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What is a carrier-locked iPhone

If your iPhone is carrier-locked, it can limit your ability to stay connected abroad. But what is a carrier-locked iPhone, and how can you unlock it? In this guide, we'll walk you through what it means to have a carrier-locked iPhone, how to remove a carrier lock, and how this unlocks (see what we did there?) new ways to stay connected when you travel. 

You'll learn:

What Is a Carrier-Locked iPhone?

A carrier-locked iPhone is only compatible with one carrier or network provider. This is done with clever software locks that restrict the use of SIM cards or eSIMs from other carriers.

Why Is My iPhone Carrier-Locked?

Did you get a discount on your iPhone when you signed a contract with your carrier? If so, it's probably carrier-locked. Carriers will often subsidize the cost of a device in exchange for your commitment to using their services. 

Can I Buy an Unlocked iPhone?

Yes, you can. Apple offers unlocked iPhones that can be used with any carrier. These are typically sold at full price from an Apple Store or retailer and aren't tied to a contract with a mobile provider.

What Are the Limitations of a Carrier-Locked iPhone?

Having a carrier-locked iPhone can pose significant challenges when you travel. Here are a few limitations you may encounter:

  • Expensive roaming charges: Using your carrier's international roaming services can lead to pricey (and often, surprise) roaming fees. Making calls, sending texts, and using data can quickly drain your travel budget.
  • Inability to use local SIM cards: With a carrier-locked phone, you can't swap out your SIM card for a local one from another country. This means you'll be stuck with expensive roaming rates, even if there are cheaper local options available.
  • Restricted network compatibility: Different countries use different network technologies. If your carrier-locked phone is incompatible with the network technology used in the country you're visiting, you may find yourself without service.

Related: A Traveler's Guide to Roaming Fees

How Do I Know If My iPhone Is Carrier-Locked?

You can dive into your iPhone's settings to check if your device is carrier-locked. Here's how:

  • Go to Settings
  • Tap General About
  • Scroll down to "Carrier Lock" or "Network Provider Lock"
  • If your iPhone is locked, you'll see the name of your carrier
  • If your iPhone is unlocked, you'll see "No SIM restrictions"

How Do I Unlock My iPhone?

The safest way to unlock your iPhone is to contact your carrier and request an unlock. Keep in mind that carriers have different policies around unlocking phones. You may need to complete your contract term or pay off any outstanding balances before they will unlock it for you.  

What Can I Do With an Unlocked iPhone?

When your iPhone is unlocked, you aren't tied to a specific carrier. Now, you have the freedom to switch carriers and use local SIM cards or eSIMs when you travel. 

Stay Connected With an eSIM

An eSIM is an embedded SIM that's already built into your iPhone's hardware. It works 100% digitally, so you can purchase, install, and activate a mobile service plan right from your smartphone. There's no need to find a SIM card vendor, swap out your physical SIM, or manage multiple SIM cards when you travel. 

Here are just a few benefits of using an eSIM from Airalo when you travel:

  • Connect to a mobile network within minutes of arrival.
  • Choose from flexible local, regional, and global data plans.
  • Eliminate the need to find a local SIM vendor.
  • Say goodbye to expensive roaming charges.
  • Store multiple eSIM data plans on your device.
  • Running out of data? Top up in the Airalo app.

Find eSIMs for 200+ countries and regions worldwide in the Airalo store.

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