I have an iPhone 6S locked to TalkTalk (a UK network) which was bought from Carphone Warehouse - a retailer so it locks to whatever network of the first sim that is inserted (TalkTalk).

Since TalkTalk sells unlocked mobiles they have no facility of unlocking it.

Note: TalkTalk is a MVNO and uses Vodafone's network.
Note: the device is not iOS activation locked.

How am I perform a carrier service unlock? And who do I go to?

  • Carphone Warehouse have some weird deal where the phone, though sold 'unlocked' will eventually lock to whatever carrier you use initially [like an old DVD player]. Your only recourse is to go to that carrier to unlock it. They really ought to know how to deal with it. Ask to be elevated to someone with a clue.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 16, 2017 at 19:07

2 Answers 2


Carrier locking uses the IMEI number to white list and black list devices. Carrier locks are performed at all the cell towers and not in a specific device. Think of this like correcting your home address with several agencies that maintain shared databases of records, you're convincing them to change their records.

Start with the carrier that you want to pay for service - have them verify that your device is eligible for service. Since you are paying them, they should be able to explain exactly why they won't service your phone. If it was an error by TalkTalk - they have the capacity to request the other carrier fix the registration records on the shared database.

Apple lists carriers that perform unlocks at: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204039

You might choose a carrier based on their ability to help you with this problem or error. You might also need a copy of the original purchase if you believe Apple or the original retailer messed up the initial setup of the IMEI for your phone.

  • It is eligibile, the sim only contract has finished. They said they don't have the facility to unlock mobiles in general. And talktalk is not listed. And you cannot ask any carrier to unlock the phone. I mean this explains how it works yet it doesn't tell me whats my next step.
    – Mark
    Apr 16, 2017 at 16:19
  • @Mark The IMEI database is just that - if their policy is to sell you a new phone instead of unlock one that should be unlocked - that's a business policy - not a "can not". There are likely hundreds of people with access and ability to unlock a device - especially if a mistake was made. You're getting a bureaucratic run around or not offering to pay then their time to perform a service. Hard to tell and different jurisdictions have different laws and policies and norms for dealing with organizations. Have you tried a offering a pint or bottle of wine to your local rep?
    – bmike
    Apr 16, 2017 at 16:34
  • Also - you don't want them to unlock mobiles in general - you want their assistance with one specific IMEI from what I can tell. They're might not be lying, but they're not helping either. Your best bet is to find someone who can help you with the carrier you choose.
    – bmike
    Apr 16, 2017 at 16:36
  • Local rep? A wine? Movies? What are you on about? This is an issue with the carrier, a persisting issue with talktalk - im not the first.
    – Mark
    Apr 16, 2017 at 16:37
  • You asked who to go to and how to unlock. You need to start with a human and get them to help you. Complaining about a carrier is just sour grapes. Unless they are breaking a law you'll need to work out how to get what you want from the people you can reasonably interact with.
    – bmike
    Apr 16, 2017 at 16:52

The only way is to get a Vodafone sim and use it for 30 days and then ask Vodafone to unlock it for you (this is what I did and it has worked for me).

The steps are analogous to what you have to if you are on giffgaff but instead, of giffgaff using O2. TalkTalk uses Vodafone (and vodafone unlocks the mobile for free.

As mentioned here

iPhones bought from giffgaff or direct from Apple do not lock iPhones bought elsewhere (e.g. Carphone Warehouse) lock to the network of the first SIM used - in the case of a giffgaff SIM that's O2.

giffgaff cannot unlock it because they didn't lock it. O2 will not unlock it, because you're not an O2 customer. To get round this, you need to become an O2 customer temporarily. Get an O2 PAYG SIM card Add £15 credit Turn mobile data off and do not use the phone for anything that will use credit Leave phone switched on for 24 hours Contact O2 to request unlocking O2 will take the £15 credit and unlock the phone When O2 confirm it's been unlocked, insert a non O2 SIM (e.g. EE/voda), and connect to itunes via USB cable Wait until you see the unlock confirmation Disconnect and restart iPhone

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