How to Activate an Unlocked Phone

Updated on June 28, 2023

Updated Mar 24, 2021 - Find out how to activate an unlocked Android phone

Activating an Unlocked Phone: What You Need to Know

So you just bought a super nice unlocked smartphone from Back Market—or maybe somewhere else—and you want to use it with your service carrier. But how do you activate it? What will you need to do to get it working? Will it require black magic? It actually isn’t that hard to activate an unlocked phone, but the steps are slightly different for every carrier. For some networks, all you need to do is insert a SIM card and you’re good to go, but for others you’re going to need to go to a licensed store or log into your online account and input some of your phone’s serial numbers. HINT: don’t throw out your phone’s box right away! The box has the IMEI number and other important codes written on it, and some of these may be integral to activating your device! That being said, if your phone doesn’t come with a box that has these numbers displayed in a visible location, there are different applications out there on the web that can help you find these numbers.

Can a Carrier Lock an Unlocked Phone?

If you buy your phone unlocked—or unlock it yourself—there isn’t really anything a carrier can do to lock it again. This is good news, because it means that your phone can now work on more networks. However, it isn’t always so easy to unlock a phone. Keep reading to find out reasons why you may not be able to unlock your phone.

Why Can’t I Unlock my Phone?

Maybe you’ve been using a phone that you got from your network, and you’re thinking about switching carriers so you want to unlock your phone. How hard can it be? While sometimes it’s easy to unlock your device, there are a few factors that can make this significantly harder—and even impossible. Here are some things to think about before trying to unlock your phone:

  • Did you fully pay off your phone? Your carrier won’t let you unlock your device if it isn’t fully paid off :(

  • Do you have any outstanding payments or unpaid bills? These may prevent your carrier from enabling you to unlock your phone.

  • Your phone has been reported as being lost or stolen.

  • Even if you are successful at unlocking your phone, it may not work on other carriers if it doesn't have the right antennas built-in. Before buying an unlocked phone, double check to make sure that it will be able to work on your carrier. HINT: this is one of the most common mistakes people make when buying unlocked phones! We hope this doesn’t happen to you :( Unfortunately, not all unlocked phones are created equal.

Can I Just Put my SIM Card in an Unlocked Phone?

For some service carriers, this is enough to activate the phone, but I wouldn’t bank on it. As I said, each carrier is slightly different, and you should check with them what they require to activate an unlocked phone.

Just a random suggestion, but do you know what's a really cool multi-purpose Android phone that's perfect for travelling thanks to its compact size, sleek design, and wicked nice cameras? The refurbished Galaxy S10e. Just make sure you're getting it unlocked if you plan to travel with it!

Is My Android Phone Unlocked?

Thankfully, this is relatively simple to check :D In the “Settings” menu, go to “Mobile Networks” and then “Network Operators.” If you can see other networks listed after these steps, your Android phone is most likely unlocked, but there are claims of this technique not always being reliable (it doesn’t work if you’re using Sprint). To be extra sure, I would suggest finding an online tool that can also help you check if your phone is unlocked!

Back Market

Written by Blanca Marín

Did you find this article useful ?