How do you know if a cell phone is “locked” or “unlocked”?

Question by This is me: How do you know if a cell phone is “locked” or “unlocked”?
I have an old cell phone that I’m looking to sell on eBay and I’ve noticed a lot of the listings say a phone is “locked” or “unlocked”. How do I know if it is or not? Is there a simple way to tell? Thank you!

Best answer:

Answer by Whiskeytangofoxtrot
If you hit numbers it will say Locked or Unlock Now…

Add your own answer in the comments!


  1. If it is locked, the key buttons are disabled and you can’t use it. If it is unlocked, you can use the key pad. Few models will have label on the screen ‘unlock’ if it is locked.

  2. basically, if you are selling a cingular phone for instance, then whomever buys it can only use it with cingular. some people who sell phones on ebay work for a cell phone company so they can “unlock” it which means that it can work with other cell phone companies. obviously yours would be locked because you dont have any way of unlocking it. and i wouldn’t suggest trying to get it unlocked it isnt very legal and unless you know someone who works for a cell phone company they wont do it.

  3. If you do not have the manual, google the phone model and find out if it is a GSM phone. If it is not, it makes no sense to unlock it. If it is GSM, replace the existing SIM card with another SIM from a different network provider. If it is locked, the phone will not recognize it and could ask for a code.

  4. Even if you don’t have it activated charge the battery then turn it on if you can pull up the contact list enter all the different sites its probably not locked. If it is try and you can remember the phone number if was that if no one else put it another four digit pass should unlock it but if you buy one locked you can take it to or wireless store and they can unlock them if they haven’t been reported stolen

  5. Let me clear some thing up. When a phone is locked it means it is locked to a specific carrier. Let’s say you have a cingular phone, only a cingular card will work in the phone. If you put in say a t-mobile sim card, an error will come up. Usually “invalid sim-card”. It is NOT illegal to have your phone unlocked. In fact if you were to call up cingular and say you were going overseas they will provide you with a code (generated from your specific IMEI number on your phone) to unlock the device. This way you can use a prepaid sim-card overseas. Besides going overseas unlocking your phone is a good idea. I only buy unlocked phones because i have both t-mobile and cingular service so i can just swap my sim cards between different phones.

    You can also purchase unlock codes online. This is perfectly legal, so dont worry. The only reason i would say purchase the code instead of going through your carrier is a) you need to be with that carrier for 90 days. And you can only unlock one device every so often (its either every 90days or 180 days).

    Hope this helped

  6. Thanks for your helpful and deeper explanations, Johnny. But would you throw more light on how to buy unlock code online?.

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