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Unlocking a locked phone

July 10, 2010
Cellphones in the US, especially those bought from AT&T and T-mobile, are locked.  They do so to prevent other vendors from using their phone.  So if you buy an iPhone (or Blackberry or Nexus) from AT&T, bring it to Asia, and chances are it would not work with a SIM card from that country.  In fact, it probably will not work if you switch from AT&T to T-mobile even within America.

The only way to continue to use your phone without buying another one, is to unlock your phone.

Google "unlock free nokia phone" and you get companies like who’d tell you they can calculate the unlock code just from your Model Number, your network vendor (T-mobile? or AT&T? or even vendors from other countries), your IMEI (a long code unique to each phone) and they will be able to spit out 7 possible unlock codes for free to try.  Been there.  Done that.

The thing is, your phone usually got only 5 tries and then it shut itself off permanently.  Yes, that’s right, your phone become damaged if you make too many futile unlocking attempts!  Only the network vendors has the antidote.  In this case you’d have to beg them to revive your phone.  And of course, nothing is unsolvable.  It might cost between fifty to hundreds of dollars depending on your phone.  No I haven’t reached that point!

Or you can pay $1.99 to $9.99 for a more "professional" company to help you unlock.  Again, been there, done that.  I paid $3.28 to "Master Unlock Service" to unlock my Nokia 6030 (no camera, no MP3 player, no games):

proof of purchase

It was the 4th time I have to try on my NOKIA and it failed.  At first I felt terrible I trusted a company like this to unlock my very old phone.  Then I felt much better when…

refund from Remote Seller

they refunded me when I said their code didn’t work!  I was thinking I will not see my $3.28!  (I’ve never seen it anyway, everything was in Paypal).

Now I almost gave up until I saw a forum saying that the easiest and most reliable way to request an unlocking code is to ask the network vendor themselves.  They were very reluctant to do that FIVE YEARS AGO when I first bought the phone, but now, a good reason might do the trick.

So carelessly, I pulled up a piece of waste paper that has my "Calculus II: Worksheet" printed on the top, mark it off with a thick black marker:

other "equations" on that paper were also blacked and I wrote a letter to T-mobile Relations on the back of that piece of paper:

got the address from the internet and angrily sent this letter to T-Mobile and forgot about the incident.

A few weeks later, I found something about unlocking code in my junk mail folder:

unlocking letter fr T-mobile

I opened it, saw a code, and punched it on my Nokia 6030.

"Restriction Code Off" was what I got from the 5th time I tried unlocking this phone.  For a while, I have no idea what that means.  I fear having to throw away this phone and pick up another old Nokia 6010 to replace this one that has my prepaid card.  Miraculously, the phone still works on my fifth futile attempt.  Forget it.  "It’s an old phone anyway," I murmured to myself.

Next day, I browsed the net again.  Then I realized that

"Restriction Code Off"

mean my phone is already unlocked.


五戒: 一不杀生,二不偷盗,三不邪淫,四不妄语,五不饮酒也

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One Comment
  1. The moment of truth came when I tested the phones with a Singapore StarHub SIM card. They’re unlocked, but they still don’t work in Singapore. Maybe they’re not “Tri-band” or “Quad-band”. Worse of all, we lost our blackberry at Houston Airport. And neither SIA nor citibank gave me refund for that lost although for a long time, I thought my trip was insured.

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