The Complete Guide To Unlocking Your Phone in Canada

Posted on October 4, 2023 by Dan Kent

In the rapidly evolving world of smartphones, unlocking your cell phone has become increasingly important. We live in a day and age where technology is advancing at a rapid pace. Just ten for fifteen years ago we were locked to a single carrier unless we had to pay, and internet services in rural towns was limited.

Now, we have the ability to unlock our phone's completely free and utilize platforms like Starlink to get high speed internet anywhere we want in Canada. It's amazing, isn't it?

Whether you're looking to switch carriers, travel internationally, or simply enjoy the freedom of using any SIM card, unlocking your cell phone gives you flexibility and control over your device. 

The best part? As Canadians, unlocking our cell phones is now easier than ever before. In this edition, we'll guide you through unlocking your cell phone in Canada for free, empowering you to take full advantage of your device without any restrictions.

Phone unlocking: What is it?

Before December 2017, most phones sold by network providers in Canada were locked to their specific networks. This meant that if you bought a phone from, let's say, Videotron, it would only work on Videotron's network unless you went through a process called network unlocking. The same rule applied to phones from other major carriers like Rogers and TELUS.

Unlock Phone Canada

So, what does it mean to have an unlocked phone? An unlocked device gives you the freedom to use it with any cellular data network or wireless carrier of your choice. It's like having the key to unlock your phone's full potential!

Why should I unlock my phone in Canada?

Having an unlocked phone brings a range of benefits:

  1. You can easily switch between carriers without being tied to a single network.
  2. You can receive software updates directly from the manufacturer, ensuring your device stays up-to-date with the latest features and security patches.
  3. If you decide to sell your phone, being unlocked makes it more desirable to potential buyers, as it can be used with any cell phone carrier.

Unlocking your phone removes the barriers imposed by carrier restrictions, allowing you to choose your network and enjoy a more flexible and connected experience. It's all about putting the power back in your hands!

Can you unlock your phone for free in Canada?

When unlocking your Canadian cell phone, you'll be relieved to know that it won't cost you a penny. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recognized the concerns raised by consumers regarding the unlocking fees associated with unlocking their phones, even after they had fully paid for the device. In response, the CRTC took action by updating the Wireless Code of Conduct in June 2017, ensuring that wireless carriers adhere to the following regulations:

1. Free unlocking for all devices: As of December 1, 2017, all wireless devices sold in Canada must either be unlocked or accompanied by instructions detailing how to unlock the device without additional charges.

2. Free unlocking upon request: If your wireless device is locked to a specific carrier, you have the right to request its unlocking at no cost, regardless of whether you are still under contract or have not yet fully paid for the device.

Thanks to these regulations, you can enjoy the freedom to unlock your phone without worrying about any financial burden.

Is your phone locked right now?

To determine whether your smartphone is locked or unlocked, consider the following factors:

1. Purchase from Canadian Wireless Service Providers: If you bought your phone directly from a Canadian carrier like TELUS, Rogers, or Bell before December 1, 2017, it's likely locked to their network.

2. Purchase from a manufacturer or third-party retailer: Devices purchased from manufacturers like Apple (iPhones, iPads etc.) or Samsung (Galaxy phones and others) or third-party retailers are more likely to be unlocked right out of the box.

Confirming if your phone is locked

To confirm the lock status of your phone, follow these steps:

1. Remove your carrier's SIM card: Take out the SIM card provided by your current cell phone service provider from your phone.

2. Insert a SIM card from another carrier: Swap in a SIM card obtained from a different cell phone carrier. This SIM card should belong to a different network.

3. Boot up your phone: Power on your phone and allow it to start up with the new SIM card inserted.

4. Check for an unlock code prompt: If your phone is still locked, it will ask for an unlock code upon booting. This indicates that you must obtain an unlock code from the carrier who sold you the device.

What information do you need when unlocking your phone?

Gathering the necessary information before unlocking your phone is crucial for a smooth and efficient process. Having the required details readily available saves time and ensures accurate information when communicating with your carrier. Understanding your carrier's specific requirements and policies for unlocking will help you navigate the process effectively. Additionally, being well-informed lets you address any potential roadblocks upfront, such as outstanding payments or contract obligations. This will ensure a higher chance of success and enable you to unlock your phone confidently. Here's all the information you might need while unlocking your phone:

Phone information

Phone's IMEI Number: The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is a unique identifier for your device. You can find it easily by checking your phone settings or dialing *#06# on your device. This number is crucial for carriers to identify your device and process the unlocking request.

Carrier details

Contact Information: Make your current carrier's customer support contact details readily available. This includes phone numbers, email addresses, and website information. You may need to contact them to initiate the unlocking process or request additional information.

Account information

  • Account Holder Details: Be prepared to provide your full name, address, and other relevant account information, such as an account number associated with the phone. This ensures that the carrier can verify your ownership and eligibility for unlocking.
  • Account Password/PIN: Some carriers may require you to provide your account password or PIN to authenticate your request for unlocking. Keep this information accessible to expedite the process.

Purchase and Contract Information

  • Proof of Purchase: In some instances, carriers may request proof of purchase for the device. This can include a receipt, purchase contract, or proof of payment. Ensure you have a copy of this documentation readily available.
  • Contract Status: Know the status of your contract with the carrier. Unlocking policies may vary depending on whether you are under contract or have fulfilled your contractual obligations. Check for any outstanding payments or contract obligations before initiating the unlocking process.

Device status

  • Outstanding Balance: Confirm that all installments or outstanding balances are paid in full if you purchased your phone on a payment plan. Some carriers may require this as a condition for unlocking.
  • Blacklisted/Stolen Status: Ensure your device is not reported as lost, stolen, or blacklisted. Carriers typically do not unlock devices with such statuses.

Previous unlock attempts

If you have previously attempted to unlock your phone, having information about those attempts is helpful. This includes the date, method used, and any response received from the carrier. It helps to provide a complete history to the carrier when requesting a new unlock.


Keep a record of all communication related to unlocking your phone. This includes email exchanges, support tickets, and reference numbers. A documented trail can help resolve any issues that may arise during the process.


How to unlock your iPhone (& other Apple devices) in Canada

  1. Check if your iPhone is carrier-locked
  2. Determine your iPhone's iOS version
  3. Confirm if your iPhone is unlocked (iOS 14 or newer)
  4. Contact your carrier to unlock your iPhone
  5. Wait for the unlocking process
  6. Insert a new SIM card
  7. Complete the setup

The process may vary slightly if you have Apple devices running on iOS 14 or newer or iOS 13 or older. In this section, we'll walk you through the steps to unlock your iPhone and other Apple devices like the iPad and provide the necessary information to make the process seamless.

iPhone 13 Pro (Image credit: Framesira | Shutterstock)

Check if your iPhone is carrier-locked

Before unlocking, verify if your iPhone is locked to a specific carrier. It is likely locked if you purchased your iPhone directly from a carrier on a contract or installment plan. However, if you bought an unlocked iPhone or completed all contract obligations, your device may already be unlocked.

Determine your iPhone's iOS version

The process of unlocking your iPhone can differ depending on the iOS version. To check your iOS version, go to Settings > General > About > Software Version.

  • iOS 14 or newer: Proceed to step 3.
  • iOS 13 or older: If your iPhone runs iOS 13 or older or doesn't have a sim card, proceed to step 4

Confirm if your iPhone is unlocked (iOS 14 or newer)

If your iPhone is running iOS 14 or a newer version, you can quickly check if it's unlocked by following these steps:

a. Go to Settings on your iPhone. b. Tap on General. c. Select About. d. Look for the "Carrier Lock" or "Network Provider Lock" section. e. If you see "No SIM restrictions" or a similar message, your iPhone is unlocked and can be used with any carrier.

Contact your carrier to unlock your iPhone

 If your iPhone is carrier locked, contact your current carrier's customer support and request an unlock. They will guide you through the process and provide you with any specific instructions or requirements. They may ask for your iPhone's IMEI number, which can be found in Settings or by dialling *#06# on your iPhone's keypad.

Wait for the unlocking process

Once you've contacted your carrier and submitted the unlock request, the process may take a few days to complete. Your carrier will notify you when your iPhone is successfully unlocked.

Insert a new SIM card

After receiving confirmation from your carrier, power off your iPhone and insert a SIM card from the desired carrier. Power on your iPhone and follow the on-screen instructions to activate the new SIM card.

Complete the setup

Once your new SIM card is activated, proceed with the initial setup process on your iPhone. This may include connecting to a Wi-Fi network, signing in with your Apple ID, and restoring your data from a backup if necessary.

By following these steps, you can unlock your iPhone and enjoy the freedom of using it with different carriers.

How to unlock your Android phone (& other Android devices) in Canada

  1. Check lock status
  2. Check settings
  3. Test with another SIM
  4. Contact your carrier
  5. Wait for confirmation
  6. Test the unlocked device

The process of unlocking your Android phone is pretty similar to unlocking an iPhone. Nonetheless, we have elaborated the process in detail for you.

Unlock Android Phone Canada

Check lock status

Contact your carrier with the IMEI number of your Android device to confirm if it's locked. You can find the IMEI number by dialling *#06# or checking your device settings.

Check settings

Navigate to the "Network Operators" option in the "Network" or "Connections" menu of your Android device. Your device is likely unlocked if you can connect to different networks or see alternative carrier options.

Test with another SIM

Insert a SIM card from a different carrier into your Android device and check if it connects, makes calls, sends texts, and accesses data without issues.

Contact your carrier

Contact your carrier's customer support if your Android device is still locked. Provide them with the IMEI number of your device and follow their instructions to request an unlock.

Wait for confirmation

 Your carrier will process your unlock request, which usually takes a few business days. They will confirm via email, text message, or through their customer portal.

Test the unlocked device

Once you receive confirmation, insert a SIM card from another carrier into your Android device. If your device connects successfully and functions as intended, it's now unlocked and ready to be used with any compatible SIM card.

Is unlocking my phone legal in Canada?

Yes, unlocking your phone is legal in Canada. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) implemented regulations in December 2017, which state that wireless devices must be sold unlocked or come with instructions for unlocking at no additional cost. As a consumer, you can request unlocking from your carrier without any legal repercussions.

Can I unlock my phone if I am still under contract?

Yes, you can unlock your phone even if you are still contracted with your wireless carrier. The CRTC's regulations state that wireless carriers must provide free unlocking upon request, regardless of contract status. However, it's important to note that outstanding balances or contractual obligations, such as device payment plans, must be settled before initiating the unlocking process.

How long does it take to unlock a phone in Canada?

The time it takes to unlock a phone in Canada can vary depending on the wireless carrier. Typically, carriers process unlock requests within 1-2 days. However, some carriers may take longer to complete the process.

Can I unlock any type of phone in Canada?

A. Yes, you can unlock various types of phones in Canada, including Android and Apple devices. You can request an unlock from your wireless carrier if you have a Samsung, Google Pixel, iPhone, or any other smartphone brand. The process may differ slightly depending on the device and carrier, so it's advisable to consult your carrier's specific instructions or contact their customer support for guidance.

How do I get the unlock code for my phone?

A: If your phone was purchased before 2017 and is network locked, you can obtain the unlock code by contacting your carrier. Each cell phone company has specific unlock codes, which may vary depending on your device. Simply reach out to your carrier and follow their provided instructions to unlock your phone.

Disclaimer: The writer of this article or employees of Stocktrades Ltd may have positions in securities listed in this article. Stocktrades Ltd may also be compensated via affiliate links in this post. Stocktrades Ltd will run advertisements on our posts. These advertisements do not represent an endorsement by us.

Dan Kent

About the author

An active dividend and growth investor, Dan has been involved with the website since its inception. He is primarily a researcher and writer here at, and his pieces have numerous mentions on the Globe and Mail, Forbes, Winnipeg Free Press, and other high authority financial websites. He has become an authority figure in the Canadian finance niche, primarily due to his attention to detail and overall dedication to achieving the highest returns on his investments. Investing on his own since he was 19 years old, Dan has compiled the experience and knowledge needed to be successful in the world of self-directed investing, and is always happy to bring that knowledge to readers and any other publications that give him the opportunity to write. He has completed the Canadian Securities Course, manages his TFSA, RRSPs and a LIRA at Qtrade, and has compiled a real estate portfolio of his primary residence and 2 rental properties, all before his 30th birthday.