I bought an iPhone 5s and gifted it to a friend abroad without opening it and activating it. I was wondering if it's possible for that friend to unlock the iPhone without having to activate it with the original carrier sim card since he doesn't have that sim, and can't get it in his country.

3 Answers 3


No. A factory unlock feeds the unlock status to the collective database that iTunes or the device polls when it does the activation.

Once the carrier has confirmed unlock status (or Apple feeds the unlock status to the carriers when you buy an iPhone factory unlocked out of the box) - the next restore event will alert you that the device is now unlocked.

In the case of a third party unlock - again, as long as the device sees that it is whitelisted when activation time happens, it doesn't matter who caused your phone's device ID to be cleared - just that it matches perfectly for the unlock to succeed.

  • The thing is that I am not unlocking through the carrier, I am using some website off the internet to unlock.
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 18:47
  • That doesn't really matter technically. In the end, someone is interfacing with the carrier database. Whether they do it for entertainment, pay on the side, part of their job - in the end, iOS only cares if the device you have is white listed in that database when it comes time to self-activate. Long term, if the carriers undo the work the internet website does - your device will become locked again. I haven't heard of widespread rollbacks, but you know the carriers can easily detect which records they added and which ones came from the grey/black market.
    – bmike
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 18:51
  • Ok, just to confirm then, I can safely unlock and then activate to any carrier once I have received confirmation from the service ?
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 18:54
  • Yes - worst case you need to connect to iTunes and restore the firmware and carrier settings for your new carrier, but the presence or absence of the "correct" carrier SIM is irrelevant to your activation and unlock being successful.
    – bmike
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 18:55

I have been battling for two months now on this problem.

I bought an iPhone from someone in the United States, I am in South Africa - but he sent it to me without the original SIM-card. There is nothing I can do - I have called ATT and they say that the only way I can unlock the phone is if I have the original SIM.

I have confirmation that the phone is 'whitelisted'. I have the email saying all the "congratulations" etc., but the 3rd bullet says

Ensure that the original SIM-card is in the phone to be able to unlock with iTunes.

This really really sucks. Oh and one more thing - because I am not the original owner they will not give me a solution or further details.

  • Wow. That would be new if the unlock is tied to a specific ICCID (the serial number for each SIM)
    – bmike
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 21:38
  • Yip - that is just it - direct from att: "Thank you for providing the information. Based on this it looks like the previous owner did not complete the entire process. Yes the Iphone was approved for the unlock process and once that portion is done you have to tether the device to Itunes with the original sim card to complete the process for the phone to be fully unlock then you are able to put a sim card from another provider. The process has to be fully completed before the device can be used with different provider."
    – ashley
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 12:50
  • I was able to activate the iPhone later after an official unlock from the carrier without using the original sim card. I'm now sure if there is any different between the phones, but try factory restore the phone and that should hopefully work.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 22:43

I ended up buying the unlock service even though I didn't have the original sim card. Fortunately the unlock service wasn't able to unlock the iPhone 5S so they refunded me my money. I ended up going to the mobile operator and explaining my case, and even though I was on contract and had recently bought the phone, they agreed to unlock it. I might've been lucky or it might've been some new law against locking the new iPhones, however the person in the other country was able to activate the iPhone after the unlocking without the original sim card.

The carrier the iPhone was locked to was Telenor and was based in Sweden.

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