By Cyrus Farivar
If you’re one of the million people who’ve purchased an iPhone since the end of June, you probably signed up with Apple’s exclusive carrier in the U.S., AT&T, when you activated your phone. That means your iPhone identifies itself to AT&T’s network using an AT&T SIM card, a smart card that’s located in a small tray between your iPhone’s sleep/wake button and its recessed headphone jack.
But what if you’re planning a trip to Europe and rather than paying AT&T to use the networks of its European partners, you want to take advantage of the favorable rates and local phone numbers offered by replacing your AT&T SIM card with a pre-paid European card? Or what if you’d prefer to use T-Mobile as your cellular provider, rather than AT&T?
In the past month several groups have announced that they’ve found a way to “unlock” the iPhone, allowing it to use a SIM card from any provider. (Keep in mind that this is only half the story: the iPhone uses the GSM radio band for its communications, meaning that it’ll only work with providers that use the GSM network. In the U.S., that means T-Mobile and AT&T.)
In August, a group of hackers demonstrated a method for unlocking SIM cards and sold its software to resellers, who in turn began selling it to the public for as much as $100 last week.
But another group has came up with its own hack that, with the help of some free, open-source software, lets you unlock your iPhone in about an hour, free of charge. Below, I’ll show you how it works — and it does work, because I’ve used this technique to unlock my own phone. (One important caveat: Certain AT&T-only features, such as Visual Voicemail, will not work when you’re connected to other cellular networks.)