Unlock An Off-Contract iPhone 5 For Free With An iTunes Restore

Unlock An Off-Contract iPhone 5 For Free With An iTunes Restore

Want to unlock your off-contract iPhone 5? Try restoring in iTunes.

Verizon sells the iPhone 5 unlocked out of the box, but what about AT&T? If you buy into a two-year contract for the subsidized starting price of $200, you’re usually not able to get an unlock until you’ve fulfilled your contract.

Buying off-contract for the full starting price of $649 is another story, however. AT&T customers in good standing should be able to get a fully priced iPhone 5 unlocked for free, but the process requires filling out a web form, sending a fax, and possibly waiting more than a week.

As it turns out, unlocking an unsubsidized iPhone 5 is as simple as restoring the device in iTunes.

According to TechCrunch:

We have confirmed the process with AT&T’s technical support and successfully tried it with a T-Mobile SIM card. After restoring the device in iTunes, the user is prompted with the usual unlocking message: “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.”

After receiving the confirmation message, you can confirm that the unlock has taken effect by swapping out the AT&T nano-SIM in your iPhone 5 for another GSM-comaptible nano-SIM. It worked for TechCrunch:

After receiving the notification my new iPhone was unlocked, I cut a micro-SIM card into the shape of a nano-SIM by using the AT&T SIM card that was already in the iPhone 5 as a guide. The most difficult part was to make it narrower so that you can close the tiny nano-SIM tray, though some have reported that this step may be optional.

In a couple of seconds, the iPhone was able to pick up the T-Mobile network, and calls and EDGE data connectvity worked as expected. Some reports, including on AT&T forum, confirm this.

We haven’t been able to independently confirm that this process works on an unsubsidized iPhone 5 yet, but it seems right. An iTunes restore is always required to apply an unlock once it has been approved by AT&T. The above process suggests that every off-contract AT&T iPhone 5 is basically considered to be factory unlocked internally, but for some reason AT&T isn’t applying the unlock before units hit store shelves. A simple iTunes restore should do the trick.

Hey, it beats sending a fax.

Related
  • Tomi Fazzio

    so if i go to an apple store, buy an iphone for at&t without the contract and i restore it, then it’s unlocked? i live outside the us and i need to get an unlocked iphone right now before sunday, is this the solution? or shall i buy it off contract from verizon?

  • BigLama

    So essentially my iPhone 5 I bought from AT&T for the painful price of $849 means its unlocked. It’s only a matter of restoring using iTunes.
    Also, I have a 4s could the same be done on that and use it on t mobile?!

  • Htetpye

    only works on the one bought in apple store not the one boought from att, even no commitment price. i tried mine and i bougght it full price from att and it doesnt work

  • Mirage299

    hey i just found this and it is probably what you’re looking for

    http://www.gottabemobile.com/2012/09/14/verizon-to-sell-iphone-5-off-contract-on-release-date-in-stores/

    so if i go to an apple store, buy an iphone for at&t without the contract and i restore it, then it’s unlocked? i live outside the us and i need to get an unlocked iphone right now before sunday, is this the solution? or shall i buy it off contract from verizon?

  • lpk

    I can confirm this is true. I bought mine last Friday, took the ATT nanosim out, trimmed my sim, sand papered the back, stuck it in, turned on the phone for the first time with a Tmobile sim card in it and plugged it into iTunes and got the “Congratulations, your phone has been unlocked” immediately. I flew to Germany the next day and used it with O2 there. Flew back to the USA yesterday and popped in Tmobile again, working just fine. It’s pricey, but it works. No need to wait for a factory unlocked version.

  • lpk

    hey i just found this and it is probably what you’re looking for

    http://www.gottabemobile.com/2012/09/14/verizon-to-sell-iphone-5-off-contract-on-release-date-in-stores/

    so if i go to an apple store, buy an iphone for at&t without the contract and i restore it, then it’s unlocked? i live outside the us and i need to get an unlocked iphone right now before sunday, is this the solution? or shall i buy it off contract from verizon?

    Tomi, what you say is correct. Just cut/sand your sim before even turning the phone on, then plop it in and turn it on. You’ll be fine. I can send you picks of mine working on Tmobile if you want.
    ONE THING TO BE AWARE OF:
    There are different versions of the iPhone 5 (two GSM models, and the CDMA model) The CDMA model works with Verizon, Sprint, and basically everyone else, however it DOES NOT work with AT&T and Tmobile’s LTE speeds. The AT&T GSM iPhone works ONLY with AT&T and Tmobile’s LTE speeds. The ‘other’ GSM iPhone is being sold in all other countries of the world and works with most other countries’ provider’s LTE speeds.
    You’ll want to 1. See what LTE bands the carrier you want to use back home is operating on. 2. check the tech specs of the different iPhone models (http://www.apple.com/iphone/specs.html) CDMA A1429, GSM A1429 or GSM A1428
    3. Decide from there.

    If using abroad and you want to use LTE, the Verizon phone looks like the best option in my opinion.

  • debald6

    This definitely works. I just finished unlocking two iPhone 5′s I picked up from an Apple store. Just as the article describes above, simply restore the iPhone 5′s through iTunes and you will get a message of congratulations stating that the iPhones are unlocked.

    I just wish the brilliant customer service folks at AT&T told me about this last week when I bought them and wasted hours trying to get them to unlock the devices.

  • Tomi Fazzio

    hey i just found this and it is probably what you’re looking for

    http://www.gottabemobile.com/2012/09/14/verizon-to-sell-iphone-5-off-contract-on-release-date-in-stores/

    so if i go to an apple store, buy an iphone for at&t without the contract and i restore it, then it’s unlocked? i live outside the us and i need to get an unlocked iphone right now before sunday, is this the solution? or shall i buy it off contract from verizon?

    Tomi, what you say is correct. Just cut/sand your sim before even turning the phone on, then plop it in and turn it on. You’ll be fine. I can send you picks of mine working on Tmobile if you want.
    ONE THING TO BE AWARE OF:
    There are different versions of the iPhone 5 (two GSM models, and the CDMA model) The CDMA model works with Verizon, Sprint, and basically everyone else, however it DOES NOT work with AT&T and Tmobile’s LTE speeds. The AT&T GSM iPhone works ONLY with AT&T and Tmobile’s LTE speeds. The ‘other’ GSM iPhone is being sold in all other countries of the world and works with most other countries’ provider’s LTE speeds.
    You’ll want to 1. See what LTE bands the carrier you want to use back home is operating on. 2. check the tech specs of the different iPhone models (http://www.apple.com/iphone/specs.html) CDMA A1429, GSM A1429 or GSM A1428
    3. Decide from there.

    If using abroad and you want to use LTE, the Verizon phone looks like the best option in my opinion.

    thank you very much for the advice!!! i’ll try the verizon because i’m totally sure that it’s unlocked but there’s still the at&t option just in case so thank you!!

  • Sambidhan Sabha

    anyone who r in contact can also unlocked their iphone 5 easily just for $20 at http://www.unlockiphones.info
    so whats the point for paying that much money for locked iphone?
    get unlocked iphone.. unlock it and use it in any networks

  • SAMJOLENE541

    I bought a iPhone 5 at the subsidized price so it was locked. I want to use it abroad without paying crazy fees so I needed it unlocked. I got it factory unlocked through Apple’s servers in about 3 hours at http://www.iphonefort-mobile.com. I dealt with Tom.

  • Adam Bays

    So essentially my iPhone 5 I bought from AT&T for the painful price of $849 means its unlocked. It’s only a matter of restoring using iTunes.
    Also, I have a 4s could the same be done on that and use it on t mobile?!

    Why to pay full price???
    I bought mine for 499$ from eBay than i used an unlocking service, from http://attiphoneunlocking.com they unlocked it for 35$.
    So i saved around 300$. My only problem with this phone that its a bit too big compared to my 4S and hardly fits into my pocket, maybe its lighter, and better camera, but its not a huge difference over the 4S, i’m thinking to will switch back..

  • acekashif

    Wana unlocked the iphone?

    your iphone is locked then dont worried, its very easy to unlocked the iphones.

    http://www.unlockiphonepro.com..

  • Babak Mir-Eschghi

    Even if your iPhone 5 is under contract and you don’t meet AT&T’s requirements, it can still be done with UnlockStreak activations for iTunes, which basically turns iTunes into iPhone unlock software. That type of unlock is permanent like the one from AT&T.

  • CooLoverM

    ATT-Unlock.com really did a factory unlocked on my iPhone 5 with just the IMEI number in less than 8 hrs. Now I am using it with T-Mobile.

    check it out http://www.ATT-Unlock.com

  • alexlomeli14

    Are you guys able to unlock my iPhone 5 that I bought in full prise in sprint ? please help.

  • sealocust

    I purchased a full price off-contract AT&T version iPhone 5 at Walmart and I can’t get the iTunes restore unlock to work. Does it need to be purchased from the Apple Store in order to work? I’m not an AT&T subscriber, so the phone is still unactivated. Any suggestions?

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    Here are the contact details:
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About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath has been a staff writer at Cult of Mac for three years. He is also a co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by places like the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too. All DMs excepted.

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