Ask LH: Can I Switch My Phone To Another Network?

Dear Lifehacker, Last year, I received a Samsung Galaxy smartphone while on a Telstra contract. My question is, can I use it with an Optus SIM card, or do I have to buy a completely new phone? Thanks, Simple Simon

Photo: Samsung

Dear SS,

If the phone was purchased on a pre-paid plan it will likely be locked to that network. This means you can't simply swap out the SIM card if you want to change telco providers. (This is one of the main advantages of purchasing a factory unlocked phone outright.)

Australian telcos will manually unlock out-of-contract phones on request, although this typically incurs a fee to the user. Here are the steps involved for Telstra phones, as explained on the company's support page:

To unlock your mobile for use on other networks, you may need to pay an unlocking fee of $50, $100 or $150 (depending on the phone's model).   To unlock your Pre-Paid Mobile, or check your unlocking fee, follow the steps below:   Step 1: Press * # 0 6 # on your mobile, and write down the code that's shown. This is your phone's IMEI number.   Step 2: Contact the Telstra Pre-Paid Unlocking Centre direct on 1300 720 179, or call 125 8880 and follow the prompts. You can pay by Credit or Debit Card, or using your Pre-Paid main account balance (not including bonus credit).   Step 3: You'll be asked for your phone's IMEI code and will then be advised of the unlock fee and payment instructions.   Step 4: Once payment is completed you will be advised of unlocking instructions.   If you don't have a Credit or Debit Card or don't wish to pay using your account balance, please visit your nearest Telstra Store to unlock your mobile.

If your phone was purchased on a post-paid plan, it may already be unlocked. (To the best of our knowledge, the only models locked to the Telstra network are iPhones and pre-paid handsets.)

The easiest way to test this is to borrow a non-Telstra SIM card from a friend or family member and inserting it into your phone. If the phone is unlocked, a new network name will appear in the status bar and your phone will be ready to use. If it is locked, you’ll get a pop-up error asking you to insert a valid SIM card. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.


Comments

    For reference, phones from the other two networks can be unlocked at:

    Vodafone: www.vodafone.com.au/unlock

    Optus: https://secure-unlock.com.au/ou/instructions

    As an alternative, there are many unlocking services on ebay, where you pay a small fee ($1-$3) and provide your IMEI via message to the seller. They send back instructions & codes.

    iPhones are locked, but can be unlocked for free (provided they are post paid)
    Goto unlock.telstra.com to unlock your iphone or ipad.

    Good luck.

    I just never, ever buy phones on contract anymore. No matter what.

    If there's any kind of lock between me and a Telco (contract, phone locking) I'll discard that as an option to consider immediately.

    I think something that wasn't mentioned was that you have to ensure that the phone will work on the frequency of your new network, it's not so much of an issue as it was before but you still want to double check. Or, it might work but only the 4G bands match up or only the 3G etc.

Join the discussion!