Humberto Saabedra is the Editor-in-Chief of and an occasional columnist for He can also be found musing on things at @AnimeNewsdotbiz

18 responses to “Unlocking Your AT&T iPhone – What You Really Need to Know”

  1. Chris Benard

    Chris, you don’t have to do a restore (contrary to their instructions) to get the unlock. You do, however, have to put a foreign SIM in (I used T-Mobile prepaid) in order to activate the unlock. I had a hell of a time. Read the whole experience here (I have a 3G and 4S unlocked now):

  2. Dennis Bournique

    Homberto, this is the best explanation I seen of the ins and outs of AT&T iPhone unlocking.

    Humberto or Chris, do either of you know if SIM unlocking enables the data and MMS edit screens on the iPhone?

    These screens are locked by default and Straight Talk and other AT&T MVNO users can’t set them to the values that are required for data and MMS to work on AT&T MVNOs. There’s an easy workaround for setting the data APN but configuring the MMS APN on the iPhone 4 and earlier seems to require jailbreaking plus an app.

  3. Chris Benard

    Dennis, as I understand it, whether or not the APN menus show up is dependent on carrier preferences, so I think you’d still be stuck with the same and either jailbreak or manipulate your back and restore to get MMS working.

  4. Dennis Bournique

    Thanks for your reply, Chris. Not what I hoped to hear but what I expected.

  5. Christopher Price

    Hi Chris,

    To clarify, Apple’s workflow includes an iTunes Restore because it deletes the AT&T SIM activation. This is critical because with the AT&T SIM activation in the device, it may not phone home to Apple for the unlock codes.

    An excellent scenario is a customer who inserts a TracFone, Red Pocket, or Straight Talk SIM. Those SIMs have the same home MNC as the AT&T SIM, and thus do not ping Apple for reactivation many times. Users may think their phone is SIM unlocked, and then travel abroad only to find that iTunes never sent the unlock code to the device.

    While there are ways to force that around, and you’ve done a great job of going through that, Apple’s way is the only supported method.

    We really don’t want anyone to have issues at the worst possible time (while traveling, when there’s not much you can do), an iTunes Restore combined with SIM-swap is the sure-fire way to make sure the iPhone is unlocked permanently.

    We may be towing the Apple line on this one, but it’s a case where all you’ll be out is 30-90 minutes for the iTunes Restore to backup and restore your profile.

  6. Christopher Price


    As to the Straight Talk and TracFone options, my understanding is unlocking will not help.

    The reason is that Straight Talk and TracFone SIMs (or Red Pocket, etc) will identify to the iPhone as, essentially, AT&T SIM cards.

    We caught this early on with H2O SIM cards. You can actually take an AT&T (or even an ancient Cingular SIM) and activate it with H2O’s activation server. They’re all the same SIM cards.

    Unfortunately this causes a glitch in the activation because you can’t easily change MMS gateways and other items.

    If you have an unlocked iPhone on Straight Talk or TracFone, one option is to request the unlocked SIM for unbranded devices. Those lack home MNCs, and also may provision better across T-Mobile and AT&T GSM footprints. Things will get even better when T-Mobile rolls out 1900 MHz UMTS/HSPA.

    We have not tested that alternative though, it’s not clear if the “unlocked Straight Talk SIM” will open up the APN option menus on an AT&T-unlocked iPhone.

    You may have the best luck provisioning MMS on StraightTalk/TracFone with iPhone configuration and carrier bundle files. Most that have tried this in the past have reported success to us. is one option for that.

  7. yeskia

    What is an AT&T unlock Case # for ?
    Either they unlock your device or they don’t. This unlock game playing is ridiculous !
    let’s face it, AT&T makes the process more difficult than it actually is, why? one can only guess as to their thinking…my guess is, it’s basically hit or miss, and so far I’ve missed.

  8. LB

    I’m confused? 24 to 48 hours, 3 to 5 days, 7 to 10 days, longer …
    Which is it? My original unlock request, which was approved for unlocking by the ATT rep, was on 4.8.12 at 05:00 , hmmm, that’s 4 days + and counting, still no confirmation email.

  9. Chris Benard

    Chris Price,

    So even though mine is unlocked for sure right now (T-Mobile SIM works fine), it can become relocked because I didn’t do a restore? You said restore wipes AT&T Activation, so should I restore with the T-Mobile SIM in it, no sim at all and then put the T-Mobile one in first, or what?

    I am unlocked but I don’t want to become locked when abroad.


  10. phoni

    I just spoke with a “manager” at AT&T tech support regarding unlock confirmations and timelines. The manager I spoke with said, “AT&T sent out the wrong timeline information email” . I said, “So, which is it?” They said, “You will definitely see the confirmation email within 5 to 7 days” I said, “What happens if I don’t?” They said, “You will, and if not call us” I said, “How stupid do you think I am?” They said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” I said, “No, I think you’ve done enough already”

  11. Brian

    Can u help me AT&T just unlocked my iPhone 4 I need to know how to get my mms working on On Unlocked AT&T iPhones and Straight Talk’s I do not wont to jailbreak my phone
    Can u help me? Thanks Brian

  12. Christopher Price


    To be clear, your iPhone is unlocked. As far as we are aware, AT&T unlocked iPhones cannot be relocked. This is the same workflow that is used abroad in countries where carriers are required by law to unlock their devices at the end of the contract, and has been in use by Apple for years.

    The concern I raised, and why we suggest iTunes Restores alongside Apple’s suggestion… is the risk that someone puts an AT&T-based MVNO SIM in their phone, and thinks that their phone has been unlocked. By doing an iTunes Restore, iTunes will push the unlock codes to the firmware after AT&T has requested that they be issued, preventing that scenario from happening.


    I would start trying to use the tool that I mentioned previously, at

  13. Chris Benard

    Chris Price,

    The problem I had described in my blog post is that even *WHEN* I *DID* the restore after they pushed the unlock, when I had the AT&T SIM in, I didn’t get an unlock confirmation, and SIM swapping to T-Mobile didn’t work at that time.

    I had to put the T-Mobile SIM in, THEN connect to iTunes, and THEN I got the unlock confirmation. I don’t know if anyone else will have that issue, but I did on both my 3G and 4S (I used a MicroSIM to SIM converter to use the T-Mobile MicroSIM in my 3G).

    I’m glad to hear they can’t be re-locked. Thanks for that good news!

  14. phoni

    So, has anyone who was waiting for an unlock confirmation email been successful in the last couple of days ?

    I am refering to those that have gotten the AT&T email telling you about the 3 to 5 day timeline.

  15. parrott84

    So I have a question, I may have missed it and maybe it was answered, but if so I didn’t get it. Right now I have a AT&T iPhone 4s running 5.0.1 and it’s Jailbroken on Straight Talk service. I was able to get AT&T to unlock the phone for me fairly trouble free and it took 2-3 days. Now they want me to plug in my phone to iTunes and backup the phone and then restore.

    However, when I restore it iTunes wants to update the phone to 5.1 as well. So, my question is this, if I backup and restore, with my straight talk sim (or whatever sim, I have T-Mobile, and AT&T ones laying around, just tell me which to use…), and the upgrade to 5.1 goes through, will I lose any services that I currently use – outside of the Jailbreak. I understand I will lose that, but I am not so much concerned with that as I am the ability to use my Straight Talk service or MMS.. For the record I had a hard time getting the MMS working the first time until I used

    At this point, what is your recommendation? Should I go ahead and unlock the phone or should I wait?

  16. Christopher Price


    If you already have Straight Talk working, there isn’t a huge need to unlock your device, unless you want to travel abroad. Straight Talk is using AT&T SIM cards for their service, and as such, you wouldn’t gain any domestic benefit from unlocking.

    That all said, appears to work just as well on iOS 5.1 as it does on previous iOS versions, so if you were to do an iTunes Restore all you would have to do is repeat that process. Your iPhone would then be SIM unlocked.

    Personally, I wouldn’t bother unless you wanted the benefits delivered in iOS 5.1 anyways. If it ain’t broken…

  17. P Marshal

    I have been a happy Tracfone user for many years now-initially due to their low-usage options, but also due to the simplicity of their no-contract, easy to understand plans. I am not a technophobe but more of a techno-ignoramus (perhaps a touch harsh on my understanding). I have always found your articles and commenting informative, helpful and non-judgemental. And when I find myself out of my depth of understanding, I refer my son to your site to explain to me. While us older generation don’t always understand all the ins and outs, if approached without being shot down for our ignorance, we still have a keen interest and ability to learn about things that were never part of our growing up experiences. This note is just to thank you for some good reading and helpful content. Perhaps that iphone will still be on the cards for me in the year to come now that StraightTalk offers the option of a BYOD. 😉

  18. Madonna

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    I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any helpful hints for first-time blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.