My sister recently gave me her iPhone 7+ from T-mobile because she has switched phone companies. The only problem is she owes T-mobile for the phone but I doubt she is planning on paying off the phone anytime soon. It's still pretty new and in good condition, and I want to use it. Since she has not paid it off I know T-mobile has probably put some restrictions on it.

Would unlocking it and using a sim from a different company help or would I have to jailbreak it, which is something I don't really want to do?

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    What ever you do, your (or your sister) still legally going to have to pay. – JBis Jul 11 '18 at 23:48
  • Do you want to use it with T-MOBILE? Or Another carrier? – FreeSoftwareServers Jul 15 '18 at 17:45

I'd do neither, personally. I don't trust or like any unlocking service or jailbreaking, so I would try to check if it's carrier unlocked by this (optionally not contacting T-Mobile to ask them yet to unlock).

If it's locked, I would take the phone to a T-Mobile shop and tell them truthfully the essential facts you know:

  • An acquaintance said they couldn't afford this phone and I'd like to see if I could establish service with it. Can you help me shop for a mobile plan?

You don't have to tell them who / relationship and certainly don't speculate. If they are probing to see what else you know about the phone, don't get nervous and do be polite and deliberate. Just repeat what you told them in pretty much the exact same words and then ask if they can help you. Just keep in your mind - you're notthe previous owner and you're the owner of the device now and this is a chance for them to earn your business.

It's not their "business" if you paid for it or not and they shouldn't tell you anything about the previous owner. It is their business to help you pick out a plan and understand if it has a contract or not and propose another plan if you don't like the one they suggested initially. From some very astute comments, you should probably protect yourself with a written bill of sale if you intend to say you "own" the device. Paying a dollar and writing up a transfer keeps you from lying if you go to the store. If it doesn't work out, you can always sell it back later to the previous owner.

If you can get service in your name and avoid a contract, I'd do it. Then you can look at getting it unlocked after a month or two if you're not happy with your service in getting the phone working and with the service as a user of T-Mobile. At that point, they'll have a much harder time saying you're to be penalized as a paid up customer asking for an unlock.

Make sure that whomever signs into this iPhone doesn't keep "Find My iPhone" turned on. If the device ever gets locked and the user doesn't know the password or can't get the verification code to the account. You will be stuck with an expensive coaster that Apple won't be able to help you with. They will need the proof of purchase and that doesn't exist since only T-Mobile has that and will not give that up until the balance is due.

  • They may decline since they probably haven't sold the debt to a collector yet. They can still make some money off of it. Until that point they will not release it until they sell the debt. If you cant place another SIM card in it, or a T-Mobile/Metro PCS SIM card in it and it works, then you may be better off giving her the device back. Carriers are smart, they will lock devices if the balance is unpaid. Sometimes supported SIMs work. And then those companies will report that they wont allow you to purchase service on the device that is still owned by T-Mobile and classified as stolen. – Melvin Jefferson Jul 12 '18 at 2:08
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    You're totally right @MelvinJefferson - I've edited to get a bill of sale to my answer - please add information or remove any I posted if you can make the answer better. – bmike Jul 12 '18 at 3:05
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    Depending on jurisdiction, T-Mobile might have retained title to the phone until it has been fully paid—which could theoretically give them the right to seize and withhold it, especially on presentation of the facts you describe. – eggyal Jul 12 '18 at 5:34

I would unlock the phone. Jailbreaking doesn't = carrier unlocked.

Jailbreaking is similar to rooting an Android phone and is unrelated to unlocking carrier lock.

Note that The AT&T and T-Mobile IPhone 7 variants, only come with a GSM chip. That means you can’t use an AT&T or T-Mobile iPhone on Verizon or Sprint, since those versions don’t have CDMA chips. (You can, however, take an AT&T iPhone to T-Mobile, or vice versa).

Also note, most of the entire world uses GSM, so you should be fine in 1st world countries like Europe. I'm not sure if other countries are dominated by GSM/CDMA but it's worth researching before travelling. Eg: Most of Northern Canada is dominated by CDMA coverage only, but this is changing as well (albeit slowly).


There are many options on where to purchase an IMEI unlock code, here is what I found after a quick Google.

The #1 IMEI provider I found for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus was OfficialiPhoneUnlock


PS: Shoot your sister some cash!

How I have unlocked phones in the past (Only tested on BlackBerry and Android):

Insert foreign SIM >> If it works, phone is already unlocked!

If it asks for IMEI unlocke code you have a few options:

  • Purchase one online (I've paid as little as 1$ on Ebay for BlackBerry Code, to $30 for Android Code).
  • Call Carrier and see if they will provide the code (It may be best to have original purchaser call, or at least be available to validate) (In Canada, this has became a legal right of the consumer on day 1 to ask for the code, possibly Europe has similar laws, I don't think the US does, but state laws may vary)

Enter IMEI Code >> Phone should connect and work immediatley (Try reboot if not)

If it doesn't then what you are looking for is called APN Settings. Usually your phone will set this up for you, but if needed, you can use google or just call carrier. They should be able to provide this information even without an account.

  • A carrier unlocked phone is easier for resale and works with any SIM/Carrier when traveling internationally. I unlock my phone's regardless. – FreeSoftwareServers Jul 15 '18 at 8:10
  • How does this answer the question? – nohillside Jul 15 '18 at 8:41
  • Maybe I miss the point but how should the OP actually proceed with unlocking the phone? – nohillside Jul 15 '18 at 18:26
  • @nohillside Updated with my experience, as it's a good additional info, but I got the impression he was more looking for advice on if he should unlock the phone. – FreeSoftwareServers Jul 15 '18 at 19:44

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