How to unlock iPhone 4

This is a bit of an uncharacteristic post for us, but it’s pertinent because I just endured quite a bit of agony trying to unlock my iPhone 4, and I want to save others from it.

I use Straight Talk cellular service. That’s provided by Walmart, and has thus far been pretty reliable and comparatively inexpensive.

I obtained my wonderful sister’s iPhone 4 and proceeded to purchase a Straight Talk micro-SIM card (that was quite a chore, actually!) and cellular plan.

I contacted AT&T to have them unlock the phone, so I would have more control over certain features. You can find the prerequisites for obtaining permission to have your phone unlocked here.

AT&T approved my unlock request with an email containing the following instructions:

Thank you for contacting AT&T Customer Care about unlocking your iPhone.

We have reviewed your request and confirmed that you are eligible to have the requested iPhone unlocked.

Please allow 24 hours upon receipt of this notification to complete the unlock.

To complete the unlock, simply:

  • Open iTunes on your Mac or PC and verify that you have Internet connectivity.
  • Ensure a SIM card is inserted into your iPhone.
  • Connect your iPhone using the dock connector to USB cable that came with your iPhone.
  • Backup and restore your iPhone using iTunes. For information on backup and restore, please visit
  • After restoring, your iPhone will be unlocked.
  • Additional information on unlocking can be found at

You may also check the status of your unlock request by clicking the link for AT&T’s Device Unlock Status Portal.

For questions regarding AT&T’s wireless service and iPhone, please visit the Phone/Device Learning Center.

We thank you for your continued business.

I followed those instructions. Three times. And I never got the message from iTunes that I knew I was supposed to see, saying “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.” So I knew it wasn’t unlocked.

Turns out, I was missing one crucial step.

I found a forum in which a person explained what I needed to do.

Here’s the trick:

Take your microSIM card out of your iPhone 4 (you’ll need a paperclip to eject the SIM tray). Then connect the cable to your computer and iTunes will load. Make sure your phone is backed up, and then use the Restore Phone option.

The Restore process will happen, but you’ll hit an error when the phone restarts and iTunes tries to activate it.

So then, you need to unplug the phone from your computer, and insert your AT&T microSIM (NOT your Straight Talk or other carrier microSIM). Then plug the phone back into the computer and proceed with activation. You’ll get the “Congratulations, your iPhone is unlocked” message. Then unplug the phone and take out the AT&T microSIM, and insert your Straight Talk or other carrier microSIM.


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