Unlocking Your Phone
When at all possible, we recommend using your own phone, in conjunction with either a country specific SIM card or the National Geographic SIM card for your overseas communications needs. As explained in the, “Will My Current Phone Work Overseas?” section, most phones will not work overseas. Briefly, if you are with AT&T or T-mobile, you have approximately a 50-50 chance that your phone will work overseas. Check online, your user’s guide or call your carrier to find out if your cell phone has the required 900 and 1800 Mhz bands. If it does, the next step is to unlock your phone which is usually a simple process.
If you purchased your phone from the carrier and have been with them for more than 60 days (requirements do vary from carrier to carrier and are subject to change so please do contact them), in most cases, the carrier will give you the code that you need to unlock your phone. They will ask for the IMEI which is the phone’s serial number underneath the battery. Usually, it will take them a day or two for them to retrieve that information. Chances are, the information is readily available to them but they prefer you jump through a few hoops in order to unlock your phone as they know that they risk losing revenue.
If they will not give you the code, either because it is one of the models (such as the iphone or the Blackberry Curve or Blackberry Bold) that they are not currently unlocking, or because you do not have the time to wait until they give you the unlock code, there are a couple of other solutions. The first is to check online if the unlock code is available for your handset. Some manufacturers, typically Nokia, are easy to unlock. There are websites that will generate a code for your based on general information that you give them about your phone such as the model and IMEI number. While Cellular Abroad does not recommend any of these online stores per se, we have heard mostly positive comments about them. Some phone models actually require a kit to unlock your phone. A kit is usually around $50-$100 depending on the phone and you have to wait to get it and then try to figure out how to use it. Therefore, it is not solution that we highly recommend. A second solution is to go to your local mom and pop cell phone store, not the official AT&T store but the smaller stores that generally cater to more than one carrier. Oftentimes, they will be able to unlock the more popular models for around $25.
Unlocking Voids the Warranty
One negative aspect about unlocking the phone is that it does void the warranty. Having said that, the carrier usually has no way of knowing that your phone has been unlocked. Cellular Abroad now offers a new device that will unlock most phones and does not void the warranty. Also, this device can be used from phone to phone, including the popular iphone. This device is called the SIMable
Unlock Your SIM, Not Your Phone with the SIMable
While your SIM is not truly locked, the SIMable is a chip the size of a SIM card that you actually place underneath your SIM card and then insert both the SIM and the SIMable into your phone. This allows the SIM to bypass the lock code on your phone. This is a quick and simple approach that inexpensively unlocks most phones, including the iphone, without voiding the warranty.