When we bought our new Motorola V551 phones from Cingular, I was hoping they’d be unlocked — no such luck. I’d been told that there was a shop in Mountain View which would unlock a phone for about $25, but I wanted to find a cheaper (free!) way, especially with three phones needing to be taken care of before our next foreign trip.
Doing a web search on “unlock Cingular Motorola” gave lots of results, mostly not promising. But a few postings suggested either e-mailing a special address at Cingular or calling the customer care number on their web page and asking for the SIM Unlock group. I had a few minutes to spare at work on Monday and decided to go the phone route.
After only having to navigate one entry in the phone tree (press “1” for a new phone, or enter your number for an existing account), I was connected to a pleasant agent named Sandy. I asked her to connect me to the SIM Unlock group — she said that she’d have to get “some information” from me first. The information was easy enough: why I wanted to have the phones unlocked (answer: paying $2.58 per minute to call from one phone to another seemed a bit expensive). She then put me on hold for a few minutes while she checked with someone to make sure that my account was in good standing, had been opened long enough, and that my reason qualified (at least that’s what I think she did), then came back and asked me for the model, phone number, and IMEI number of each phone. Then she asked for a landline and an e-mail address and said they’d be back in touch with me in 5-7 business days.
Less than 24 hours later, I was on a conference call (this is a very usual state of affairs), and I saw that someone was trying to reach me. They hung up, and then tried again immediately. I thought it might be something serious, so when they tried a third time, I excused myself from the call for a minute and picked up the incoming call. It was Sandy — I assumed she needed more information from me and asked her to call back in 10 minutes. She did, but she didn’t need any more information — she had the unlock codes for me. I copied them down carefully and forgot to bring them home until tonight.
Tonight, I dug out my UK phone, pried out the SIM, and installed it in my phone. The phone asked me to “Enter Subsidy Password”; I entered the code Sandy had given me for my phone, and the phone registered with the network, claiming to have my UK number. (Strangely enough, the phone claimed to be on the AT&T Wireless network, not Cingular.) I wanted to check my account balance, which required visiting the Orange UK website and setting up online access — in the process, Orange sent me two text messages, so I guess my number is still active. The phone also said it has a voicemail waiting, but with a balance of only £0.23, I guess the message will have to wait a while longer.
I repeated the process with Diane’s and Jeff’s phones and codes, with equal success. We’re set for our next trip (though I’ll have to buy SIMs for the destination country).
The moral of the story: try the easy way first!