So, your SIM card is locked and inaccessible. Don’t worry – it happens to everyone! This is common when you decided to buy a SIM card, brought it home, inserted it, and turned the phone on. You were greeted with the “enter your PIN” screen and either couldn’t find or if you entered it 3 times incorrectly. Another common possibility for this problem is reporting your phone stolen, then finding it, or getting it back from law enforcement after you blocked the SIM card already. We’ll mention other causes while we show you how to unlock a SIM card.
Guide to remove a SIM card lock
After you power the phone on and insert a SIM card, as mentioned, you have 3 attempts before your SIM gets locked. This applies to both Android and iOS. To find the code, find the full-size SIM card or mini-SIM card you punched out your micro-SIM card or nano-SIM card out of. On it, you’ll find the PIN and PUK codes are covered by a thin grey protective foil you need to scratch off with your fingernail, key, or dull knife.
If you already tried to guess the SIM code 3 times, you have 10 attempts to enter a PUK code. If that fails, your SIM card can get locked permanently and you’ll need to purchase a new one. In today’s day and age, carriers often don’t print the PUK code. Instead, you have to call their customer service representative or sign in with your account details on the official website. Then, you’ll have to browse the user panel for a way to display the PUK code.
I made it to the home screen without entering the PIN code
This can sometimes happen. While it sounds great in theory, you’ll still be locked out from basic functionality. In that case, either reboot the phone or follow these steps. They’re also needed if want to disable the SIM card lock.
On Android 10
- Open Settings.
- Scroll down and tap on Security.
- Scroll down again and tap on Set up SIM card lock.
- The Lock SIM card option will be toggled on.
- Tap on it, then enter your PIN.
- The phone will be unlocked and the protection disabled.
- Optional. Tap on it again and enter the PIN to enable the lock again. Your SIM functionality won’t suffer, you’ll just have to re-enter PIN at reboot.
- Launch Settings.
- Scroll down and tap on Cellular.
- The SIM PIN option will be toggled on. Tap on it.
- Enter your PIN-code to unlock your network functionality.
- Optional. Tap on SIM PIN again, then enter the SIM code to re-enable the protection.
Steps to enable the SIM card
If you unlocked the phone and your SIM card is still not working, it might be disabled. This is especially common if you use a dual-SIM configuration, decided to swap SIM cards, or you brought a SIM card from another phone. Here are the instructions to fix that problem.
On Android 10
- Open Settings.
- Tap on Network & Internet.
- Select SIM cards.
- If the desired SIM card is toggled off, tap on it to enable it.
Although this should fix the issue immediately, some SIM cards are struggling to find the right carrier. Follow these steps if so:
- Tap on Settings again.
- Tap on Mobile networks.
- Select Network operators by tapping on it.
- Tap on Search networks.
- Give it a second to discover available carriers, then tap on your carrier’s name.
- Launch Settings.
- Select Cellular by tapping on it.
- Tap on Cellular Plans (it might also be named Cellular Data or Mobile Data).
- Tap on your carrier and the word Primary will appear next to its name.
- If you get prompted, tap on Turn On This Line.
It’s a shady practice meant to ensure you don’t switch carriers after you buy a postpaid SIM card and a heavily discounted device through a subscription from one of them. So, they either temporarily or permanently prevent your phone from using SIM cards that don’t belong to their network. To use your SIM card with another carrier’s device, or vice versa, to use another carrier’s SIM card in your phone, you might need to contact one or both.
What do I need to prepare?
- The account number and account name
- Social Security number or password tied to the subscription (or ID number in other countries)
- A completed and signed contract or payment plan details
- Your phone’s IMEI
- Your phone number
What are the steps?
The exact steps depend on your carrier – visit their official website, go to their store, or call the dedicated customer care phone number. We’ve tried to include the major ones in the United States so you get the idea of the terms and limitations.
- Verizon: Unlocking Policy
- AT&T: Help Page, Device Eligibility, Online Request
- T-Mobile: Device Requirements and Guide, Android Unlock App
- Sprint: Guide
- Metro: Unlock Policy and Requirements
Since early 2016, all LTE phones that use the 4G network must be unlocked if sold by the carrier. If yours is still locked, they must unlock it for you. The alternatives are as follows:
1. Third-party unlock
If you are in a hurry or your payment plan or device doesn’t fit the policy or requirements, you can contact a third-party service. It’ll cost you, and runs a tiny risk that a code they send will be incorrect or flagged with the carrier. The advantages? The process is quick, and you don’t need to jump through hoops or battle bureaucracy.
2. Buy an unlocked device
The best alternative is to never encounter this problem. Simply purchase the phone from an independent seller, retailers such as Walmart or Amazon, or directly from the manufacturer. It will be unlocked out of the box, and you can always use any SIM card you wish, including a prepaid SIM card.