Every year there is a barrage of smartphones released to the market, each with its own unique offering – a better camera, more processing power, greater battery life, more of this, more of that – you get the idea. But high-end smartphones aren’t cheap. A year ago, I owned an AT&T-locked Samsung Galaxy phone that was on a 24-months contract. It worked like a dream.
But I travel frequently, and while preparing for a trip to Thailand in the fall, I realized that my precious Samsung Galaxy S7 would not work overseas with a local SIM. That means, all I was going to take with me was a really cool Wi-Fi-enabled camera and a very expensive paper weight! That’s when I started researching how to unlock a phone that’s locked to a carrier’s network.
Now, there are a couple of things you should understand about unlocking a carrier-locked device. Then I’ll tell you about how I unlocked my Samsung Galaxy S7 the right way.
First, What is a “Locked” Phone?
In the United States and a few other countries, smartphones can be purchased on contract from wireless carriers. While the deal itself is fairly reasonable (I paid $34 a month, remember?), the problem is that you cannot use the device with a SIM from another carrier. That means you can’t use it overseas unless you’re willing to pay a bundle in roaming costs. Voice calls cost more, data is more expensive, and it’s basically an unnecessary expense even if you can afford it.
You can buy an “unlocked” phone from a retail store, online or even from a carrier, but you basically have to pay for the device upfront. You are then free to choose a plan with that carrier or use a SIM from a different provider.
A “locked” device cannot be used with a SIM from another provider, but after your contract ends and everything’s squared off with your carrier, you can opt to unlock your device
Back to my story.
So, that’s the type of situation I was in, and I wasn’t ready to pay ridiculous rates just to keep enjoying my data and voice privileges. That’s when I started looking for options.
I found some good unlock tools, like UltraNow, Gevey, R-sim (for iPhone) and IMEI number (all phones.) I dug around some more, especially on the last option, and decided that this was the one for me.
Why Do IMEI Unlock?
Many of the unlocking methods online are not really that simple. You can still use your phone with a SIM from a different network, but you need to find the exact tool to get the device unlocked. Even worse, not all phones are supported by all unlock methods. An IMEI unlock, on the other hand, permanently unlocks any smartphone brand or model.
What’s an IMEI Number, BTW?
IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a unique 15-digit serial number assigned to every mobile device. The IMEI number is used to identify your mobile phone (all the information about your device, including warranty and more.)
The IMEI number is stored in your carrier’s database, and it allows them to check whether or not your phone is carrier-locked. IMEI unlock providers will charge you a little bit for the unlock (I unlocked my Galaxy S7 using expressunlock.com). Expressunlock.com will send you the Unlock code based on the IMEI number you provide. After that, you simply need to enter the code on your phone and your phone will, magically, turn into the global version.
There are lots of IMEI unlock service providers that do it really cheap, but I also found that the space is chockfull of scam artists. If your phone is blacklisted because of one of these guys, you might never be able to unlock the device. So, if you’re shopping around for a service, do read the description of the unlock method, and check for online reviews from actual users before you pay a single cent.
How I Unlocked my Samsung Galaxy S7 AT&T-locked Smartphone
The process was pretty simple. First, I went to https://expressunlock.com/unlock-samsung. After that, I selected my carrier, input my IMEI number, completed my payment and waited for the stipulated time to receive my unlock code.
Depending on what brand of phone you own, it could take anywhere from a day to five days. For my Samsung Galaxy S device, I had to wait about two days. Obviously, I was a little nervous because I had already paid for the service, and my Thailand trip was just a few days away.
Two days later, I received an email from ExpressUnlock with the unlock code for my device. To my surprise, it didn’t work right away. I went back and read the full email, and I realized it was my bad – I hadn’t followed the instructions!
What I should have done was power off the phone, insert a SIM from another network – you can borrow one from a friend from 5 minutes for this – and then enter the unlock code after restarting your device. Once I’d done that, it worked like a charm, and my phone was finally free.
When I got to Thailand a few days later, I inserted a local SIM and immediately got a full 3G signal. Yay! The photo above shows an S7 Edge, by the way (you eagle-eyed phone-spotter, you!) I didn’t get a shot of my own unlock process – got this off the web so you can see what the unlock screen looks like.
And that’s the story of how I unlocked my Samsung Galaxy S7 with a simple, yet effective and permanent unlock method (IMEI Unlock) that I now recommend to anyone traveling overseas; or anyone that wants their device to be free of a carrier lock.
Of course, I still use the AT&T SIM and I’m pretty happy with their service (yup, there’s lots of us out there), but I feel better knowing that my S7 will now work on any network once my contract is over and done with.
Contributed by: Guest Author