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An unlocked iPhone is an unlocked iPhone; right? Not exactly. There are different types of unlocking, with different consequences that the user has to deal with, and if buying an iPhone, you need to be aware of what you are getting.
There are factory unlocked (FU) iPhones, worldwide unlocked (WWU) iPhones, and chip unlocked iPhones. Each of them is different in some way from the other, and they each offer different levels of freedom. Let’s dive into the details.
When a smartphone is locked to a wireless carrier, it means that it is configured to work only with that specific carrier. For it to be usable on another carrier, it has to be unlocked. For example, you may buy a locked Walmart Family Mobile branded iPhone. It will not work with another carrier. If you want to be able to use it with Verizon or T-Mobile, for example, you have to carry out a worldwide unlock or chip unlock first.
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Chip Unlocked iPhone explained
A chip unlocked iPhone is one that is locked to a mobile network or carrier, usually on contract. As a result, the full financial value of the phone has not been paid. Payment is typically on a monthly instalment, and the network lock is a measure by the carrier to keep the user from making away without completing the payment. A chip unlock bypasses the network lock by using a small, special physical component called a chip.
So, a chip unlocked Apple iPhone is one that uses a chip inserted in the device to bypass the network lock. The disadvantage is that you can only use one network per chip. So, if you are currently using a chip to use a Vodacom SIM card in your iPhone and want to use another SIM in it, you will need to buy another chip.
Worldwide Unlocked iPhone explained
World wide unlocking (WWU) is done via software and enables you to use any SIM card with the device. You can change SIMs as you please and use them without any worries or inconveniences, so long as the phone is compatible with the mobile network. ,
Is there any caveat? Sure: if you factory reset or wipe that phone, the original carrier lock will come back and you will be unable to use it with any other carrier except the one it was originally locked to. On other words, you have to go through the software unlocking again.
Factory Unlocked iPhone explained
A factory unlocked (FU) Apple iPhone is one that is sold free of a lock to any mobile carrier – Verizon, Walmart Family Mobile, Vodafone, MTN, or Orange anywhere. This is what you should be wanting. In the USA, it is simply called an unlocked phone.
Factory unlocked iPhones are sold by Apple and at independent stores in the USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, Australia, and many other countries around the world. They offer complete freedom, as you can insert any SIM card from a compatible network at anytime and use at will.
What is the difference between factory unlocked and worldwide unlock?
A factory unlocked iPhone is one that has never been locked to any carrier at all, and so can be used on any compatible carrier. A worldwide unlocked iPhone is one that had a carrier lock but which has been removed by means of software, so it can be used on any compatible carrier anywhere in the world.
How to know if your iPhone is worldwide unlocked
To tell if your iPhone is unlocked, open the Settings on your iPhone, scroll down and tap on General, then tap on About. Scroll to the bottom and look for Carrier Lock. If it displays No SIM restrictions, then your iPhone is unlocked and can be used with any compatible carrier.
In summary, a chip unlock requires a physical chip for the iPhone to be usable with another network’s SIM. A WWU is carried out via software and requires no physical chip. A factory unlock is the definition of true freedom and comes with no restrictions. When shopping for an unlocked iPhone, do not forget to ask what kind of unlocking it is.