Hate going into AT&T stores and interacting with real humans? Worry not, as unlocking your AT&T iPhone is turning out to be a simpler process than expected for some users. The process can still be performed in-store by AT&T personnel, but it can also be done at home with the help of AT&T chat, Apple, and iTunes.
We reported on Friday that AT&T would begin unlocking iPhones for qualified customers beginning Sunday, April 8. That was yesterday, and readers have begun reporting back with their experiences. As it turns out, all you really need is an active Internet connection and your iPhone’s IMEI number to get started (you can get it from your iPhone under Settings > General > About). After logging into AT&T’s website with your account credentials, you can then bring up AT&T’s Wireless Support Chat where you can request your device be unlocked.
As long as you meet the criteria—your phone isn’t associated with an active-term commitment, you’re out of contract, and your account is in good standing—AT&T will likely approve the request. But then it comes down to Apple, which has to push your unlock code to your e-mail address before you can proceed (this happens within 72 hours, but many users have said it took an hour or less). Once you receive the code, you must perform a backup and restore of the device through iTunes while tethered to a computer.
As with most processes that are user-facing, the unlock process doesn’t always work smoothly. AT&T’s own documentation on the process points to this Apple support document on troubleshooting unlock issues, though there are a number of forum threads dedicated to discussing the nuances of performing the unlock procedure as well. Do you have any extra tips to offer for those who have yet to go through the process?
Update: We have begun hearing that AT&T is making users call to initiate the unlock process instead of using the website chat feature. Still less effort than going into a retail outlet, but human interaction is somewhat required.