UPDATE: December, 2016 – These methods remain valid for every version of iPhone 5
Summary: There’s more than one method for unlocking a version of the iPhone 5, but the best is the IMEI method. Software unlocking was a viable option for early versions of the iPhone, but hasn’t worked for years, and hardware methods are usually offered by scammers who will void your warranty and destroy your device.
Unlike the latter two methods, IMEI unlocking is completely safe, and very simple if you have the right connections. You just need a service that will enter your iPhone’s IMEI number in a database of Apple phones that can be used across major networks. This will enable you to use any carrier you like.
Your best choice for an unlock service varies by locations. Here’s a quick reference:
iPhoneIMEI is the best service for users in the U.S, or Canada. This service is quick and inexpensive, but not broadly supported anywhere else in the world.
If you live anywhere else, Official iPhone Unlock is the best choice. Not only does this service work for iPhone 5s anywhere in the world, but they have a very responsive support team. Although it’s comparatively expensive in North America, it’s absolutely the best option abroad.
Being stuck with a poor iPhone carrier can feel like house arrest.
“Yep, your reception is bad. Oh, no 4G data in your area? Sucks to be you. Going out of country? No prob – just cough up the pricey roaming fees! What are you gonna do? You’re stuck with us for two years, and we’re your only option.”
This isn’t acceptable in most industries. Computer companies don’t get to pick what software you run. Shoe companies don’t get to tell you what socks to wear. But for some reason, phone companies have a different standard; they call the shots, and you have no choice to obey.
Well, that’s how they want things to be anyways. Thankfully, you finally have a choice what carrier to use your iPhone 5 with, and the choice is unlocking. Let’s go over the three methods in more detail.
Methods for unlocking your iPhone 5, 5C or 5S:
Method #1: Unlock with software (Scam)
If you’re looking for an unlock, you’re bound to stumble upon nicely designed webpages offering programs that will magically unlock your iPhone 5 (for a price). Please don’t be like me: I’ve been scammed by this more than once.
iPhones could once be unlocked with computer programs, or jailbroken applications, but this method has been universally patched since the third iPhone was released years ago.
Anyone offering a program to free up your iPhone is trying to take advantage of you.
Steer absolutely clear of iPhone unlocking software.
Method #2: Hardware unlock (Will probably destroy your phone)
The hardware unlock is yet another snake oil scam.
Getting it done usually involves sneaking down a dark street on the other side of the tracks to meet a greasy creep in some darkened room, who will demand $100 out of hand before prying your precious iPhone apart and modifying the inner circuit boards with clips and a sloppy soldering iron.
Now you may find that idea romantic, and that’s fine (who am I to judge?). But hopefully you are okay with a 70% chance of failure and a bricked iPhone, or a voided warranty on the off chance of a successful operation.
If you’re the more rational kind who doesn’t like needlessly destroying expensive electronics, this method is not worth taking a chance on.
Don’t even bother with hardware unlocking.
Method #3: IMEI unlock (The ONLY method guaranteed to work)
The only method that won’t void your warranty or risk ruining your device is an unlock. IMEI is a unique number that identifies your iPhone 5 from every other iPhone in the world.
A global list of these numbers is maintained by Apple, and your number determines what network you are locked to (or whether you are locked to any network at all).
To get an unlock is therefore as simple as having the status of your IMEI number changed by someone with access to the database so that you can use any network.
No complex downloads, no prying your iPhone open and tampering with its delicate circuits. This method is so simple, you don’t even have to leave your home to get it done.
IMEI unlocking is simply the ONLY method I consider reliable, and the ONLY one I recommend
“So,” you’ll naturally be inclined to ask, “Who in the world has access to the IMEI database, and who can update my number for me?” I wish I knew someone in the industry personally, but I don’t.
Thankfully, there are a number of companies who do know someone, and they can get the job done for you. In the following list, I’ll go over a few of these companies, and which ones I recommend for your iPhone 5, 5s or 5c.
The Top 3 iPhone 5 / 5s / 5c IMEI Unlock Services
Since you know which unlocking methods work, and which are scams, let’s review the best companies for getting the job done legitimately.
- iPhoneIMEI (96/100) – Best service for an IMEI unlock in North America
iPhoneIMEI is my choice company for unlocking an iPhone 5, 5c, or 5s.
Benefits: In the first place, this is a very cheap company. An unlock from iPhoneIMEI is about 30% less expensive than industry standards.
You wouldn’t be blamed for assuming that cheaper price implies lower quality service, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. iPhoneIMEI was not lower quality than any of the services I tried. The lower prices may have something to do with the sheer volume of unlocks that the company processes per day (over 200, according to a representative).
My biggest worry is customer service, and I expected that with such a large number of devices to process, my queries would fall behind getting answered. At one point, I emailed the company to ask when my unlock would be done (I missed the notification in my inbox), and a representative got back to me in 7 minutes. Incredible.
The final reason that iPhoneIMEI gets first place is just how fast they process orders. An iPhone unlock tends to be slow and uncertain. I’ve ordered from unlocking services in the past that have taken over a month to finally deliver, but iPhoneIMEI unlocked my iPhone 5 in three hours. Talk about service!
Downsides: The major disadvantage of this company is that it doesn’t service many areas outside the U.S and Canada. Where it is available, it tends to be on the pricey side. If you live somewhere else, you should definitely check to see if your country is listed, but otherwise you’ll have to find another company to do business with.
Conclusion: iPhoneIMEI is inexpensive, quick, and boasts excellent customer service. Although it isn’t available everywhere, if you do live somewhere in North America, I highly recommend getting your unlock here.
If you don’t have money to burn, live somewhere in North America, and don’t feel like waiting forever for an unlock, get you iPhone 5 unlocked now with iPhoneIMEI.
- Official iPhone Unlock (89/100) – Best iPhone 5 unlocking service outside U.S and Canada
Second on the list is Official iPhone Unlock.
Benefits: To begin with, this company has a reputation that precedes itself. It began operating when the first iPhone was released, and has extensive experience with iPhone 5, 5s and 5c. I’ve had consistently good experiences with it over the years.
Second, they are INSANELY fast. The first time I used this service, I ordered an unlock on the weekend, and figured it wouldn’t be done until late the next week. I was extremely surprised to wake up the next day, and find the unlock was done. This sets Official iPhone Unlock ahead of its competitors by a long shot.
Third, this service will unlock phones from carriers around the world. Whether you’re in India, Japan, the U.K or South America, there’s bound to be a service for you here.
Finally, the customer support is absolutely awesome. A close relative who isn’t very good with technology tried to unlock his iPhone 5, but submitted some incorrect information. Worried that his order didn’t go through, I gave them a call (they have a support line!) and got everything fixed in three minutes.
Downsides: As mentioned before, this service is more expensive than iPhoneIMEI, especially if you’re on AT&T. If you live outside North America, it’s still the best option for you, but otherwise, you might want to go for something cheaper.
Conclusion: Official iPhone Unlock is the best service for you if you live outside the U.S or Canada. Not only do they serve almost every country and carrier that exists, but they are quick, inexpensive, and rock a brilliant support team.
If you want to unlock your iPhone 5 today, visit Official iPhone Unlock!
- IMEI Codes (44/100 – Very mediocre)
I retain IMEI codes as a very distant backup in case the others aren’t an option for some reason. Under most circumstances, I wouldn’t recommend it, but as a last resort, it may be acceptable.
IMEI Codes will unlock a iPhone 5, 5s or 5c, but don’t be expecting quick delivery or exceptional customer service. This is the definition of industry standard as far as iPhone unlocking services go, with regular prices, and long waiting periods.
- Software unlocks haven’t worked since the third iPhone came out
- Hardware unlocks are scams that can void your warranty, and ruin your iPhone in the process.
- The only safe and efficient way to unlock an iPhone 5, 5c or 5s is with an IMEI unlock
A number of good iPhone unlocking services exist, and choosing one depends on where you live.
If you use a carrier in North America, go with iPhoneIMEI. The service is quick, reliable, has great customer service, and is compatible with all major carriers in the U.S and Canada.
If you use a carrier anywhere else in the world, go with Official iPhone Unlock. While more expensive than the North American counterpart, they are compatible with almost all major carriers from around the world, have a 24 hour turn around, and great customer service.