A 16 digit network unlock code, sometimes also referred to as a SIM network unlock PIN, is a special code that can be used to remove the sim lock from a mobile device. This allows the device to be used on other carrier networks, not just the one it was originally locked to.
In this complete guide, we will cover everything you need to know about 16 digit unlock codes, including:
- What is a sim lock and why are phones locked
- How a 16 digit network unlock code works
- Where to get unlock codes for different carriers
- Instructions for entering the network unlock code
- Troubleshooting tips if the code does not work
- The legality and risks of unlocking devices
So if you need to unlock your phone from a specific carrier network, want to understand more about the process, or unlock codes in general, then read on!
What is a SIM Lock?
A sim lock, phone lock, or network lock refers to a technical restriction in a mobile device that limits the SIM cards that can be used. The lock ensures the phone only works with SIMs from a specific mobile carrier.
The vast majority of mobile phones you buy directly from a carrier like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile etc. come with the device already carrier locked. This serves multiple purposes for the carriers:
- It prevents customers from easily switching carriers before the end of their contracted period. This allows carriers to ensure they recoup any subsidized cost of the device over time.
- It reduces phone theft, as stolen locked devices cannot easily be used on other carrier networks.
- Regional locks allow carriers to offer special rates in certain markets by preventing the export of phones outside that region.
As you may have guessed, carrier locks provide more benefit to the carriers than the customers! Thankfully unlock codes provide a way to bypass these locks so you can use your device freely across various networks once eligibility requirements are met.
How Do 16 Digit Unlock Codes Work?
The 16 digit network unlock codes are essentially password codes that bypass the builtin sim lock protections on mobile devices.
Here is a breakdown of how the system works:
- Each mobile device has a unique identifier number, referred to as the IMEI number (International Mobile Equipment Identity). This is usually 15 digits long.
- When you insert a sim from a different carrier into a locked phone, the device communicates with the mobile network, pulls the IMEI number and communicates to the network that the device is locked and cannot operate.
- To unlock it, you need an unlock code that is tied specifically to the device’s IMEI number and the original carrier that locked it. This unlock code is 16 digits long.
- By inputting the valid 16 digit unlock code into the device through a specific menu, you essentially authenticate to the phone that you have the right to unlock it from its previous carrier restrictions.
- The device then removes the internal lock status related to that carrier network, and allows you to operate the device across any carrier networks with any SIM cards, not just the original carrier. Essentially it lifts the restrictions.
So in summary, each device has a unique IMEI number which locks on networks are tied to. The 16 digit unlock code that works for one device will not work for another device, due to being tied to that specific IMEI. Inputting the correct unlock code authenticates you are authorized to unlock that specific device.
Also Read: How to Unlock Your US Cellular Phone
Where To Obtain 16 Digit Network Unlock Codes
If you need to get a 16 digit sim unlock code to unlock your mobile device, you have a few options available. The best route to take can vary depending on your specific carrier and device details.
Here are the main options available:
Request from Original Carrier
The most straightforward route is to contact your original carrier (the one your device is currently locked to) and request for them to unlock it. This route is often mandatory if the device is still under contract or has not yet been paid off.
The main carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon etc. will all unlock devices once fully owned and all contracts are completed, as an incentive for you to stay as their customer. This route results in the fastest and most seamless unlock process typically.
Third Party Unlocking Services
If the original carrier refuses to or cannot generate the network unlock code for you, the next best option is using a third party unlocking service. These specialty services have access to various carrier databases and can lookup and generate network unlock codes on your behalf, for a small unlocking fee.
This acts as a convenient workaround when the original carrier is unwilling to assist with unlocking a device. They simply lookup the code on your behalf. Xfinity and Spectrum devices are commonly unlocked using third party services for example.
Buy Unlock Code Online
There are also many websites that sell phone unlock codes online. These work on the same basis – by looking up the device IMEI and carrier details, then generating and selling you an unlock code to input.
While buying unlock codes online can work, it does come with higher risk of scams due to the number of illegitimate websites selling codes that never work. So buyer beware when going this route – be sure to use reputable sellers.
DIY Unlocking with Software or Apps
Finally, there are some online services and phone apps that claim to offer DIY software unlocking without needing a code at all. These attempt to electronically unlock the device directly without inputting any codes.
However success rates are hit or miss with these methods in our experience, so we recommend avoiding DIY software unlocking routes if possible. Stick to using legitimate unlock codes instead for best results.
How To Enter Unlock Codes On Mobile Devices
Once you have obtained a valid 16 digit network unlock code for your device, you then need to enter it correctly into the phone through a specific network unlock menu.
The exact steps to input the unlock code can vary slightly between different phone models and brands. But the general process is the same:
- Insert a non-accepted carrier SIM card into the locked device. This triggers the device to launch the Unlock screen/menu.
- Access the hidden network unlock menu. On most phones you need to open the dial pad and enter a secret access code like “*#06#” to launch unlock menu.
- Input the 16 digit unlock code carefully on the unlock screen. Double check digits.
- An “Unlock Successful!” message will display if the code was entered correctly and accepted.
- Reboot the phone and the sim unlock will now be applied. You can leave the new sim in or swap it for another one to test.
If done successfully, you should now be able to use any working carrier SIM in the device without issues. The network locks that previously prevented this have been bypassed.
Troubleshooting Tips If Code Does Not Work
In some cases when inputting an unlock code, you might encounter issues such as:
- “Unlock Failed” or “Incorrect Code” messages after entering the code.
- No change in locked status even after rebooting device.
- Other error messages about unsuccessful unlock attempt.
First keep calm! There are a few troubleshooting tips to try:
- Carefully double check the code digits against original code source (email/document etc) to confirm no typos from manual input.
- Try re-entering the code slowly and carefully, double checking. Mixups on 1 vs 7 or 3 vs 8 are common.
- If bought online, contact seller to confirm code they supplied is definitely correct and linked to your exact device IMEI.
- Try updating device software via WiFi in case of any software issues blocking the unlock. Retry after updating.
- Factory reset the device then insert new SIM and retry unlock code input. This wipes any corrupt data.
- As last resort contact original network carrier and request details of whether the supplied code is being rejected or incorrect when input on the device. They may be able to assist troubleshooting or confirm if device can be network unlocked successfully.
Getting professional assistance from the original network provider is always a wise idea if you are struggling to get the supplied network unlock code working even after multiple careful attempts.
Is Unlocking Mobile Devices Legal? What Are the Risks?
Now that you understand the technical ins and outs of how 16 digit unlock codes work to unlock devices, an important question remains – is the unlocking process legal? Are there any risks you should consider before unlocking your phone?
In general, using official network unlock codes is perfectly legal across most regions, however the eligibility conditions can vary when and how devices can be unlocked:
As of August 2014, unlocking cell phones and tablets was legalized in the USA again under copyright law reforms. Americans can now unlock their devices legally once contracts are fully expired, devices wholly owned, or with carrier permission. Doing so without meeting these criteria can still be deemed illegal.
Canada has more relaxed rules, generally allowing phone unlocking 90 days after activation without issue. This applies even if device cost is still being paid off.
Across the EU and European Economic Area, mobile network carriers are mandated by law to provide unlock codes for free once device contracts expire, to promote easier switching between carriers after contracts end. This generally applies globally to devices bought inside EU countries. However exact laws can still vary between specific countries.
In Australia and New Zealand, the rules tend to resemble Europe – carriers are required by law to unlock devices after contracts expire to encourage competition. Outside these major western countries however, the legality situation can vary wildly or be poorly enforced. It’s advisable to check local laws and regulations in your specific country or region before attempting to unlock devices.
The other risk to consider with unlocking applies no matter what country you reside in – the potential voiding of any device warranty due to tampering with the phone software:
Phone manufacturers often warn that unlocking devices breaches warranty terms in their small print. Technically therefore, if you damage or brick your phone during the unlock process or due to flashing different software, you may lose your warranty coverage as a result.
Additionally, if the device develops any faults later down the line that would typically be covered under warranty, having the tamper flag triggered can allow the manufacturer an excuse to avoid assisting you.
This warranty voiding as a result of software tampering rarely tends to happen these days from our experience though – most manufacturers turn a blind eye once a device is fully owned. Just be aware that once unlocked, any warranty coverage is technically voided as per the small print terms.
So in summary, the entire purpose of secret 16 digit unlock codes is to bypass the sim locking technology mobile carriers place on phone and tablet devices during initial activation and contract periods. This allows customers to use the same phone easily across multiple carrier networks once they legally own the device outright after contracts expire.
We have walked through what network locks are, why carriers use them, how to obtain 16 digit unlock codes properly for your specific device, how to input the codes to successfully unlock devices, troubleshooting tips, and also covered the legalities and potential risks involved to consider as well.
Hopefully this complete guide gives you all the details needed to understand and utilize network unlock codes for more freedom and flexibility with cellular devices. Just be certain to always confirm regional laws and eligibility terms before attempting the unlock process yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is a 16 digit network unlock code?
A 16 digit unlock code is used to remove carrier restrictions from a mobile device, allowing it to be used on other network providers.
Where do I find my unlock code?
Unlock codes can be obtained from your original carrier after fulfilling contract obligations, through third party unlocking services, or sometimes bought online.
What is the PIN code for SIM unlock?
The PIN code is a different code used to unlock a carrier locked SIM card itself. The 16 digit network unlock code unlocks the device restrictions.
What is the master code for unlocking all networks?
There is no single master code that unlocks all devices. Each device has a unique 16 digit code tied to its IMEI number and original locking carrier.
What is an 8 digit unlock code? 8 digit codes are typically SIM PIN codes for unlocking the SIM card itself, rather than the 16 digit device unlock codes.
Can you get a phone network unlock code for free?
Sometimes carriers will provide the network unlock code for free after contract completion. Otherwise third party services can lookup and retrieve codes for a small fee.
Can you unlock a locked SIM card?
Yes, carrier locked SIM cards can be unlocked with an 8 digit SIM PIN code to remove carrier restrictions from the SIM itself.
Can you remove a device network lock without the code?
Removing the software locks without an unlock code is very difficult and impractical. Unlock codes provide the only reliable method.
Does unlocking void the warranty?
Technically manufacturer warranties can be voided as soon as software tampering protections are triggered. But in practice it rarely causes issues.
Is phone unlocking legal?
In most regions including the USA and Canada, phone unlocking is legal once device contracts have expired and ownership commitments are completed.