Locked vs Unlocked iPhone: What’s the Difference

“What is an unlocked iPhone?” is a common question and with the iPhone 6s release date coming soon, there is a renewed interest from users who want to buy a new iPhone unlocked to use on any carrier. Here is a look at the difference between a locked and an unlocked iPhone, and how you can buy an unlocked iPhone 6s or older iPhone.

With the new carrier plans that make it easier to quit your carrier when the phone is paid off an unlocked iPhone 6s makes more sense than a locked iPhone for many users.

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Simply put, an unlocked iPhone is one that will work on any carrier that the internal antennas can connect to. A locked iPhone will only work on the carrier it is locked to.

Apple normally does not advertise an unlocked iPhone on sale for a few weeks after the new iPhone goes on sale, but if you are looking you can likely choose one option to buy an unlocked iPhone during the iPhone 6s pre-orders and on the iPhone 6s release date in stores.

What is a Locked iPhone?

What is the difference between a locked and unlocked iPhone?

What is the difference between a locked and unlocked iPhone?

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Carriers can lock an iPhone to their network. This is very common when there are big subsidies or discounts attached to a phone. When you own a locked iPhone you cannot simply put a new SIM card in it and use it on another carrier because it is locked to the carrier you purchased it from.

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What is an Unlocked iPhone?

An unlocked iPhone is not locked by software to your carrier. Instead it will work on any carrier that the antennas can connect to. If you buy an unlocked iPhone you will pay full price for it, because you can leave the carrier at any time and use that phone on a competing carrier. Sometimes you will be able to use a payment plan, but to leave you will need to pay off the full price of the iPhone.

How to Unlock an iPhone

If you bought a locked iPhone you can get it unlocked by your carrier.

If you bought a locked iPhone you can get it unlocked by your carrier.

If you purchased a locked iPhone, you can ask your carrier to unlock it. You may need to meet criteria before the carrier will unlock the phone. If you are lucky it is already unlocked, just not advertised.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, US Cellular and other carriers will unlock your iPhone, but you may need to pay a fee or meet special requirements. Some carriers will unlock the iPhone for use internationally but still restrict usage in the U.S. to that carrier. Use the links below to find out how to unlock an iPhone on each carrier.

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In a stroke of good fortune several carriers already leave the iPhone unlocked when you buy it. T-Mobile and Verizon iPhones will work on other carriers out of the box without contacting the carrier. This works on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s, and is likely to be the case on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

How to Buy an Unlocked iPhone 6s

If you want to buy an unlocked iPhone 6s on the release date, you need to buy a T-Mobile iPhone 6s from the Apple Store. If this operates like it did for the iPhone 6, this will be an unlocked iPhone 6s unit available on day one.

Alternately you can buy the Verizon iPhone 6s at Full price and get one that will work on most other carriers out of the box. This is assuming the carrier and Apple stick to the same options as for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6.

The fastest way to buy an unlocked iPhone 6s on the release day is to buy the T-Mobile iPhone 6s from Apple. Unless the company changes things this will be an unlocked iPhone 6s that can work on any carrier. The company will not likely start listing an unlocked iPhone 6s option for a week or longer after the release.

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If you buy the T-Mobile iPhone 6s at a T-Mobile store it will likely be locked to the carrier, but after 40 days and the device paid in full you can call and ask for an unlock.

iPhone 6s Release Date & Feature Video Roundup

iPhone 6s Release Date Rumors

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iPhone 6s Release Date Rumors

The iPhone 6s release date is September 18th according to rumors and Apple's traditional timeline after the new iPhone announcement.

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On September 9th Apple will host an event where the company shows off new iPhones and other gadgets. This date is confirmed by Apple, although the company does not mention any specific devices.

On September 11th we expect Apple will start taking iPhone 6s pre-orders, which will very likely start at 12:01 AM Pacific, or 3:01AM Eastern. These are online, but we could see in store pickup options.

The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus release dates should land on the same day, and new iPhone 6s color options should appear on all carriers at the same time as well.

Expect retailers like Best Buy and the Apple Store to open early on the iPhone 6s release date and carrier stores like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile to open early as well. 

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