September 21, 2016

Checking if your phone is unlocked and will work overseas

You just arrived in Europe and decide to purchase a local SIM for your iPhone. When you turn on your iPhone, you get a message that says "No SIM" or "Service Unavailable." Now what?!

Before you purchase a SIM for international travel you’ll want to confirm two things. First, that your phone is unlocked and will function with another operator’s SIM. And second, that your phone supports the frequencies of the other operator’s network.

Be sure you have an Unlocked GSM phone

If you choose to purchase a prepaid SIM when traveling abroad, be sure your GSM phone is unlocked. If you signed a contract or are paying for your phone monthly then your phone is probably locked to your home operator’s network and won’t work with other operator SIMs.

If you don’t know if your phone is locked you can do any of the following to find out:

  • Ask your operator
    Call your current operator’s customer support and explain you want to use your phone overseas. Ask if the phone is SIM-unlocked.

  • Try another SIM
    Place a SIM from another operator in your phone and see if the phone recognizes the other operator’s network.

  • Check your IMEI
    You can use one of the many sites on the web to check your phone’s IMEI, which is a unique number that identifies your phone. Simply dial *#06# on your phone and the IMEI will be displayed on the screen. Go to one of the websites and enter your IMEI. This is usually a paid-service and may cost $2 to $3. That’s much better than arriving in another country only to discover you can’t use your phone!

  • Recommended site: http://www.imei.info/

Checking your phone’s frequencies

Just as important as having an unlocked phone is having a phone that supports the frequencies of the operator networks where you’ll be traveling. For example, 4G or LTE services in the United States use different frequencies than those services in Brazil or the UK. It’s very easy to determine what network frequencies your phone supports, and you can do it for free!

  • Look up your phone’s model number
    If you know the exact model number of your phone then you can use the site below to find your phone and all its technical details, including supported frequencies.

  • Recommended site: http://www.gsmarena.com/

Just enter the name of your phone in the Search box at the top of the page. Remember, you’ll need to know your phone’s exact model number to determine what frequencies it supports. Is your iPhone 5S the A1453 or the A1530?

  • Check using your IMEI
    You can use one of the many sites on the web to check your phone’s IMEI, which is a unique number that identifies your phone. Simply dial *#06# on your phone and the IMEI will be displayed on the screen. Go to one of the websites and enter your IMEI. Checking technical details of a phone using the IMEI is typically a free service.

  • Recommended site: http://www.imei.info/

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