Cell phone unlocking News and Answers

Top 5 Myths and answers to unlocking a cell phone

Although the idea of unlocking a cell phone has been around for over a decade, the facts are often misunderstood. As a result, there are myths that are created as to what this whole cell phone unlocking process does. We get at least a handful of questions everyday addressing the same issues so we thought it would be best to answer it here for those who are searching for answers. I’ll be addressing the top 5 questions that we receive as a cell phone unlocking company and hopefully clarify the most common questions for the everyday end user.

Myth #5. Unlocking a cell phone will lock it to another carrier

One of the top questions we get is, “So if I unlock my phone, will it be locked to the new SIM card  that I want to use it with?” Keep in mind, you are unlocking a phone, not a SIM card. There is no such thing as “unlocking a SIM card“. SIM cards are basically tiny pieces of plastic with a chip that stores your ‘wireless identity’ (ie. phone number) and allows you to communicate with your carrier’s wireless towers.  Your phone will decide whether or not it can read the SIM card.

Most cell phones that are purchased come with a SIM restriction which means that it is “locked” to whichever network carrier it is that you bought the phone from. When you purchase a phone from AT&T, the phone itself is provisioned only to allow AT&T SIM cards to be read on the phone. If you want to use your AT&T phone on the T-mobile network, the phone will not be able to read the information from the SIM card due to the SIM restriction. When unlocking your phone, you are removing that SIM restrictions, which will allow you to use your T-mobile SIM card on your AT&T phone. The big lesson in this all is that you will also be able to use other GSM SIM cards in your phone as well. For example, you are using an unlocked AT&T phone on the T-mobile network. You decide to travel to the United Kingdom (UK) for vacation. The real beauty in unlocking your phone is that you will now be able to use another GSM SIM card (ie. Vodafone, Orange, O2) in the UK and eliminate your roaming fees. All you need to do is purchase a SIM card from the UK and pop it into your AT&T unlocked cell phone. You’ll now have a local UK number and pay the local UK wireless rates. So what do you do when you get back to the United States? Take out your UK SIM card and put your T-mobile SIM card back into your phone.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not limited to the USA and the UK. These were just used as examples.

Take away answer: Your wireless information (phone number) is located on the SIM card, not on the phone itself. Unlocking it will give you the freedom to use any GSM SIM card whenever and wherever you want.

Myth #4. Cell phone unlocking is illegal and only sketchy people do it

There is extensive documentation from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the USA as well as from various national telecommunications organizations that states that unlocking a cell phone is not illegal. Keep in mind, you are removing the SIM lock so you can save yourself some money when travelling internationally or by using your favorite phone on your favorite wireless carrier. You are not stealing free wireless communications, free text messaging, free data or anything of that sort. That would be illegal!

There are thousands of stores that can unlock your cell phone with – a lot of stores which are a part of our unlock codes wholesale distribution program. The stores that are Cellfservices authorized are completely legitimate and will ensure that your phone is unlocked properly. What you want to beware of are stores that ask to keep your phone overnight. There is no reason that this would need to be done for a SIM unlock procedure. If we can provide unlock codes from our online store where you can unlock your phone from the comfort of your own home, why would they need to keep your phone overnight to do it? If you’re doing it from a store, make sure they do not keep your phone overnight. If you’d rather keep the phone at home, you can get your unlock code from our Cellfservices unlocking store and unlock it yourself.

Take away answer: It’s completely legal in Canada and the United States. We have yet to hear of a single country where it is documented as being illegal.

Myth #3. It’s better to buy an unlocked phone than to unlock it myself

The real question is: What’s the difference? The truth is that there is no difference at all! Correction: the difference is that you’ll end up paying a markup fee of $100-$300 by purchasing an already unlocked phone. There are thousands of retailers who sell unlocked cell phones either from their storefront or from their online stores. The way that they are able to do this is by purchasing locked cell phones, and then unlocking it themselves and putting it up in their store. They’ll end up paying anywhere between $15-$50 to unlock it and then mark up the value ten-fold.

The cheapest way to get an unlocked cell phone: If you’re happy with your wireless carrier’s services, you can take advantage of the discounts they provide to customers on hardware by signing into a 1-3 year contract with them. If you have no intentions to leave the country or switch out of using their services, then this is the perfect way for you to get an unlocked cell phone for cheapo! Carriers will offer the latest and hottest smart phones for anywhere between $0-$200 on a 1-3 year term. The unlock code will cost you anywhere between $15-$50. At an average cost, you’ll have your favorite unlocked smart phone for $132.50. A retailer would sell you that same unlocked cell phone for probably in the range of $400-$700.

Take away answer: Buy your cell phone from your carrier at a discounted price and unlock it yourself. You’ll save hundreds of dollars guaranteed!

Myth #2. I have to be a technical genius to unlock my phone

For anyone who’s visited our YouTube channel of cell phone unlocking videos, you know how easy it is to unlock a cell phone. We create these YouTube videos to show you exactly how easy it is to unlock a cell phone. The majority of cell phones have the simple instructions of inserting a SIM Card that is not accepted by the phone (ie. an AT&T SIM card in a T-mobile phone). As soon as the phone powers up, it’ll ask you to enter in your unlock code. You press the magic unlock button and your phone is now unlocked.

The only technical part of this is actually getting your unlock code, but that’s what we’re here for. The process itself is very straight forward for all cell phones even if they do not follow the method listed above. Instructions are always provided with your unlock code.

Take away answer: It doesn’t take an IT specialist or a software engineer to unlock a cell phone. Literally anyone can do it. We have video tutorials as well as simple written instructions that are always provided with your unlock code.

Myth #1. Unlocking a phone means I can use it with every single carrier

If you’ve read through the first 4 myths, the number 1 myth about cell phone unlocking may confuse you. Unlocking a phone means that you will be able to use any GSM SIM card in your phone, but it does not mean that it can be used with any carrier around the world. There are two important factors to take into consideration.

  1. Wireless Technology (GSM vs. CDMA)
  2. Wireless compatibility (GSM Bands/Frequencies, 3G Bands/Frequencies)

Wireless Technology (GSM vs. CDMA)

Every carrier uses a type of wireless technology to communicate with their wireless towers. The two most popular types of technology are GSM and CDMA. Keep in mind that wireless technology isn’t limited to the two. There are other types of technology that we will not get into in this article such as WCDMA, AWS, iDen and HSPA.

As a simple reference, GSM refers to using SIM cards as a primary means of communications, while CDMA does not use SIM cards at all – rather, they are activated on a network by the ESN number. Two primary examples of these are AT&T and T-mobile using GSM technology and Verizon and Sprint using CDMA technology. Do not be fooled by the Verizon SIM card that may come with your Verizon world phone. This is an international roaming SIM card that Verizon gives to their customers to be used on their network. You will still be paying roaming fees. Just because your Verizon or Sprint world phone has a SIM card slot, it does not mean that it uses GSM technology as their primary means of communication.

When unlocking a cell phone, it will allow you to use it on any compatible network carrier. This means that you cannot unlock a GSM phone and use it on a CDMA network since CDMA networks do not use SIM cards at all. GSM phones do not have an ESN number; hence, making it impossible to use a GSM phone on a CDMA network. CDMA phones cannot be used on GSM networks either with the exception of CDMA World phones such as the popular BlackBerry and HTC world phones on various CDMA networks which have a SIM card slot available on it and support the appropriate GSM frequencies which we’ll now explain.

Wireless Compatibility (GSM Bands/Frequencies, 3G Bands/Frequencies)

The second component to understanding which networks an unlocked cell phone will work on is probably the most important. On top of the technology types (GSM, CDMA) that carriers operate on, there are GSM Bands/Frequencies and 3G Bands/Frequencies. In order for your unlocked cell phone to work on another network carrier, they must be compatible. The wireless carriers operate on specific frequencies and every cell phone has designated frequencies that it is compatible with. It sounds a lot more confusing than it actually is.  Here are a few examples to help you better understand this.


Carrier’s Frequencies Phone’s Frequencies Conclusion
GSM 850 GSM 850/900/1800/1900 and 3G (HSDPA) 850/1900/2100 Compatible on GSM (2G). This carrier does not have a 3G network.
GSM 850, GSM 1900, 3G 850/1900 GSM 850/900/1800/1900 and 3G (HSDPA) 850/1900/2100 Compatible on GSM (2G) and HSDPA (3G)
GSM 1900 and 3G 1700/2100 GSM 850/900/1800/1900 and 3G (HSDPA) 850/1900/2100 Compatible on GSM (2G) but NOT compatible on HSDPA (3G) because of the lack of the 1700mhz frequency
3G 1700 GSM 850/900/1800/1900 and 3G (HSDPA) 850/1900/2100 Incompatible. The SIM card will not be read by the phone since it does not supports its only supported frequency – 1700mhz

If the phone’s frequencies match with the carrier’s GSM frequencies, you will be able to get a GSM signal. The same applies for 3G. If there is no match at all, the SIM card cannot be read by the phone regardless if it is unlocked.

If you decide that you want to unlock your cell phone, please make sure that the wireless carrier you want to use your unlocked phone with is compatible!

Conclusion to Cell phone unlocking

The benefits are truly endless in this and it is virtually for anyone who travels abroad, or anyone who wants to use their cell phone on another GSM carrier. This guide should give you a good idea on the frequently asked questions we get and clear the air for you all!

8 thoughts on “Top 5 Myths and answers to unlocking a cell phone

  • bill says:

    Very well explained

  • admin says:

    That totally depends on the specific model/carrier combination of your device. Some combinations we can unlock even if they are hardlocked, some not.

    To find out if we can unlock your specific model/carrier combination, please open a ticket in our support desk and we’ll get back to you asap.

  • Mike Bennette says:

    How do you take the hard lock off? It’s not possible? This guide is good though, the 5 methods all look doable. Thanks.

  • PST says:


    I would like to know about the blackberry world phone ( model’s like “Tour” ). I want to go for a blackberry phone which can be used in all GSM and CDMA(CMDA with simcard) networks. so for this which one I should buy? Can I buy a Blackberry Tour 9650 CDMA and get it unlocked to use for cdma and gsm simcard?
    Can I get a unlocked GSM&CDMA handset?
    Please help.

  • Phil says:

    i have a htc drea100 android t-mobile phone and when i turn it on it asks for the sim network unlock pin, Can i unlock it to use on boost mobile with my boost sim in the phone ? I do not know the sim network unlock pin for the phone.

  • J.P.Herold says:

    I have a BB Curve 9300 3G it has no tries left to unlock. Can i still get unlocked and how?

  • Janine Albert says:

    Thank you for the explanations it is very interesting and of great value.

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