the next few days – does this mean the unlock will be unsuccessful or that there is a problem with the unlock?

  • Rob

    Has it been 14+ days since they took the money? If you aren't jailbroken then you'll see the unlock when you sync with iTunes.

  • Greenwood_ma

    All worked great. Phone now officially unlocked and no need to do it the jailbreak way! 🙂

  • Rob

    Brilliant news!

  • Helpfullprogrammer

    Thank you so much! You cleared up a thousand loose ends 🙂

  • Rob

    You are most welcome.

  • Baz

    fantastic help – unlocked withing 2 days! applied via the form…..then went back to the o2 unlock page the following day and a wee livechat help person asked a few simple questions and the phone is unlocked, providing you have made the 2 calls and use a registered o2 sim (topped up by £20) and i now have an o2 iphone on my vodafone contract sim card with FULL signal – none of this low signal my friends had after jailbreaking theirs…..i didnt need jailbroken just unlocked…..i am one happy camper!!!! plus can update firmware when apple releases this way (just gone to the new 4.2 as itunes said)

  • Rob

    Excellent. Glad it helped you out. Enjoy!

  • Rishi Kumar

    Hey, quick question… As I only have £15 worth of credit on my pay as you go sim and have been sending free texts and using the web regularly since I got the new sim is this enough usage or do I have to make those two chargable calls? I have spoken to customer services who kinldly submiited the form for me & am now waiting for the confirmation text… also is there anything I can do to speed this up?

  • Rob

    Sadly there is nothing you van do to speed it up. Must say I am a little surprised that customer services have submitted the form on your behalf. They usually avoid unlocks like the plague directing any and all queries to the web form. It’s the form instructions that indicate it’s necessary to make the two chargeable calls.

  • Originalminx

    wow i just put a giff gaff sim into my O2 locked iphone and followed the scenario A instructions and although i didnt get a message come up saying my phone had been successfully unlocked my new sim is working in it.  It still says O2 at the top but im making and receiving calls and texts from the new sim.  Would this be because giff gaff runs off the O2 network???

  • Rob

    Not heard of them but could well be!

  • John

    My name is John my question is:  i purchase an  i-phone from Amazon website and it happen to be still registered with o2
    Service and i can not used the phone in my country with another
    telecommunication Sim cards, but i was advise to contact o2
    telecommunication in UK in order to have it unlock for me but when i contacted them they told that they can not unlock unless i provided them the account number and account name on the service. But i dont know who was the first account holder name registered on the service. I even provide them with  IMEI number the number i saw at the back of the sim card but they still was unable to help. The i-phone is a 3Gs
    4.3.3 version. Please if anyone can help me use the i-phone it would be
    greatly appreciated.  However when i purchase the I-Phone i was told
    that it was unlock but when i received the shipping from the USA it was
    not unlock and it really cost me if i have to return it back from my country which will also take a month to return to me again .

  • Rob

    Unlock is via iTunes not Iberia the air.

    You will need to get a Pay as you go sim card from O2 and put enough credit on it to pay for the unlock.

    Once this is done the sim will need to go in the handset so the device registers itself with said sim.

    Then complete the process in the post you’ve commented on and O2 will unlock it.

  • Shh Mugly

    Thanks so much! Scenario B was very helpful! 

  • Saurabh

    I have bought iPhone 4 on two years contract in UK. I paid
    till a year and then I had to return back to India due to family
    emergency. Currently it’s unlocked via gevey sim and jailbroken. I have
    submitted the Unlock from on O2 website while entering my password details
    etc. almost 9 days back. Today for the first time in 9 days I put the o2
    contract sim in the iPhone and it showed no service may be because it’s not
    been used from past one year. Also I have received no communication by O2 on my
    email id.

    I resubmitted the form today while taking precaution of leaving o2 sim in the iPhone
    while doing so. I again did not receive any form submission confirmation etc.

    Please tell me what to do?

  • Rob

    Difficult situation for you there. From what you’ve said you aren’t an O2 customer any more be it a contract or a pay as you go tariff and therefore they won’t do anything about it.

    If you are a contract customer and still paying them a fee (which I don’t believe you are any more given they would have let you cancel the contract based on your circumstances) then they should do the unlock. If you aren’t and still have the sim, the chances are it’s been deactivated for lack of use anyway.

    All is not lost, theoretically there is a way to do it since the unlock comes via iTunes and not over the air.

    Get a friend or relative in the UK to order a PAYG sim card that will fit your iPhone. Get them to register it and put on it the necessary funds to be able to pay for an unlock (as per my original post). Make sure international roaming is enabled on the sim (may not be necessary but best to try and have as few obstacles as possible in your way). Get them to make sure the sim is activated and working before shipping it to you. Once it arrives pop it in your iPhone and go through the unlock request above. Two weeks later you should be unlocked when you hook up to iTunes for a sync with a non O2 sim installed.

  • Roon14

    hi there, i had a pay monthly 02 iphone 5.

    i was able to change my sim to pay and go after my monthly contract expired.

    i was then travelling to australia (where i am now) i sent out a request at the beginning of october but by roughly the 24th of oct i had heard nothing about my unlocking.

    i tried again, and still heard nothing, not text or email or anything.

    in the end i had to ring 02 (quite costly) and inquire. i was told (almost a month after the initial unlock request) that because i ws no longer i the uk the unlock text wold not be sent to me. at all.

    and that the phone had to be connected to an english server to enable the unlock.

    can anyone else confirm this?

  • Rob

    You have my sympathies here. It’s always a pain dealing with all of the non-joined up mobile services around the world.

    I hopefully have a positive note for you though:

    Provided that O2 took your money for your unlock and then processed it you should be in good position. You don’t need a text message for the unlocking network provider for it to happen.

    Apple centralised the sim locking of handset to their control. If O2 have processed the unlock then they will have told Apple they wanted the device unlocked and therefore if you put a non O2 sim in the device and then do a sync with iTunes (on a cable) it should process the unlock and give you a screen like the one in my article.

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