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All About SIM Network Unlock PIN: How to Get & Use

If you haven’t heard of a SIM network unlock PIN until recently, don’t worry – phone companies don’t want you to know about it because it cuts into their profit.

However, from a consumer standpoint, unlocking your phone removes the monopoly that phone providers create since it gives you choices about how you manage your phone plan.

For example, it’s cheaper to buy a local prepaid SIM card than to pay for an expensive international data plan through your phone carrier if you travel abroad frequently.

Alternatively, you might want to sell your phone—you can get more money for an unlocked phone than a locked one. You’ll also be free to change carriers within your home country as attractive plans pop up.

Regardless of your reason for wanting to get a SIM network unlock PIN, the important thing to know is that you have options.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through three different methods you can use for getting an unlock PIN, along with addressing common questions and points of confusion for consumers.

What is a SIM Network Unlock PIN?

A SIM network unlock PIN is a code that allows you to connect your phone to a different carrier’s network. Phone carriers place SIM network locks because they want to keep your business. If they make it easy for you to change carriers, a larger number of their customers may buy a phone from them and then switch carriers whenever they encounter a better offer.

When your carrier places a SIM network lock on your phone, they don’t alter the SIM card. Instead, they install a system on it that requires a PIN for a different SIM card to function.

Often, travelers want to change out their SIM cards to have a local number and pay lower call, text, and data rates with a phone company in the country they’re in. They then put their old SIM card (with their original carrier) back in their phone when they return home.

If you find yourself needing to change out your SIM card and attempt to put the card in your phone without unlocking it, you’ll receive an error message. The messages vary, but examples include:

  1. SIM network unlock PIN
  2. SIM network unlock code
  3. Network control key
  4. SIM network PIN blocked

The good news is that you can get around these error messages by using a SIM network unlock PIN.

Every phone has a different PIN that ranges from 8 to 16 digits, and PIN generators use your phone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) to help build the code.

How to Get a SIM Network Unlock PIN

When seeking a SIM network unlock code, you have three options – get the PIN via your phone carrier for free, use an unlocking service, or download software and do it yourself for free. Each one has its advantages; let’s take a closer look at them.

1Getting a SIM Network Unlock Code With Your Carrier

Although carriers would rather you not change your SIM card since it means they’ll lose money, they can support you with obtaining an unlock PIN.

Some carriers will give you a SIM network unlock PIN for free. However, many charge a fee.

The advantages of getting a network unlock code with your carrier include:

  1. Customized support for your phone and situation.
  2. Easy to adjust your plan if you desire.
  3. No need to worry about legal issues.

While there are undeniable benefits to using your carrier for getting a network unlock PIN, many people find it more of a hassle than it’s worth. Reasons include:

  1. You may have to wait a certain amount of time before your carrier will allow you to change your SIM card.
  2. Your phone contract with them already needs to be paid in full with no late payments due.
  3. It’s a lengthy process, taking upwards of seven business days to receive your PIN.
  4. If your phone is on a blacklist, they won’t provide you with a PIN. You can check to see if blocklisting will cause you issues here.

If you choose to get your SIM network unlock PIN via your carrier, they’ll ask you a series of questions to prove that you’re the owner of your phone. They’ll then submit your request for a PIN, and you should receive it within seven business days.

2Getting a SIM Network Unlock PIN With an Unlocking Service

Should you encounter issues with getting a PIN from your carrier, or if you need a PIN quicker, an excellent option is to use an unlocking service.

Certain companies can send you a SIM network unlock PIN in an impressive six hours such as our favorite one – DirectUnlocks.


What makes unlocking services so attractive for people wanting to get an unlock PIN is that most use legal means to do so, your phone remains permanently unlocked, and they use remote unlocking technology so you can use your phone as normal during the entire process.

To use an unlocking service, you’ll need to provide them with the following two details about your phone:

  1. The name of your carrier.
  2. Your IMEI number.

If you don’t know your IMEI number, type this code into your phone: *#06#

dial code to find imei iphone

That should give you your IMEI number, and when you send it to your unlocking service, they’ll confirm your phone’s model.

After paying a one-time fee, your unlocking service may offer you a tracking page where you can monitor your phone’s unlocking progress. Once the unlocking process is complete, you’ll receive an email or text message notifying you that you can use the unlock code to get your device unlocked.

samsung s7 unlock code

3Free SIM Network Unlock Code Generator

If you’d like to get a SIM network unlock PIN free code generator, you have some options. That said, some unlocking services may initially look free when, in reality, fees apply for you to be able to take advantage of an unlocked phone fully.

One free option you can try is the WorldUnlock Codes Calculator. You’ll need to download WorldUnlock’s software onto a Windows operating system and provide them with your phone’s IMEI number, your service provider, and the country of purchase.

worldunlock codes calculator

Like many free unlocking services, WorldUnlock offers a limited number of phone brands that it’s compatible with, including Samsung, LG, and Nokia, to name a few.

Nokia users might also want to consider using UnlockItFree, as it’s an anonymous unlocking system with free customer service.

unlockitfree logo

They ask for similar details as WorldUnlock to generate a free code. As a word of caution, though, be careful of how you type in the code – you only get a few attempts before being blocked.

How to Use a SIM Network Unlock PIN to Unlock Your Phone

Getting a SIM network unlock code can feel like a hassle, but it’s easy to use a new SIM card on your phone once you have it. The process looks as follows:

  1. Turn off your phone.
  2. Remove your old SIM card and insert the new card you purchased.
  3. Turn on your phone.
  4. Enter your SIM unlock code when your phone prompts you to do so.

sim unlock pin enter

The SIM card location can vary depending on the phone. However, it’s usually beside or behind the battery.

Since SIM cards are thin and small, you’ll likely need to use your fingernail or another thin object to wiggle it out of its pocket. Make sure to use gentle movements, as you may want to use your SIM card again. That’s especially the case for people who travel.

Below are some important things to keep in mind when using a SIM network unlock code:

Your PIN code is good for life, so keep the PIN in a safe spot should you plan on switching out your SIM card.

If you place an old SIM card back in your phone, it maintains the same number and keeps all the data you had there before you removed it.

Common FAQs About SIM Network Unlock PIN

It can be difficult for people new to the SIM card world to wrap their heads around how a SIM network unlock PIN works.

So, we rounded up some of the most common questions we find people have and break them down into easy-to-understand explanations.

Are SIM network PIN and SIM card PIN the same thing?

No, they aren’t. The SIM card PIN is specific to a particular SIM card. It’s similar to a code you’d enter on your phone – your phone is already working, but without the code to enter it, you can’t respond to text messages or use its apps.

What are the benefits of unlocking a phone?

People have many reasons for wanting to unlock their phones. Some of the most popular include:

  1. Wanting a local number (and thus lower rates) when traveling.
  2. Ability to choose a better phone contract deal with a different carrier.
  3. Ability to use a second-hand phone.
  4. Higher retail value if you sell your phone.

Why does my phone say I need a SIM network unlock PIN when I didn’t change the SIM card?

If you didn’t insert a new SIM card in your phone, but a message pops up indicating that you need to enter an unlock PIN, it’s likely because of a firmware malfunction after you installed an update or did a factory reset.

In that case, try restarting your phone – that typically takes care of the issue. However, if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to contact your phone carrier, as they’ll likely need to provide you with an unlock PIN to fix the issue.

How long does it take to obtain a SIM network unlock PIN?

The amount of time it takes to get an unlock PIN depends on the method you choose for obtaining the PIN.

Under most circumstances, the longest route is acquiring a PIN directly through your carrier – the turnaround can be over a week.

On the other hand, paying for an unlocking service or downloading the software on your own for free will likely give you your unlock PIN on the same day.

Is it legal to use a SIM network unlock PIN?

Yes, it’s legal to use a SIM network unlock PIN—the Federal Communications Commission even has a section on their website advising consumers about unlocking their phones.

In fact, your carrier can even provide you with one, although they often have strict requirements you must meet, including having your contract with them already paid in full.

How do I know if my phone is locked?

If you bought your phone via a phone provider or retail outlet, it’s safe to assume that you own a locked phone. The only circumstance where your phone is likely already unlocked is if you bought one that advertised it as such.

How do I know if I can unlock my phone?

You can unlock your phone at any time. However, if you have a contract with a cell phone provider, you’ll need to either continue making your monthly payments or pay an early termination fee.

Each carrier may handle this differently, so you should reach out to your provider directly to find out how unlocking your phone will impact your current situation with them.

After my contract ends, will my phone automatically unlock?

In some cases, phone companies will let you know that your phone is eligible for unlocking once you complete your contract with them.

However, more often than not, you’ll have to be the one who initiates the unlocking request.

Wrap Up

SIM network unlock PINs are a game-changer for people wanting maximum control over their phones.

Although you may have to pay your carrier or an unlocking service if you opt not to use a free PIN code generator, the money you’ll save in the long run makes it worth it for many people.

Your unlock PIN will be good for the lifespan of your phone, making it easy to switch carriers when you see a killer sale or to swap out your regular number for a local number and data plan when you travel.

What are you waiting for? Take back control of your phone today so you can reap the benefits of an unlocked phone.

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Eric is an Apple Certified Independent Technician after gaining AppleCare service certifications for both iOS and Mac. He is passionate about helping people to make the most of their iOS devices.

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