Somewhere beginning of last year, I purchased an iPhone 3G in India. At the time, the only options available were to either get an iphone locked to Airtel or to Vodafone. Now, none of these carriers were offering a deal. There was no lucrative plan, no discount – So you were saddled with a carrier for one year without any benefits except the ability to own an iphone.
So I got myself an iPhone locked to Airtel. At the time of taking the connection, I asked about the unlocking procedure after the completion of one year; to which the sales representative replied: It will auto-unlock in one year.
Well may be I was too gullible, but when I moved to Singapore, it did not strike me to check whether the phone was unlocked. I arrived in Singapore, and happily inserted a sim from 7-11 into my iphone – to get the rudest shock of relocation. My phone was still locked to Airtel and rejected this sim as Invalid! My first reaction was to rush off to the nearest Singtel store and buy an iPhone4, but providence saved me, as the store did not have the model I wanted. I know that iPhone5 is expected next month, and buying a model an year old is nothing short of foolishness. But to live without an iPhone till the next model arrives. Unimaginable!
So here’s what I did. I shot off a mail to Airtel Customer care, requesting for a remote unlock. After about 4 days, I got a mail asking for some specifics regarding my model, which I promptly provided. Silence, for another 7 days. I could bear it no longer, and searched for ways to expedite. On twitter, I found Airtel_Presence – the twitter channel to reach Airtel’s customer care. And I have to say they were responsive, at least far more than the official contact given otherwise. After two days, they responded (on twitter) saying that my phone is unlocked. I inserted the new sim again, expecting a ‘Voila’ moment, only to see some more invalid sim flashed on the phone.
After a few unhelpful calls with Airtel (who suggested that perhaps my sim was not good enough, etc), and after some unsuccessful internet searches, I called up the Apple helpline, who told me that my phone still showed as locked to Airtel in their database. So after confirming with the carrier that my phone was indeed unlocked from their end, I had to restore my iphone to factory settings using itunes. I inserted the new sim, and restored my phone using itunes and finally – the Voila I had been waiting for!
So if you have bought an iphone in India with a carrier, you must:
- Check with the carrier how long is your phone locked.
- If there are no benefits in price, you must request an immediate unlock, and once the carrier confirms this, restore your phone to factory settings and check with a different sim not belonging to the carrier to ensure your phone is unlocked
- If you find yourself outside the country, unable to visit the carrier to get the phone unlocked, mail their customer service ID (no point calling as most of the tele-callers will be unable to help with the technical issues) and request for an unlock. Constantly follow up – else they will take a long time to resolve the issue.
- In case any of the above does not work, call Apple helplines, which are very responsive, and can tell you the right solution depending on your phone’s serial number.
- If nothing works, well you can always go and do a hack unlock (for which there will be several guides available on the internet), but that is not something I suggest. Other than the fact that it is illegal, you end up losing warranty, have trouble doing OS upgrades (you will have to jailbreak everytime you want to upgrade)