The Complete iPhone 6/Plus and 6s/Plus Unlock Guide
Update: This method is still valid and working as of December 21st, 2016
Summary: A few methods exist for unlocking an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, or 6S Plus: hardware unlocks, software unlocks, and IMEI unlocks. Hardware unlocking has a low success rate, often destroys your device, and always voids your warranty. Software unlocking has not worked since the third generation iPhone.
IMEI unlocking is the only reliable and safe method for unlocking your iPhone 6, and involves adding your IMEI number to a global database maintained by Apple that will enable you to break away from the carrier you are locked to.
There are a lot of IMEI unlocking services available, and we have tested ten of them. Using our criteria for service ratings (outlines in the article below), we’ve selected the best three recommendations, and which one you select largely depends on where you live.
If you are using an iPhone 6 within the UK, USA or Canda, use iPhoneIMEI. This service is inexpensive, quick, and has great service. However, the areas it serves are limited.
If you are using your iPhone 6 anywhere else in the world, go with Official iPhone Unlock. This service is insanely fast, has amazing customer service, and works with almost any carrier in any country. However, it is not quite as affordable as iPhoneIMEI.
Unlocking iPhones became popular after the second generation iPhone was released. Since iPhones used to work exclusively on AT&T, customers quickly realized the disadvantage of being stuck on a network that didn’t suit their needs.
But software unlocks haven’t worked for a long time, and the Internet is full of contradictory information about how to get an iPhone unlocked. What method works the best? What service should you use?
I’ve been using iPhones since 2008, and I’ve had a lot of experience with unlocking services over the years. In this article, I’ll try to answer the important questions as thoroughly as I can so you can make a well-informed and intelligent choice (without making the mistakes I did!)
Unlocking Method #1: Software Unlocks (Avoid these)
This method involves downloading a program that will unlock your iPhone over USB, by modifying internal software. Sometimes it involves jailbreaking; some services claim they can do it on an iPhone with vanilla iOS.
This used to work great, but Apple changed the way that iPhones are bound to network many years ago with the release of iPhone 4. So if you’re using an iPhone 6/Plus, 6S/Plus, software unlocks are useless to you, and anyone trying to sell you one is either a mad genius who will probably conquer the world someday, or a scammer (giving him money is a bad idea either way).
Unlocking Method #2: Hardware Unlocks (Rarely works; not safe)
Hardware unlocks are even more hardcore than the last method. In theory, it involves cracking open your iPhone (or more often than not, paying someone to crack it open for you) and tampering with the insides to change the way it communicates with networks.
While this can work in principle, it’s a very delicate procedure that should be done by professionals with robotic equipment in a clean room. In practice, it usually means going to a bad part of town and paying a suspicious tinkerer without any proper tools. This bargain will leave you $300 short, with a barely functional iPhone, if you’re very lucky.
More often than not, your iPhone won’t turn on again, and if it does, you can kiss your Apple warranty goodbye.
So unless you’re a daredevil who likes burning money and ruining perfectly good electronics, don’t go near hardware unlocks.
Unlocking Method #3: IMEI Unlocks (Only reliable way to unlock iPhone 6/Plus or 6S/ 6S Plus)
The last method – and the only one that’s any good – is IMEI unlocking. This method is much safer and definitely easier than messing with sketchy programs, or sketchier ‘technicians’. Apple maintains a database that stores all the information regarding your iPhone 6, including physical specifications, and a special code (the IMEI code) that determines whether the device is locked to a network.
Getting an IMEI unlock is as simple as having someone with access to that database change the status of your device, and bam! You’re unlocked. No downloads, no taking apart your phone; you don’t even have to leave your room.
This is obviously the best unlocking method to use. Not only will the unlock last for the life of your iPhone 6, but it’s by far the easiest, cheapest and safest method to use.
Choosing the best IMEI unlock service
There is always variation in the quality of service you will get from different companies, and the same is certainly true of the IMEI industry. Some services are inexpensive, but take forever. Others have great selection, but bad customer support. Some services are outright scams, and will take your money without giving you an unlock.
We’ve reviewed a number of IMEI unlocking services to spare you the trouble. But before we get into it…
My experience with unlocking
There aren’t any formal degrees for unlocking iPhones, or anything related to it, but even without credentials, there’s still a good reason to take my word on the best unlocking services: I’ve been repairing and unlocking iPhones since 2008.
Back in the day, I purchased an iPhone 3GS for the first time. Back then, all iPhones were locked to AT&T, and that sucked because I use Verizon. Furthermore, back then, AT&T had poor reception in my area, and really bad data connection. So I went online and found out about software unlocking, and going forward, I became the neighborhood iPhone-unlocker.
Years went by, and in 2011, I ruined an iPhone 4S by attempting a software unlock. Ever since then, I’ve used IMEI unlocks exclusively. With all the experience I’ve had, I can tell you just what to look for, and just what to avoid.
How this test was done
To begin a formal review of IMEI unlock services, I turned to Google, went through forums, and uncovered as many companies offering unlocks as I could. In the end, I had a little more than twenty services to choose from.
To whittle the list down further, I went to review platforms like Ripoff Report, Trustmark Reviews, and Trust Pilot for a quick survey of the most worthwhile services to review, and this brought my list down to 3.
Since my personal iPhone 6 is already unlocked, I got in touch with my readers and friends to find anyone with a locked iPhone 6/Plus, 6S/Plus. I ended up with about 54 replies. I then picked 9 devices at random; one of every device for each use scenario:
- Contract ended, bill paid off
- On contract, bill paid off
- On contract with outstanding fees
Then I went on to rigorously test each unlocking service, as I’ll explain below.
IMEI service rating criteria
The companies we tested were judged based on these six criteria:
There are just too many carriers for every unlocking service to work on. Some services work primarily with North American carriers (Sprint, AT&T, Telus) but none in Australia (Telstra, Vodaphone, Optus). Others have great range in the U.K (Orange, T-Mobile, O2), but won’t work in Japan (Softbank, KDDI). We gave a provider better points for a bigger range of carriers and countries.
Prices vary wildly among unlock providers. There are inexpensive services, while others cost a fortune. Obviously, price is a factor that has to be balanced by other important factors, like speed, success rates and customer service.
#3: Methods of payment
Even the best and least expensive unlock provider won’t do you much good if it only accepts Bitcoin or money wires. Unlocking services need to be accessible, so we gave higher points to the services that accept common payment methods like credit card.
#4: Customer support
Whether or not your unlock goes off without a hitch, the ability to communicate with a company is important. Sometimes you may need to inquire about the status of an unlock, change important information, or submit a special request. Doing this is very hard with a slow, unreceptive or even downright rude support team, so we gave higher points to companies with the best customer service.
#5: Success rate
This might seem like a given – there’s absolutely no point dealing with a company that won’t be able to give you the very thing you ordered. But even good companies may occasionally miss a beat, and out of the 9 iPhones we tested, three weren’t unlocked right away (two remained unlocked after further inquiry). We gave higher points to companies that got it right the first time.
Waiting three weeks for an unlock is not fun (believe me, I’ve done it). You want what you paid for reasonably soon after you paid for it. As such, faster services get higher points.
Top Three IMEI Unlocking Services for the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S or 6S Plus
We tested the services on our list, gathered data, and tried again for a week before making notes, and drawing conclusions.
Here are the results:
1. iPhoneIMEI – 94/100 (Best within the U.K, USA or Canda)
iPhoneIMEI is my top recommendation for iPhone 6 unlocking service. If I was asked to say in a word ‘why’, the reason is simple: they got the job done! That may seem like a very low bar, but truthfully, very few services are as reliable as this one, and iPhoneIMEI pulled through in all our repeat tests.
Besides delivering on its promises, this service got several things right that boosted it to the top of our list.
Benefits: I have to reiterate just how reliable this service is. Not once did iPhoneIMEI delay in unlocking our phones. The delivery time and rate of success reminded us of ordering something through Amazon Prime. This is actually a fairly amazing quality when you’ve been unlocking iPhones for many years.
Second, this service has very reasonable prices. Notice that I said ‘reasonable’, and not ‘cheap’. This service is the cheapest we reviewed, but starting at $29.90 may not strike you as very affordable. Nevertheless, in this industry, anything cheaper is generally highly suspect, and even if you can get an unlock at that price, you will never get one at this quality and speed.
Finally, support is excellent. We made sure to email this company a few times. Before the sale, support got back to us after 2 hours and 21 minutes. After the sale, before the unlock was processed, we got a question answered in 3 hours and 7 minutes. After the sale and after the unlock, an answer came after after 3 hours and 15 minutes. Not only is this an exceptional response time, but the representatives we communicated with used good English, and were very polite.
Downsides: Alas, iPhoneIMEI does not have global availability. If you don’t live in the U.K, USA or Canada, you’re out of luck, and you’ll have to go somewhere else. If you’re living in those regions, however, you just won’t get a better deal on unlocking your iPhone 6.
Conclusion: iPhoneIMEI tops my list because they’ll give you what you asked for fast, at a great price, and communicate in a friendly and timely manner. This company is the archetype of what you want in an unlocking service, and most can’t compare.
If you plan on unlocking your iPhone 6/Plus or 6S/6S Plus, and live inside the U.K, USA or Canada, visit iPhoneIMEI to get the job done
2. Official iPhone Unlock 89/100 (Best outside the U.K, USA or Canada)
Our second choice is Official iPhone Unlock. Like the first choice on our list, this service got all our iPhones unlocked, and there were no failures or second takes (very good!). Nevertheless, it is behind iPhoneIMEI in a few areas.
Let’s start with something that sets this service apart: Official iPhone Unlock has an unparalleled range of networks. We made sure to test this service against a phone in Panama, and in Japan, and both were unlocked without a hitch. This confirms to us that claims about broad access are well-founded.
Second, this company actually has phone support in addition to email. Before the sale, we decided to try calling, and we were on the line with an agent after six minutes, which is quite reasonable. Our questions after the sale (both before and after the unlock was processed) were similarly answered quickly, both under three hours of waiting.
Finally, this company processes orders fast. All the iPhones we tested were unlocked within 72 hours, and two were processed same day! That’s just crazy. We have to give credit where credit’s due.
Downsides: First of all, this service is expensive enough to bring down its rank. It won’t run you out of house and home, but an unlock from this company will cost about 20% more than an unlock from iPhoneIMEI.
Second, and weirdly enough, this company processes everything in British Pounds! Now that makes sense for a British company, but it is a little odd that the most international company on our list also happens to be difficult for anyone living outside the U.K to use.
Now don’t get us wrong. You’ll be able to pay with other currencies, but unless you do happen to live in the U.K, you won’t have a perfectly clear idea what you’re paying unless you manually do the conversions, or use a payment processor to do the conversion for you. Either way, it was enough of a hassle to bring down the score.
Conclusion: In the end, you certainly won’t regret going with Official iPhone Unlock. You’re still getting an unlock very quickly and reliably, no matter where you live in the world, and that’s quite comforting.
If you live outside the U.K, USA or Canada, visit Official iPhone Unlock today.
#3. IMEI Codes (44/100 – A bit…problematic)
IMEI codes falls way behind the curb left by the services higher on our list; so much so in fact, that I can’t help wondering if the favorable reviews we encountered were fabricated. We had problems with all three unlocks from this company, and in the end, they only unlocked one iPhone successfully. Thankfully we got our money back on the rest.
Benefits: I won’t mince words, there isn’t much to be said here. The benefit is that IMEI Codes successfully unlocked a single iPhone, and that could easily be construed as a backhanded compliment.
Luckily, we did get a refund on the two other phones, and I suppose that sounds like a backhanded compliment as well. But believe me, there are plenty of services that wouldn’t go that far, so I am thanking my lucky stars.
Downsides: To begin with, IMEI Codes is overpriced. Compared with the prices we paid for iPhoneIMEI, this service was 70% more expensive, and that’s pretty rich considering the fact that they were only 33% successful!
Second, the customer support team is lazy and unreliable. I am actually disappointed to report this, because before the sale, we heard back from IMEI Codes promptly. Afterwards, correspondence sometimes took longer than a day, and emails were written in very poor English. Clearly the priority here is making a sale, not in customer satisfaction.
Conclusion: If there’s a very good reason you can’t use iPhoneIMEI or Official iPhone Unlock, this might be a last resort, but steer clear for the most part. Remember what I said about hardware unlocking? According to the numbers, that would be almost as effective, and at least you might have some fun dealing with shady characters that way.
Check out IMEI Codes, if you really want to.
Three methods exist for unlocking an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.
- Software unlocks, which are a scam when it comes to the iPhone 6
- Hardware unlocks for the iPhone 6 can sometimes work, but they are expensive, dangerous, and ruin your warranty in every case
- IMEI unlocking is the one reliable way to permanently unlock an iPhone 6 without ruining your warranty
Out of 12 IMEI unlocking services that come highly recommended, we reviewed 3 in detail, and concluded that:
If you live within the U.K, USA or Canada, you should use iPhoneIMEI. Again, this service has a limited selection of carriers, but it’s quick, inexpensive, and very reliable. Using them is a no-brainer if you live in the right place.
If you live absolutely anywhere else, you should use Official iPhone Unlock. It’s a bit pricier, but the range of international support is frankly astonishing, and it’s both fast and reliable. Definitely go with them if you can’t use iPhoneIMEI.
Enjoy your newfound freedom!