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Understand iPhone Sim Lock Status, Jailbreak, Baseband and Factory Unlock

Updated on August 28, 2017
amuno profile image

Alfred is a long-time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

Locked and Factory Unlocked iPhone

Apple iPhones sell in two states:

  • iPhone locked to Apple's carrier partners, or
  • Factory Unlocked iPhone.

A locked iPhone means that it can only function with one sim from a telecom company like AT & T or Verizon in USA. The idea is that the user enters into agreement with the network of choice to pay for the iPhone in a period of up to two years. The starting price for a new locked iPhone is as low as $99.00.

The factory unlocked iPhone comes open to all networks and is rather pricey. A fully unlocked or lock-free iPhone 5 - 16 GB model goes for $699.00.

iPhone Sim Lock Status

iPhone unlock is the process of modifying the iPhone Operating System (IOS) so that it accepts sim cards from carrier networks other than where it was acquired.

Unlocking then allows you to place the sim card of your choice in the iPhone, thereby by-passing sim card restrictions. This is important when you travel overseas and still want to carry your iPhone along. Your network carrier at home is not normally supported overseas.

An iPhone can be unlocked using hardware or software hacks. Most hardware solutions rotate around the popular tool called Gevey Sim, whereas most software unlock solutions are achieved through Ultrasnow.

If you want to unlock your carrier locked iPhone, you normally have to first jailbreak it or have it unlocked officially by your network carrier: AT&T and other online stores offer IMEI based iPhone unlock solutions with or without contract agreements.

You can save yourself lots of headache by purchasing an unlocked iPhone from Apple stores.

iPhone Jailbreak

Jailbreaking is the installation of third party modification codes onto the iPhone Operating System firmware. This modification allows iPhone users to customize the phone to your liking without the restrictions that come with the factory operating system installed by Apple.

Apple allows installation of vetted software only through iTunes. Jailbreaking on the other hand allows you to install other software through Cydia, which boasts of collections of third party repositories. These repositories host many themes and tweaks apps.

If you seriously want to jailbreak your iPhone you should first ensure that you know what you are doing. Before you do anything crazy, find out if your iPhone is factory unlocked or not.

The process of jailbreaking is always smooth, save for headache here and there, but accidental update of the baseband may breed even more headache.

iPhone Baseband and Baseband Hacks

Baseband is iPhone modem hardware which runs a special type of software (or firmware) and is commonly identified as 04.12.01 or 04.10.01. iPhone baseband is found in iPhone 4S and older versions of Apple smartphones.

Baseband version is very important when it comes to a successful jailbreak and unlock. Before digging into jailbreaking make sure that the baseband in your iPhone is unlockable.

You should find out the unlock option and procedure that are possible with your handset. To find out your baseband tap Settings, General, About, and when you scroll to the bottom you will see the digits after Modem Firmware.

Below is a list of some of the more popular iphone basebands:

  • 01.59.00
  • 02.10.04
  • 04.11.08
  • 2.0.10
  • 04.12.01

iPhone baseband upgrade in progress
iPhone baseband upgrade in progress

Why Jailbreak or Sim Unlock iPhone?

Every new iPhone from Apple carrier partners comes ready to halt new iPhone jailbreak and iPhone unlock exploits and therefore make all existing exploits useless.

Apple does this by upgrading signatures in the new IOS and iPhone baseband firmware. But over time new exploits come to the surface as iPhone Dev Team and Chronic Dev Team, always just manage to hatch out new exploits.

Consequently, iPhone jailbreak and iPhone unlock will for the foreseeable future remain a battle ground between Apple and the ever expanding network of jailbreakers and unlockers.

The purpose of jailbreaking and unlocking the iPhone is to allow third party apps and sim cards from other network carriers to work in iPhones. The two concepts have been around since the first iPhone was launched in 2007.

Much as iPhone jailbreak and unlock features have been with us for quite some time, many users are still confused about the little details regarding the two terms and the steps taken to implement them.

iPhone unlock is still unclear to many especially after jailbreak users lose network status following an update of the IOS firmware.

By updating the IOS, Apple's intention is to add new patches, new features and of course update the baseband. An unprotected baseband in a jailbroken iPhone throws it back to a locked status. This can make your iPhone unlockable for some good months, depending on what baseband your phone has been upgraded to. Notorious basebands in the market today include: 04.11.08 and 04.12.01. These remain unlock-able until today.

Before unlocking and/or jailbreaking you need to know the lock status of your iPhone. If you bought your phone formally and have a receipt, you probably know its state. But if you bought your phone used, you probably do not know its status.

The simplest way to find out the lock status is by calling Apple and giving them your iPhone IMEI. To find out your IMEI, simply type *#06# in your iPhone phone app. Apple should help you identify your satus. Other sites include, IMEI.info, www.dev.mk.

When you have found out your status you are know good to go. Continue reading...

Firmware and baseband version of iPhone
Firmware and baseband version of iPhone

Locked iPhone

If your iPhone is locked, you must first find out its baseband (BB) and firmware status.

Firmware is more like hard software. It is the software that sits between hardware and software and monitors basic operations. Apple releases periodic firmware updates to patch bugs and security breaches. Firmware is referred to as Version and is identified by strings like: 5.1. (see image)

Baseband is like a nickname given to the firmware code that handles voice and data. It is referred to as Modem Version identified by strings like: 04.10.01. (see image)

An extensive list of basebands available here.

In the list above, BB 01.59.00 can be unlocked via software called Ultrasnow. This baseband initially shipped with iPhone 4 (GSM) The rest of the basebands and especially 04.11.08 cannot be unlocked via Ultrasnow.

Gevey Sim to unlock iPhone
Gevey Sim to unlock iPhone

Unlocking New iPhone Baseband

Below are the options mentioned above and other unlocking solutions for the iPhone:

1. Gevey Sim:

Gevey sim is hardware based unlock solution. The Gevey sim sits between your new sim card and baseband hardware on your iPhone. Gevey unlocks 02.10.04 & 03.10.01 basebands.

How Gevey works

2. Ultrasnow

Ultrasnow works with 01.59.00 and older basebands: 04.26.08, 05.11.07, 05.13.01, 05.12.01, 06.15.00, to unlock iPhone.

How Ultrasnow works

3. IMEI: A number of websites claim they will unlock your iPhone at a modest fee. All you have to do is give them your IMEI number and the rest will be done for you. A word of caution here is that scummers are everywhere and be very cautious and sure before letting go your money.

An example of a website that unlocks using IMEI

4. AT&T

AT&T customer who has completed the two year contract can get his/her iPhone unlocked officially.

5. SAM

SAM unlock became available in the last week of April 2012, but it has since ceased to work.

Read about SAM unlock here.

Do not Upgrade iPhone Baseband

If you unlock your iPhone always take care whenever updating to newer firmware. New firmware installations always upgrade your baseband. This is okay if your iPhone is factory unlocked or you are still on the original network carrier. If not and you upgrade without insight, your jailbroken iPhone will lose network after the update.

To avoid this nightmare, always use your jailbreaking software to update, and always ensure you preserve the baseband in the process.Redsnow can help preserve baseband during updating and jailbreaking.

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    • profile image

      andrew 4 years ago

      get factory unlocks from these guys http://www.unlockscodes.com/

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 4 years ago from Kampala

      Hello Aastyre. At the moment there is actually no jailbreak for IOS 6.0 and above for owners of IPhone 4S and 5. You can however opt to upgrade to the clean IOS 6.1

      Read here for more info: https://hubpages.com/technology/How-to-jailbreak-a...

    • profile image

      aastyre99 4 years ago

      If i have a factory unlocked iphone 4s version 5.1.1 , and I jail breaked it, so will I be able then to update to version 6.0.1 ?

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      Sajapul, once your iPhone has been unlocked officially, you are free to do what you want with it. Your unlock status will remain whatever you do with it.

    • profile image

      Sapajul 5 years ago

      I have and iphone unlocked by AT&T and i want to know if i would be encountering and issues or may lose the unlocking by doing a jailbreak.

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      It is not very easy to know that an iPhone is factory unlocked unless it is accompanied with a validating receipt.

      However, a call to Apple support staff can help verify this. Of course you should have the iPhone IMEI noted down, which you will give them.

      A jail broken iPhone normally has Cydia and other third party non Apple Store apps installed in it. A factory unlocked or iPhone unlocked via gevey sim only show original apps.

      Hope this helps.

    • profile image

      ritom 5 years ago

      hi, im interested in buying a second hand i phone 4 16 gb,how i can understand that if its factory unlocked or jail break?????

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      Hello i-Plus, sorry I did not get to you soon enough. Hope you have fixed the iPhone issue by now, if not then read the simple explanation here.

      First of all the baseband you have mentioned is un-lockable via Gevey Ultra S from ApplenBerry. It will cost you over $100 and it is up to you to see if it is worth it. Check eBay for pricing and instructions. You also don’t need to jailbreak your iPhone if you do not want to.

      Secondly, if you are to jailbreak your iPhone with older un-lockable basebands, always endeavor to preserve them. As always, better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

      Third, when using Redsnow for whatever reason, always use Custom IPSW to preserve your baseband and when restoring in iTunes use the shift key so that you are able to select the custom IPSW you made with Redsnow.

      Remember, baseband 2.0.12 is the latest BB as of now and therefore can never be updated any further. Pod2G the renowned creator of Absinthe 5.1.1 jailbreak is also working on software and free unlock solution for the new basebands.

      Fourth, UnlockBoot is a new place where users are promised iPhone unlock via IMEI. The site promises to unlock anything including the stubborn iPhone BBs 4.11.08 and 4.10.1.

      And finally, I hope you also know that Apple through AT & T and selected carrier networks around the world give free unlock solutions for any one that fulfills contract agreement. If you are in good books with them, this could be your best bet! It is totally legal and sanctioned by big brother himself. Read the hub below for more info:

      https://hubpages.com/technology/How-to-Unlock-iPho...

      As always, it is important to remember that the internet is full of individuals who will do anything to scam money out of you. So tread with care when buying stuff and passing your IMEI around.

      Good luck.

    • profile image

      i-plus-i 5 years ago

      Hello amuno,

      I submitted the following questions on this hub yesterday but, somehow it dint get posted. So I'm resubmit same questions hoping that this time I might get some needed advice. Tanks again and here the questions:

      Great article but been new to these sort of things, I'm still confuse on what (and how) to do to jailbreak AND unlock my iPhone 4s.

      Here's the scenario: I have the iPhone 4s locked to Rogers (Canada) running the 5.1.1 firmware and the baseband 2.0.12. I need to unlock it so I can use different carriers sim cards. I would also like to jailbreak it for the obvious reasons. Now the questions:

      1) If I jailbreak it, let say with Redsnow, should I preserve the baseband and then unlock it or should I let Redsnow upgrade the baseband and then unlock it.

      2) If it can't be unlocked, can I jailbreak it and unlock it later when the code will be available and if so, should I preserve the baseband.

      3) When running Redsnow, should I click the Extras tab and select Custom IPSW first or jailbreak it and then go to Custom IPSW.

      4) About downgrading the firmware to 5.0.1, would that help.

      As you can see from the questions, I'm really new and confuse on these thinks and I'm hoping that you can help me to understand and achieve my goals. Thank you so much for your time

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      Hello Nivas, it is possible to know your status only if you call Apple with your IMEI. Type *#06# in your iPhone phone app to find out your IMEI.

      www.dev.mk is a website that claims to tell you more about your iPhone. If you do not fear who gets to know your IMEI then you could try them. I personally haven't used the website.

    • profile image

      Nivas 5 years ago

      How to identify or confirm whether iPhone is factory unlocked?

    • profile image

      Erik 5 years ago

      Is there an unlock for 1.0.13?

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      Did you mean 04.10.01? Yes, gevey sim unlocks the this baseband. 04.01.01 should be in Android family.

    • profile image

      k.boa 5 years ago

      does the gevey sim unlock firmware 04.01.01

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      Thanks MB. Will always be updating the info, and i hope you join the iPhone community.

    • marketingbloke profile image

      marketingbloke 5 years ago

      I don't own an iPhone but when I need to jailbreak one I know where to look now =]

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      You are quite right LocalGuy. You sometimes get goose bumps when something goes wrong with the updates or iTunes restore. But over time you kind of get used to the hiccups, and it becomes a pleasure walking through the process.

    • LocalGuy profile image

      LocalGuy 5 years ago from Breckenridge, CO

      Having an unlocked iPhone can be such a blessing and such a curse at the same time. Mainly because you have to be more mindful when you do any updates. Thanks for the informational read.

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      @Waseem, it depends on whether you own an iPhone under contract or not. Like explained above your phone can be unlocked as soon as you complete your contract with AT&T. Alternatively, google for a site that uses your IMEI to unlock your phone. They will charge a fee and remotely use your iPhone IMEI to unlock it. In the article above is a link to one of those sites. I've never used it and don't take my word for it.

    • profile image

      Waseem 5 years ago

      my Iphone modem firmware is 04.11.08, how do i unlock my iphone???