Before buying an Android Phone, you may want to check whether the Phone is Locked to a carrier. You can find below the steps to Check if Android Phone is Unlocked or Locked to a carrier.
Difference Between Unlocked and Locked Phone
In general, Android Phones that are sold by device makers like Samsung, Nexus, Xiaomi and others are sold as Factory Unlocked Android Phones.
The clear advantage of owning an Unlocked Android Phone is that it can be used with any Carrier or Network. You can use SIM card from any service provider on an unlocked Phone and it will start working.
Android Phones sold by Carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint are locked to the Network of the Carrier and cannot be used on any other network.
Most Locked Android phones are sold with a Cellular Plan and are generally locked for a period of 18 to 24 months.
After the lock-in period ends, a locked Android Phone becomes eligible for being unlocked. The unlocking can be done by the Carrier or by other Phone unlocking services.
How to Check If Android Phone is Unlocked
The easiest way to confirm whether an Android Phone is Locked or Unlocked is to remove its SIM Card and Insert a SIM Card from another Carrier into the Phone.
1. First make sure that the Phone that you are trying buy is working by making a Phone call to your current Phone Number. This will ensure that the Phone is working with the current SIM.
2. Power OFF the Android Phone > Remove its SIM card and Insert SIM card from another Carrier into the Android Phone.
3. After replacing the SIM, press the Power button to start the Phone.
4. After the Phone starts, see if you can make a Phone Call.
If the Call goes through, even after changing the SIM Card, the Phone is an Unlocked Device and it can work with any Carrier.
If the Call does not connect after changing the SIM Card, it confirms that the Phone that you are trying to buy is Locked to a Carrier.
Check Using IMEI Number
If you do not want to go through the process of changing SIM Cards, you can ask for the IMEI Number of the Android Phone and follow the steps below to check whether the Phone is Unlocked or Locked.
1. First, get the IMEI Number of the Android Phone from the Seller. Depending on the stage of the deal, most genuine sellers should have no problem providing the IMEI Number to you.
If the Seller does not know or provide IMEI number, you can refer them to this article – How to Find IMEI Number of Your Android Phone.
2. Once the IMEI is recieved, go to imei.info website using a phone or computer.
3. On the website, enter the 15 digit IMEI Number of the Android Phone into the dialog box as shown below and click on the Check button.
4. On the next screen, you will be able to see information about the Android Phone that belongs to the IMEI Number that you had just entered. Click on SIMLOCK & WARRANTY button.
5. Once the process is complete, you will get information about the network to which the phone belongs to and whether it is an Unlocked Android Phone or a Locked Phone.
After IMEI check, the website also offers unlocking service for a fee in case your Android Phone is locked.