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We're going to be moving to Germany in a few weeks, so I visited AT&T today and asked them to unlock our phones. They unlocked my Android device, but told me that "Apple did not give [them] the tools to unlock iPhones". I had a little shouting match, but I got nowhere.

I might be able to figure out how to jailbreak and unlock my wife's 3GS (v 4.3.5 8L1, BB 05.16.02 if that matters) but she's really hesitant to "mess with it". I'd really prefer to be able to go through official channels.

I found plenty of questions here about unlocking iPhones, but nearly all of them seem to be overrun with irrelevant answers about how other networks work. I get the impression from other web sites that AT&T is a "special case" and flatly refuses to ever unlock any iPhone, for any reason, period. Is this true? Would I have better luck talking directly to Apple? Do I have any recourse, or is this phone going to magically turn into an iPod Touch after our plane ride is over?

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I once spoke to T-Mobile and they said they had the capability to unlock AT&T iPhones. So... that's something. –  NReilingh Mar 9 '12 at 4:54
    
I'd be surprised if they did so out of the goodness of their hearts, for a competitor's customer who's moving overseas in a few weeks... –  James B Mar 9 '12 at 6:39
    
Same problem when we moved to England. As you fear, we ended up with two rather chubby iPod touches and had to buy new phones. –  Ash Mar 9 '12 at 10:36
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Some advice I have seen: sell the existing phone and buy a new one in the new country. –  GEdgar Mar 9 '12 at 13:52
    
Resale in our area kind of sucks, I don't think we'd get nearly enough for an old 3GS to pay for a new one -- and besides, after this episode we're kind of off Apple products anyway :-/ –  James B Mar 10 '12 at 18:43

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I went through the same process with a 3GS and an iPhone 4 when I moved to China last year. With two phones at stake, I many spent hours searching and tried calling and visiting stores, but no luck.

Unless something changed in the last year, it's not possible. The good news is that you can unlock it yourself.

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For my specific firmware version and baseband, I haven't found a jailbreak/unlock combo yet -- maybe I'm just having trouble picking the most recent information out of the sea of old stuff? Where do I look for this kind of thing (other than here)? –  James B Mar 10 '12 at 18:42
    
As an update, in case anyone is reading this in the far flung future of a year later, AT&T relented shortly after this answer was posted and now has an official policy of unlocking all phones (even Apple ones) for accounts that have spent a certain amount of time in good standing. –  James B Mar 26 '13 at 21:20

I'm sorry, but no chance. We moved to Germany in September and our phone are not working here. T-Mobile cannot do anything. The good thing is, that the phones you buy over here are free to use all over the world after 2 years because the companies have to release them by law. Soooo, At&T is the problem, not Apple!

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At the time this was written, AT&T wasn't unlocking phones but that has changed and he unlock process is fairly painless when you qualify. –  bmike Jul 31 '13 at 17:47

You can always use the Gevey SIM. I had one with a ATT 3G when using IOS 2.0. I bought one in Hong Kong for about 20£. I'm sure you can get one cheaper these days on ebay.

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I had a friend recommend this, but I have had trouble finding good information. We want to do as little "hacking" as possible, since this is for my wife, and she doesn't like to spend time/energy keeping up her gadgets -- she'd rather have something that "just works"... –  James B Mar 13 '12 at 15:20

Yes, I've unlocked 4 myself and helped family members and friends unlock another dozen.

The web interface is nice, but I also call them after 2 days if the unlock isn't done since most of the unlock requests are either processed rapidly or hung due to an error or mis-typing/missing entirely a digit or two. Once I get someone on the phone, the unlock usually is done the next day but I also follow their procedure and submit the web form first before bugging AT&T in person.

So, the process is straightforward andbutyou'll do well to triple check your IMEI and account details before submitting your unlock request. I've not had any issues by following the guide as published by AT&T - even when we purchased an AT&T phone second hand for a gift / spare phone while traveling internationally or for a young child to use as an iPod and occasional unlocked phone.

Here is AT&T's knowledge base on their current unlock policy:

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