Oh, the things we learn by experience. Unlocking a phone -- in this case, an iPhone -- is not as easy or as fast as you might think.
Which poses this question: What does unlocking a phone mean? Why would you want an unlocked phone? Sounds unsafe.
It's not. An unlocked phone simply means you are no longer tethered to your service provider; you can go with whatever provider you wish.
That’s important for international travelers who don’t have (or don’t want) an international calling plan. I don’t travel enough internationally to make it worth my while.
The simple solution (or so I thought): Unlock the phone so you can swap out the SIM card, the little card that provides your service. You see SIM card sellers all over in foreign destinations, especially in airports. For instance, when I landed in Sydney, Australia, in March, I was able to get a SIM card while I waited for my ride into the city.
The SIM card I got wasn’t for my iPhone 5; I had an old iPhone 4S with me and that's what I used. That's because my AT&T contract for my iPhone5 wasn’t up, and I would have had to pay off my phone to untether it from AT&T.
When I checked again, I still owed quite a bit of money on that phone, whose cost is spread out over the length of your contract. (You can avoid that by paying for it upfront.) Not worth it, I thought.
Recently, I asked again. The price of freedom: $115. Bingo.
That’s when the service rep explained that I would have to be OKd to do this. Once I paid the $115 and was approved, I could begin the unlock process.
The approval email arrived soon thereafter. “We have reviewed your request and confirmed that the device may be unlocked,” it said. “You should complete the unlock process before porting out your number for use with another carrier. Please allow 24 hours upon receipt of this notification to complete the unlock process.”
OK, so how hard can this unlock process be?
Like everything that has to do with smartphones, it’s not difficult, but it is slightly more complicated than putting your key in the lock of your front door and opening it.
Here were the instructions in the email:
1. Open iTunes on your Mac or PC and verify that you have Internet connectivity.
2. Ensure the original SIM card that came with this device is inserted in your iPhone.
3. Connect your iPhone using the dock connector to USB cable that came with your iPhone.
4. Backup and restore your iPhone using iTunes.