It has now been a little over one week since AT&T announced that it would officially unlock customer’s iPhones if they met certain requirements. The resulting rush overloaded support representatives, with sources inside AT&T telling ExtremeTech that the queue exceeded 10,000 at its highest points last week. Those early adopters as a result waited nearly a week in some cases for the unlock to be authorized.
Why did the queue grow so big, so fast? The unlocking procedure, and AT&T’s rules on eligibility we’re told. While unlocking most phones can be done without the interference of the manufacturer, Apple does it differently. Access to the tool is limited to technical support and members of AT&T’s “unlock” team, so talking to a regular old customer support rep is not going to do you any good.
After verifying you meet the requirements, the technical support representative then enters your IMEI (the phone’s identification number) into the tool provided by Apple, which in turn activates the unlock and sends the confirmation email to the user. If you contact customer support, those representatives can only open a case ticket, which depending on workload could take days to resolve, our source says.
So what’s the quickest route to unlocked bliss? Make sure all your ducks are lined up before attempting to unlock your iPhone. The result is a much less painful process. Based on my own experience and what we’re hearing, here’s how to legally unlock your iPhone in short order:
1. Verify you’re eligible. Check your account to ensure it is paid up-to-date. Make sure the iPhone you are attempting to unlock is not attached to an account that is under contract. That basically means an old iPhone that’s under a plan which is still under contract is likely not eligible. The easiest phones to unlock will be those that are not associated with any account and over two years old, it seems. If you’re ineligible, be prepared to pay the early termination fee to unlock.
2. Make a note of your IMEI. The technical support representative will need this number, so it’s a good idea to jot it down now. The IMEI can be found by tapping Settings, then General, then About, then scrolling to the bottom. The IMEI is a 15-digit number. Write it down and place it to the side.
3. Backup your device now. If you haven’t synced in awhile, now’s the time. The unlock process requires a wipe of the device. Connect the iPhone to iTunes and allow it to back up. If you use iCloud, many of your settings and basic information is likely already backed up to the cloud, but better to be safe than sorry.
4. Call AT&T directly. Call into AT&T’s customer support. Don’t use the company’s online support system, or in-store representatives. Follow the prompts and press “2″ for Technical Support when the options for the main menu is listed. Select option “0″ to speak with a representative. Make clear that you’re attempting to unlock your eligible iPhone. If you’re not, you will need to tell them you agree to pay for the early termination fee for the right to unlock the device.
At this point, the process is in AT&T’s hands. They should process your unlock immediately since you are talking to a representative with direct access to the tool. Wait for the email to confirm the unlock has been processed.
5. Reconnect your iPhone to iTunes. After receiving the email, re-pair your device with iTunes. Under the “Summary” tab and “Version” section, click on Restore. Allow the device to restore as normal. When the restore completes, iTunes will display the message “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.” If you wish to restore your data, click “Continue,” otherwise it is safe to disconnect.
Please note that if you are taking the iPhone to a different carrier, some settings will need to be changed in order for features like web surfing and picture messaging to work. Although it varies from carrier to carrier, many are happy to provide you with the necessary settings to ensure proper operation. For example, T-Mobile has easy-to-follow directions to set up an iPhone.
Your performance may vary, and on some carriers, it still may be necessary to jailbreak in order for all features to work. For example, iPhone users on T-Mobile experience MMS receipt issues — it appears an fix only available for jailbroken phones will fix that issue according to what we’re seeing.
Either way, good luck and happy unlocking!