Are you ready to unlock your AT&T smartphone? Excellent! In this guide, I‘ll be walking you through exactly how to unlock both active and inactive AT&T phones in just a few quick steps.
By the end of this article, you‘ll have all the information needed to finally use your device on other networks both at home and abroad. Let‘s get started!
What is Phone Locking and Why Do Carriers Do It?
Before we dive into the step-by-step unlocking process, let‘s talk about what phone locking means and why AT&T and other major carriers do it in the first place.
When you purchase a new smartphone on an installment plan or subsidy from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint, it comes "locked" to only work on their network. There is software programming in the device that restricts it to only accept a SIM card from that specific carrier.
This locking policy serves multiple purposes for the carriers:
- It prevents customers from breaking contract early and taking devices to competitors.
- It allows carriers to subsidize the upfront cost of devices in exchange for service commitments.
- It helps ensure customers can‘t default on device payment plans if leaving early.
However, the downside for consumers is that locked devices limit flexibility if you want to switch carriers or use local SIMs when traveling internationally.
That‘s where unlocking comes in – so let‘s look specifically at AT&T‘s unlocking policy next.
AT&T‘s Device Unlocking Requirements
AT&T has specific eligibility conditions that must be met before they will unlock a mobile phone or tablet:
- No past due balance – Your AT&T bill must be fully paid on time.
- 60+ days of active service – The device must have been used on AT&T for over 60 days.
- Finished installment plan – You must fully own the device if purchased on installments.
- Not lost/stolen – The device can‘t be blacklisted or reported lost.
- Postpaid only – Prepaid phones must be active for 6 months before eligible.
Additionally, AT&T also unlocks devices for military personnel deploying overseas. We‘ll cover the details on that later.
According to AT&T‘s 2021 Annual Report, they processed over 5.4 million unlock requests last year. This accounts for around 4.5% of their entire subscriber base requesting unlocks.
In comparison, Verizon automatically unlocks most devices 60 days after purchase. T-Mobile unlocks automatically after 40 days, and the Sprint merge has brought their policies more in line.
Now that you know the requirements, let‘s get into how to unlock your AT&T device in just a few easy steps.
Step-By-Step Guide to Unlock Your Active AT&T Phone
If your smartphone or tablet is currently active on the AT&T wireless network, the unlocking process is quick and straightforward. Here‘s exactly what to do:
Step 1: Visit AT&T‘s Unlock Request Page
First, open any web browser on your computer or mobile device, and go to att.com/deviceunlock. This is where you‘ll submit the official unlock request.
AT&T‘s unlock page will look like the screenshot above.
Step 2: Click "Submit Unlock Request"
On the main unlock page, click on the yellow "Submit unlock request" button as shown:
This will take you to the unlock request form.
Step 3: Enter Your 10-Digit AT&T Phone Number
In the unlock request form, you first need to enter the 10-digit mobile number that‘s attached to the AT&T device you want to unlock.
This is the phone number and account that your device is currently active on. Enter it here:
Double check that you enter the phone number correctly with all 10 digits.
Step 4: Input the Unique IMEI Number of Your Device
Next, you need to provide the unique 15-digit IMEI number of the specific device you want to unlock.
If you aren‘t sure what your IMEI number is, we have some tips on finding it later in this guide. For now, enter it on the unlock form:
The IMEI number is crucial for identifying your device properly to unlock it.
Step 5: Accept Terms and Submit Unlock Request
Double check that the phone number and IMEI entered are 100% correct. Then check the box to agree to the AT&T terms and conditions.
Finally, click the yellow "Submit" button to complete the unlock request:
Step 6: Confirm Your Email to Finish the Unlock Process
After submitting the unlock request, AT&T will first review it to verify your device qualifies based on their policy.
During this time, watch for an email from AT&T to the email address associated with your AT&T account.
Once they‘ve verified your eligibility, you‘ll need to open the email and click to confirm and accept their terms and conditions:
This final click completes the AT&T unlocking process!
Pro Tip: AT&T typically sends the confirmation email within 12-24 hours and completes the unlock within 1-2 days. Add their email to your contacts so it doesn‘t end up in spam.
And that‘s it! By following these six simple steps, you can easily unlock an active AT&T smartphone or tablet to use on other networks.
Next, let‘s go over how to unlock a device that‘s no longer active on AT&T‘s network.
Unlocking an Older or Inactive AT&T Device
Don‘t use AT&T anymore but want to unlock an older device you have? The process is just slightly different than with active phones, but still straightforward.
Here are the steps to unlock an inactive AT&T device:
Step 1: Visit AT&T‘s Device Unlock Page
Same as before, go to att.com/deviceunlock in your browser and click "Submit unlock request".
Step 2: Select "No" When Asked About Account Holder Info
On the next page of the unlock request form, AT&T will ask if you have the account holder information and 4-digit account PIN code.
Since this phone isn‘t currently active on your account, select "No" here:
Selecting no will allow you to proceed without entering the original account details.
Step 3: Enter Your Information and Device Details
On the request form for inactive devices, you‘ll need to provide:
- Your first and last name
- A valid email address
- The 15-digit IMEI number of the phone
Here‘s an example of what you need to fill out:
Once submitted, AT&T will process the request and send a confirmation email when finished – typically in 1-3 days.
And that‘s all it takes to unlock a device no longer active on your AT&T account!
Unlocking Phones for Military Service Members
AT&T offers a streamlined, expedited phone unlocking process for active duty military personnel who are deploying overseas:
- Visit att.com/deviceunlock as usual
- Choose the "Unlock for Military Deployment" option
- Upload/provide your deployment papers as proof
- Devices less than 14 days old must be returned to AT&T first
According to sources, over 10% of AT&T‘s unlock requests annually come from active duty military members needing phones unlocked for deployment.
Following those steps allows deployed soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines to unlock their AT&T phones quickly even if normal eligibility isn‘t met.
Additionally, AT&T allows suspending phone service for up to 39 months for military deployment so monthly bills don‘t continue during time away.
Finding Your Phone‘s Unique IMEI Number
To complete any AT&T unlock request, you‘ll need to provide the unique 15-digit IMEI number of your device.
Here are a few different ways to find your phone, tablet, or smartwatch‘s IMEI number:
- On the original AT&T phone box and paperwork
- Printed on a sticker under the battery or SIM card tray
- Dial *#06# on your phone‘s dialer app to display the IMEI
- In Settings > General > About on iPhones
- In Settings > About Device on Android devices
- On your monthly AT&T wireless bill
- Logging into your AT&T account online
You can also use free third-party IMEI finder apps if you no longer have the physical device.
Once you have the correct 15-digit number, enter it into AT&T‘s unlock request form.
And that‘s it – you now have multiple methods to find your phone‘s unique IMEI number!
Enjoy the Freedom of Your Unlocked AT&T Device
Following this guide makes unlocking your AT&T smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch a quick and painless process.
In just a few easy steps, you can unlock devices that are currently active on AT&T, as well as older inactive equipment you may have.
The benefits of unlocking your AT&T phone include:
- Switching to a new carrier at any time
- Using local SIMs to avoid roaming overseas
- Higher resale value for unlocked devices
- No contracts or early termination fees
- Using your phone on alternative US networks like Cricket or Metro
Unlocking really does give you significantly more freedom and flexibility. And the process through AT&T takes just a few minutes from the comfort of your home.
I hope this guide gave you everything you need to successfully unlock your AT&T device. Enjoy the flexibility and travel benefits your unlocked phone brings!