How to Unlock a Samsung Mobile Phone

Michael Kwan
Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone

Unlocking a Samsung cellphone is easier than ever before. Unlike the locked phones that are typically sold through most major wireless carriers and retail stores, unlocked phones can be used with any compatible network provider from all around the world. This provides consumers with much greater freedom in switching between wireless carriers domestically, as well as saving money when traveling abroad. Multiple methods may be used to unlock your Samsung mobile device.

Request a Carrier Unlock for Your Samsung Phone

As of February 2015, all wireless carriers in the United States are obligated to unlock the mobile devices of both their postpaid and prepaid customers upon request. This is in compliance with the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in August 2014.

Requirements for a Carrier Unlock

There are a few caveats to keep in mind before asking your wireless carrier to unlock your Samsung phone.

  • Any contractual obligations must be fulfilled. If you purchased your phone on contract with a hardware subsidy, you must complete the contract or pay any early termination fees before you are eligible for an unlock.
  • Prepaid devices are eligible for unlocking no more than one year after initial activation, though carriers may optionally offer unlocking prior to one year.
  • Your account must be in good standing with no outstanding balance.
  • Unlocking can take up to two days, so plan ahead if you need an unlocked phone for travel.
  • You will need the account holder's name, account number, account password (or SSN) and device phone number.

If you satisfy all of these criteria and you are a current or former customer, your carrier must unlock your phone for free. If you are a non-customer or a new customer, then the carrier has the right to charge "a reasonable fee" according to the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.

Contacting Your Carrier

Each of the major carriers in the United States has a communication line open to receive device unlock requests. Your carrier's customer support representative can help with any specific questions you may have.

  • AT&T: Call customer support at 1-800-331-0500 or use the official device unlock web form on the AT&T website.
  • Verizon: Ask for a SIM unlock by calling 1-800-711-8300.
  • T-Mobile: Use the online web chat with a T-Mobile representative or call 1-877-746-0909.
  • Sprint: Call 1-888-211-4727 or request the unlock via Sprint's online chat portal.

These are the main carriers offering Samsung phones in the U.S., but all other carriers doing business in the country must also comply. Check their respective websites for contact information.

Buy a Samsung Unlock Code Online

Many online stores offer the opportunity for customers to purchase an unlock code for their Samsung devices. Pricing can vary from device to device and SIM unlocking may not be available for all devices. For users who have not yet paid off their phones in full or have not yet completed other contractual agreements with their carriers, buying an unlock code is a viable solution. This is also true for anyone who may be purchasing a used phone.

Purchasing an Unlock Code

Websites where a Samsung unlock code can be purchased include Unlock Samsung Online and CellUnlocker.net. They will typically ask for:

  • The specific model of phone to be unlocked
  • The network to which the phone is currently locked
  • The device's IMEI number (see instructions below)

Remember that the unlock code you purchase will only work with your specific phone. If you find a 'free' code on a website or forum, the code likely will not work with your particular phone.

Using a Purchased Unlock Code on a Samsung Phone

Unlocking a Samsung cell phone using a code you bought online consists of a few simple steps and only takes a few moments. However, it can take a few days before the online service delivers the unlock code (typically via e-mail), so do plan ahead.

  1. Look up your phone's IMEI number
    • On an Android phone, like the Galaxy series, open the Settings app, navigate to About Phone, and tap Status. The IMEI should be listed on the resulting page.
    • On a Windows Phone, like the ATIV series, open the phone dialer and type *#06# using the dial pad. Write down the IMEI as it appears.
    • For most other Samsung phones, including feature phones, the IMEI can be found underneath the battery after removing the back cover.
  2. Request an unlock code from an online unlocking service, following the site's instructions.
  3. When you receive the unlock code, turn your Samsung device off.
  4. Remove the current SIM card and insert a SIM card from a different network. For example, insert an AT&T SIM card into your phone locked to T-Mobile. You can usually borrow one from a friend or colleague.
  5. Turn on your phone.
  6. You will be prompted to enter the unlock code in order to continue. Enter your purchased unlock code here.
  7. Allow the phone to complete starting up. If your phone is connected to the new network, your phone is now SIM unlocked.
  8. Turn off your phone and return the borrowed SIM card back to its original owner.

Manual Unlock Codes

Some Samsung Android smartphones can be unlocked without having to purchase an unlock code online or needing to request a carrier unlock. This is useful when buying a used phone or if you are still under contract with your wireless provider. Some users have reported success with the methods described below, while others have not. The only way to know whether it works is to do it.

It is important that your device is running on a stock ROM rather than a modified version of the operating system. The phone must also be running on at least Android 4.1.1.

For Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2

Users have reported mixed results with this method, but it does work for some devices.

  1. Open the Phone dialer app and enter *#197328640#
  2. The device will open the ServiceMode menu.
  3. Choose [1] UMTS.
  4. Tap [1] DEBUG SCREEN.
  5. Select [8] PHONE CONTROL.
  6. Choose [6] NETWORK LOCK.
  7. Select [3] PERSO SHA256 OFF.
  8. Wait 30 seconds.
  9. Press the Menu button and then Back.
  10. Choose [4] NW Lock NV Data INITIALLIZ
  11. Wait about a minute, then restart your phone.
  12. Test to see if your phone is unlocked by inserting an unauthorized SIM (as with the purchased unlock code method above). If you are prompted to enter an unlock code, the manual unlock method did not work on your phone. If the phone connects to the new network correctly, then your phone is successfully unlocked.

For Galaxy S4

The manual unlock method for the Samsung Galaxy S4 is similar to the method for the S3 and Note 2 described above in that it uses the Service Menu. However, the procedure and codes used are different. This method has been demonstrated to work on Galaxy S4 phones locked to AT&T and T-Mobile.

  1. Open the Phone dialer and type *#27663368378#
  2. In the resulting ServiceMode menu, first tap [1] UMTS.
  3. Open the debug menu by choosing [1] DEBUG SCREEN.
  4. Tap [8] PHONE CONTROL.
  5. Choose [6] NETWORK LOCK.
  6. Select [3] PERSO SHA256 OFF.
  7. Tap the line SHA256_ENABLED_FLAG[1].
  8. Press Menu and select Back.
  9. Press Menu and then Back four times until you return to the UMTS MAIN MENU screen.
  10. Choose [6] COMMON.
  11. Select [6] NV REBUILD.
  12. Choose [4] Restore Back-up.
  13. Wait for the phone to restart itself.
  14. Test to see if the unlock worked by inserting a SIM card from a different carrier. The unlock did not work if you are prompted for an unlock code. If the phone completely starts up and connects to the new network, then the unlock was successful.

Benefits and Risks of Unlocking Your Samsung Phone

Numerous Benefits

There are numerous benefits of an unlocked phone. Unlocking your Samsung phone means that you can take it with you to a different carrier, as long as the network technology is compatible. This means switching between AT&T and T-Mobile can be a lot easier, helping you avoid lengthy contracts.

Unlocked phones can also provide great savings while traveling, as you can use a prepaid SIM from a local carrier instead of paying expensive roaming charges with your home carrier. Additionally, used unlocked phones typically fetch more money when sold than their carrier-locked counterparts.

Exercise Caution

Requesting an unlock code from your wireless carrier is the safest method for unlocking your Samsung. When buying an unlock code online, make sure that the website has a good guarantee and customer service portal in place in case there are any complications. The manual unlocking methods described above are at your own risk; altering any of the other options in the ServiceMode menu can result in major operational problems with your phone.

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How to Unlock a Samsung Mobile Phone