How to unlock AT&T iPhone from USA and use in India

Here is our experience on legally unlocking iPhone 4, which was bought from AT&T USA. We recently unlocked the iPhone legally and started using with Airtel in India.

unlock AT&T iPhone legally

When we moved from USA to India, one of the gadgets my wife wanted to bring was an iPhone. Just before returning to India, we bought an iPhone from AT&T in USA and paid the cancellation charges to cancel the contract with AT&T. We were of the impression that once we pay the contract cancellation charges, the phone will become ours to keep and use it how and where we want to use it.

Once we reached India, we realized that is not the case. We failed to unlock the iPhone 4 anywhere in India. After making several attempts in various ways, we gave up on unlocking iPhone. Finally, we were able to make the iPhone 4 work in India using a Gevey Ultra we imported from USA.

Even though Gevey Ultra worked reasonably well, it often required reconfiguration on the iPhone, which was a pain to do all the time.

The good days came to an end when we accidentally upgraded our iPhone 4 to the latest iOS 5.1 operating system. When iOS 5.1 was installed on iPhone, it locked out the Gevey Ultra and the Airtel SIM was no longer working. The iPhone would no longer recognize the SIM and it became another toy on our table.

Unlock iPhone 4 through AT&T

After keeping the iPhone in the shelf for several months, we heard the official announcement from AT&T about the unlocking process. We immediately called AT&T to find the reality. We were not very confident since I had called AT&T several times in the past asking for help to unlock but they refused to unlock the phone even though we said we had paid out all contract cancellation fees.

When we called this time, one of the menu options in their automated phone system was 'Press 1 if you are calling to unlock your iPhone'. That was music to our ears!

The process was very easy and simple this time. See the steps we followed which results in unlocking our AT&T iPhone:

1. Called AT&T customer service

2. Gave our original AT&T cell phone number which we used with the iPhone more than a year ago and the IMEI number of the phone.

3. AT&T representative verified the record to make sure we had paid out all contract cancellation fees. In case you did not cancel your contract but completed your 2 year contract period, that would qualify.

4. AT&T representative updated their system and recorded our request for unlocking. They suggested us to wait for an email from Apple explaining the unlocking process.

5. Within a day, we got an email from Apple asking us to do a simple process - backup the iPhone using iTunes and then restore from the backup.

6. We went to Airtel office in India, applied for a new Micro SIM to match the iPhone. Within 2 minutes, we got the new Micro Sim and it got activated within 10 minutes.

7. We came home from Airtel, connected iPhone to the computer, opened iTunes and selected "Backup iPhone".

8. Once the backup was completed, we chose "Restore from Backup".

When the phone was restored from backup, Apple pushed the unlock code to our phone which unlocked the phone permanently!

Here is the welcome message we got:

Unlock AT&T iPhone and use with Airtel in India

My wife was literally dancing because it has been more than a year she was struggling to use her iPhone 4 in India with Airtel service provider.

However, the joy did not last long. Even though the iTunes showed the phone is successfully activated, the phone was still showing "No Service" error. My wife was about to explode but I suggested her to complete the wizard in iTunes and click "Continue" until she get out of the wizard to complete the restore process.

Once we completed the restore wizard in iTunes, the phone started flashing and then it gave the moment of celebration to us with the label "Airtel" appearing in top left corner of the phone.

The one year long wait seem to have come to an end. We made couple of calls from the iPhone 4 and the unlocked iPhone 4 appears to be working great with Airtel.

We are using an iPhone 4, but I am pretty sure the same process will work for iPhone 4S. Also, even though we are using Airtel, you should be able to follow same unlock process and should be able to use your iPhone with any other service provider in India.

SIM not found error in iPhone when using Airtel micro SIM

When we received the micro Sim from Airtel, we had no patience to wait until we connect to iTunes and perform the backup and restore process suggested by Apple to complete the unlock process. We thought since we had done several backup and restore in the past, that would be enough to complete the unlock process. So, we inserted the Airtel micro sim card to the iPhone and wife started pressing everywhere on the phone in the effort to get it working. No matter what she try, the phone kept on giving various erros including SIM not found, invalid SIM, No Service etc. At some point, she even called Airtel complaining that the Sim was not activated and is giving error with the iPhone.

Finally, it all turned out that following correct process solved the problem. Once we backed up the iPhone and restored from backup as suggested by Apple, the iPhone started working perfectly with Airtel in India.

If the above steps did not work, you may try the following phone unlocking services. GSM Unlock Labs offers affordable unlocking services for iPhone.

Article by Tony John
Tony John is a professional blogger from India, who started his first Weblog in 1998 at Tony switched to blogging as a passion blended business in the year 2000 and currently operates several popular web properties including,, and many more.

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Guest Author: Prasad03 Jul 2012

Thanks for this article and explaining how to unlock iPhone.

Guest Author: katrina07 Jul 2012

Thanks. I already received an email from AT&T with the instructions to backup and restore iphone thru iTunes. However, after doing that several times, that message with the "congratulations, you're iPhone has been unlocked" hasn't appeared. When I inserted my local sim, it says SIM not found or invalid SIM. I tried to insert that sim to my other phones and it's working perfectly fine.
Did you backup and restore with your Airtel sim inserted on iPhone? i do not know what i am doing wrong.

Guest Author: katrina07 Jul 2012

After restoring, it just says, "The settings of your iPhone have been restored. Blah, blah..."

Author: Tony John07 Jul 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2

Even I had to do it few times because I did not have an Airtel SIM when I started doing it. After I purchased the micro SIM from Airtel, it worked on the first try. Yes, I tried back up and restore keeping the Airtel SIM inserted in the iPhone.

I just did the same steps for a friend of mine and the iPhone was unlocked on the first try itself.

By the way, the unlocking instructions for the iPhone should come from Apple and not AT&T.

Guest Author: Peterson09 Jul 2012

I bought iPhone in the US, but when I reached herein India it was not working. I tried to contact its customer care, it seems no exact response and no solution. I had to go to iPhone service center for further enquiry. Finally, I got it done, now I got this article with co-incident which helped me a lot.

Thanks. Appreciate it.

Guest Author: Shakul12 Oct 2012

Dear sir,

Did you use that iPhone with the original AT&T SIM in it?

Author: Tony John12 Oct 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 1


I did not use the iPhone with AT&T SIM card in it but I am pretty sure it will work. But what is going to happen is, you will paying AT&T for international roaming, which will be a pretty big amount.

Guest Author: Shkaul13 Oct 2012

Dear tony,

I would be glad if you could check this link posted by me :;_ylt=AuGkOJsCAgh_uJZ5.r0ugpcazKIX;_ylv=3?qid=20121012123534AAoDEnm

Extra info : The iPhone is to be working in India.

Guest Author: shakul23 Oct 2012

Please help me factory unlock my phone in India

Guest Author: Mahrukh11 Nov 2012

How much cancellation charges have to be paid for the contract cancellation?
And how much time does the process take to complete ?
Will it work with and iphone5 too ?

Guest Author: kothilphun21 Nov 2012

What is the unlocking price of iPhone 5 in India?

Author: Tony John21 Nov 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 0


I doubt if there is any iPhone 5 unlock option available in India yet. I will update if I find anything.

Guest Author: Sachin29 Nov 2012

Calling up AT&T did not give me an automated option for unlocking the iPhone. Is there any specific number you called up? I tried the technical support listed in

Guest Author: Sudarshan29 Nov 2012

Hi All,

This is Sudarshan. I really need an expert advice in buying an iPhone from USA and use in India. One of my friend is coming from US in 15 days time. I wanted to ask him to get me an iPhone 5.

When I asked the price he said $850. It's pretty costly I felt. When I check the iPhone store AT&T locked phone is only $200. So I am planning to tell my friend to buy the AT&T locked phone, which will come in my budget. And get it unlock it here in Bangalore.

What do you feel about this deal? Unlocking cost only 1000rs in India. So is there any disadvantages by doing this?

Author: Tony John29 Nov 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 5


Your approach will not work out. The AT&T iPhone from USA is not only locked, it comes with a 2-year contract as well. This means, when your friend buys that phone from AT&T, he is making a commitment that he will use AT&T phone services for next 2 years. To come out of that contract, he will have to pay a lot of money, which will be almost equal to the price of buying an unlocked iPhone. The savings will be very less - may be some $100 or so.

By the way, what is you suggested is exactly what I did when I moved from USA to India. I bought an AT&T iPhone at $200 or so, used it for a month paying 1 month data charges of $85, then got out of contract by paying a good amount of money. And I had a tough time getting it unlocked reliably in India.

Guest Author: Sudarshan29 Nov 2012

Hi Tony John,

Thank you for your reply. I Still have a question what if I break the contract of AT&T. I say to them I will stay for 2 years. But I will come back to India without any intimation to them. After that here I will unlock it and use it.
Probably I may not be able to update the new version software, but still its ok for me to use the existing software.

What do you say? Or if you have any other option, please let me know.

Guest Author: Sudarshan29 Nov 2012

Hi Tony John,

Thank you for your reply. I Still have a question what if i break the contract of AT&T. i say to them i will stay for 2 years. but i will come back to india with out any intimation to them. after that here i will unlock it and use it..
Probably i may not be able to update the new version software, but still its ok for me to use the existing software.

What do u say? or if you have any other option pls let me know?

Author: Tony John29 Nov 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 5


In USA, if you break a contract and walk away without paying the contract breaking charges, you will end up having some nasty remarks in your Credit History. In future, you may not be able to apply for a credit card, buy a house or get a car in USA. If you have absolutely no plans to return to USA, you may be escaped from these penalties. Also, if you do not have a social security number in US, you may be able to get rid of the bad credit appearing in your history since the credit history is on the SSN.

However, in future, if something happens to your phone, you may not be able to get any support. In my case, my iPhone from USA became completely useless when I accidentally ran the software update. I could not get it back to life without help from AT&T. Luckily, I had paid all contract breaking fees and so they helped me restore it.

Guest Author: Sudarshan29 Nov 2012

Hi Tony John,

Thank you very much for your email. I am decided not to buy a phone from USA. instead buy it here though its bit costly and be in a safer zone.

Once again thank you very much.

Guest Author: Dinesh14 Dec 2012

Hi Tony John,

This post was really useful. I completed my ATT contract for iPhone4 and also received the mail from ATT to backup and restore in iTunes. But, the ATT sim in the phone is deactivated now and I gave the phone to my family in India. When I try to restore with the same ATT sim, it displays No Service at the top and also the restore process stops at a certain point and is not progressing. So the restore process is not getting completed. I still have the iOS 5.1.1 version. I am not sure if the old iOS or inactive sim or any other reason for the problem. And, one more question is, do we need to sign in with our Apple ID (created for United States - iTunes) while doing this process? Please advice. Thanks in advance.

Guest Author: Mukundan16 Dec 2012

Hi All,

No more tough time to get unlock code for AT&T iphone which also includes iphone 5. Anything related to unlocking your iphone any carrier and specialist in AT&T can contact 100% safe, fast and reliable.


Author: Tony John16 Dec 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2


You do not need to use the original AT&T SIM from USA. Try with any other SIM in it. It should work. And it is not required to use the same iTunes account. As long as you have a valid iTunes account and your phone is connected to it, you are good to go.

Guest Author: Kishore17 Jan 2013

Hi, i have bought the iphone from others and as per them the phone is unlocked by AT&T. Now when i tried to use airtel sim, it say no service or sometimes sim failure.

I have checked site and observed the phone is unlocked but still it is not working in India.

Please help me...regarding this

Guest Author: Ravin26 Mar 2013

I have iphone 3 from u.s. i have unlocked and started using it here.But when i updated the software it cannot be and when i restored it cannot be now what to do??

Guest Author: utkarsh jaiswal04 Apr 2013

What are the cancellation charges? Is it the remaining contract term amount or there is some specified amount that have to paid?

Guest Author: tanmay16 May 2013

The same thing happend to me too, my friend gave iPhone from USA, I was using it with Gevey unlock chip for last 1 year. Now I updated the phone, and it is going locked.

I don't know how he was using it there, even whether he gave extra charge for using it in India or not.

Kindly help me what to do with this iPhone? Whether I throw it in dustbin or there is some chance to restore it?

Author: Tony John16 May 2013 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3


Check with your friend if has any contract in USA for the phone. If there is no contract or if he has paid off the compensation amount, then you should be able to get it legally unlocked. Otherwise, your options are probably limited to go for a paid unlocking service.

Guest Author: karan22 Aug 2013

Hi, I am having iphone 4S that was bought from USA AT&T. Actually it was a gift presented, so not having any idea about the payment options that was done. Currently i am using it with Gevey Sim. But now i am planning to upgrade the OS, but then gevey sim wont help. I want to get it unlock. I went through the steps mentioned. Which AT&T no should be contacted in this case, and i am not having any AT&T sim no. with me. It will be a great help if anyone can help me out with this. Thanks and advance..

Guest Author: vikas28 Aug 2013

Does unlocking an AT&T iphone create any problems to the purchaser who purchased his/her phone in USA. It is my brother who bought on his name in USA sending to INDIA to unlock here and use it. Does it work here? I heard I cannot download applications and cannot update. I am dumb in this subject. Read above seems you gone through all the mess while you were unlocking. So, please enlighten me regarding this issue.

Guest Author: Karan28 Aug 2013

Hi Vikas .. I Have recently got my iPhone 4S unlocked .. Bought from US.. Now able to upgrade my os.. Was earlier using it with gevey sim in India and started facing many issues recently as I was not able to upgrade te OS.. Since I was not able to get it done by myself reading the comments here, I came across a guy who did it for a very reasonable rate for me . And was easily able to new iOS :)

Guest Author: Ayush22 Dec 2013

I have an unlocked iphone 4 bought from US , it shows no service for couple of minutes (for around 10 mins) when I move from one place to another (say 50 km). Can anyone please tell me what might be the issue?

Guest Author: pramod KUMAR27 Dec 2013

You might have some hardware problems. For unlocking the iPhone, do you used Gevey?

Guest Author: Rajdeep26 Feb 2014

I've iPad mini from US. How to unlock it?

Author: Tony John28 Feb 2014 Member Level: Gold   Points : 0


iPads are usually not locked to the provider. Did you try to use the iPad Mini from USA in India? Are you experiencing any problems in using it in India?

Guest Author: Sunil04 May 2014

Are you still able to use the iPhone you brought from USA? What happens when you upgrade the iOS to new versions? Does it get locked again and do you need to jailbreak after each iOS update?

Guest Author: johnson24 Aug 2014
To unlock your iPhone visit this site...

Guest Author: Atif14 Sep 2014

This website is also good for unlocking all iphone models

Guest Author: Venky07 Oct 2014

Now, the iPhone 6 costs similar. $199 for the 16 GB version. On AT&T, the early contract termination fee is $325. If we cancel the contract after 14 days, we need not return the phone. Can this be done? If yes, how? Because it costs only around $550 this way. Please answer as soon as possible.

Guest Author: Rohith26 Dec 2014

Thank you Tony John, it helped me to unlock the iPhone I brought from USA. I followed your procedure and it helped me a lot. I am so happy.

Guest Author: Mohan15 Mar 2015

I need to setup a Abroad 5c phone But when I put Indian SIM means Vodofone, Docomo & Airtel it will show "invalid Sim, Try another SIM". Please suggest what to do.

Guest Author: raghu15 Mar 2015

I bought the iphone 5 which have carrier ATNT from USA. Please guide me to unlock the smartphone.

Guest Author: Susan24 Jul 2015

I have a problem with unlocking Airtel 3G e1731 data card whileI am updating firmware. It shows message that the wireless terminal inserted is not firmware, update wizard but I can't work on it due to error. So can you please give a solution?

Guest Author: Kaushal16 Aug 2015

I am buying an iPhone 6 plus in the AT&T contract based locked from US. I plan to get it to India and get it unlocked here in Mumbai. Is it possible? Will I be able to get it unlocked in India? If yes, then after unlocking I should be able to use my Vodafone network in it or not? Please resolve my issues.

Guest Author: firoj khan09 Dec 2015

I have an iPhone 4S 64GB and my carrier is locked. Please explain how I can unlock this phone.

Guest Author: Diane Scott31 May 2016

The US has now made it relatively easier to unlock phones for use in other countries (or other carriers). Unfortunately, easier doesn't always mean it is without any headaches - how it should really be. There are still several people who find themselves having to use the websites that offer unlock codes, particularly since phone companies can take time. It's a hit and miss, especially with AT&T and Sprint. In case anyone does not want to go through this, I've come up with the three best websites to go for unlock codes that I feel can also complement your article:, and Hope this may help anyone interested!

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