AT&T iPhone Unlocking Down Worldwide since Tuesday – Suggests Permanent Shutdown!
*UPDATE 10-7-2013 ON BOTTOM OF PAGE:
** Update 10-8-2013 ON BOTTOM OF PAGE
*** Update 11-4-2013 ON BOTTOM OF PAGE
On Tuesday earlier this week, third party businesses offering factory unlocks for AT&T devices, including the iPhone, reported significant delays in unlock requests submitted to AT&T. End users are able to pay these third party providers to submit their unlock request directly without having to fulfill AT&T’s customer unlock requirements which mandates all requests must be submitted by an active or former AT&T account holder.
In the grey-market, end-users, cell phone repair stores and wholesalers of used devices rely on these third party unlocking companies to circumvent the carrier requirements. After being being fully shut down for four days straight, direct unlocking companies are at a loss for words and signal that the shutdown could be permanent.
A college friend of mine called and asked if I could get an unlock done for him because his provided had been down for two days; he wanted to know if I was able to submit it through our unlock company. After sending over the IMEI, I went to our portal to submit the unlock request only to find that services were limited and the cost increased from .60 cents to $22. A few hours after submitted the request, I was refunded in full with the following message:
“ALL AT&T services are down and not operational. It’s DOWN WORLDWIDE. THAT MEANS EVERYONE, NOT JUST OUR COMPANY. This means absolutely no one can process them right now. There is no ETA for all we know it’s down for good. If there are “COMPANIES” that promote it working, good luck on getting your money back. We were the direct suppliers for AT&T Services & there is new policies to abide making it almost impossible to unlock phones with AT&T.”
I thought that maybe the recent government shutdown might have something to do with the extended unlock downtime. However, direct unlock wholesalers quickly confirmed it had nothing to do with the politicians’ inability to pass a bill that resulted in a partial shutdown during the same week. To my surprise, there seems to be very little to no press around the issue on any of the popular tech and mobile phone forms or news websites that were quick to cover the announcement of such services earlier last year.
AT&T’s website still indicates that active customers of their postpaid plans and prepaid Go Phone users can submit device unlock requests given the eligibility requirements are met. This suggests that AT&T is most likely behind the unlock shutdown for third party providers.
This is sure to gain some serious press early next week. Everyone from iPhone repair shops, wholesalers, international mobile traders and end-consumers relied on this third party service to unlock their devices. Everyone is patiently waiting for any new information regarding last week’s shutdown and the future of the third party unlocking industry.
Update On IMEI Unlocking Shutdown 10-7-2013
Unlocking is still down as of Monday morning. Many were expecting to have updated news Monday morning, however, no new news is simply more bad news. It appears as if AT&T is not the one to blame for the unlocking shutdown last week. Many sources in the unlocking community suggest that third party providers who use an Apple GSX Exploit Method for Unlocking have been shut down.
What is the Apple GSX Unlocking Exploit?
LetsUnlockiPhone.com describes this method as:
“This system is available to particular groups of users. For example, you can use it if you are a service provider and need to order device’s parts or process repairs [for official Apple service providers]. But you cannot access it if you are an ordinary user. Secondly, there is no way for you to unlock iPhone with GSX if you are not one of authorized service providers working in partnership with Apple. In other words, if you don’t have a GSX account you are not eligible to get unlock for your iPhone. Surely, there is a way to get such account if you become friends with iPhone carriers or repair shops that already have one.”
Our interpretation suggests that some third party “Officially Authorized Server Providers” for Apple has access to a tool that gives them the capability to submit IMEI unlocks directly while bypassing AT&T’s unlock requirements altogether. Most of the major unlock service providers most likely do not have a GSX account themselves, but are relying on an a network of GSX account holders to submit the IMEI unlocks for them. Using the GSX Account solely for this purpose without actually having to service the handset would be considered “unauthorized use.” This widespread abuse of such a tool caused Apple to shutdown the system entirely.
How Can I Get My AT&T iPhone Unlocked Now?
You still have a few options. This would mainly apply to end-users as all the suggestions below are not something any business would easily replicate for bulk IMEI unlocking or wouldn’t make financial sense compared to their cost of sub-$1 unlocks.
- If you’re an AT&T/GoPhone Customer – You can submit five IMEI unlock requests per year per account holder for free online through AT&T’s website. The iPhone does not have to be one you bought from AT&T, but the used device must still fulfill the original account holders contract obligations. Go Phone subscribers must have had six months of service in order to fulfill the request.
- Have a Friend Who’s an AT&T/Go Phone Customer? – Find a friend or who is an AT&T or Go Phone subscriber to submit your IMEI for you. Offer him/her lunch or a drink of their choice in exchange for the favor.
- Alternative Third Party Online Service Providers – Not all service providers are shut down. The GSX method surely provided the most direct approach with only an IMEI needing to be submitted electronically. There are IMEI unlocking providers still out there online that offer the service. I’m not exactly sure of their approach, but the cost for all of them is significantly higher ($25-$60). I’m confident their “secret method” requires many more steps than the GSX method and, therefore, the price is adjusted accordingly. I’ve used three successfully since last week’s shutdown, a few of them being BlowFish Unlocks ($22-24/hour service) and iDeviceGuys.com ($25, 1-5 days). The others are through somewhat “unofficial” channels, such as Apple forums and community websites.
- Buy Verizon iPhone 5 or 5s – Verizon iPhone 5 and 5s already come factory unlocked for the GSM network out of the box. The same could be said about buying an iPhone that’s not on AT&T’s network as unlocking for other networked locked phones seems to still be chugging along (at an increased expense).
- Gevey Sim Card – These cards were king of the land before AT&T announced IMEI unlocking. These hardware unlocking devices are cheap to buy. Honestly, though, for a few bucks more you can get it factory unlocked which carries a much higher resale value when you go to sell and you don’t have to worry about compatibility if you upgrade to new software through iTunes.
Regardless of this shutdown, we’re still anxious to get an official statement from Apple or AT&T about the issue. We’ll keep you posted and update the blog post when something new comes in.
Update On IMEI Unlocking Shutdown 10-8-2013
According to a few legitimate sources, we can now confirm the shutdown stems from AT&T. The masses of unlockers (mostly the larger guys pushing volume at the less-than-$1 range) used a handful of direct sources to AT&T to fulfill their customers unlocking request (or had direct access themselves). AT&T unlocking requirements were simply not checked as hard or prevented through this direct channel compared to individual contract customers’ requirements. AT&T simply decided to become more strict overnight and instead of policing the IMEI unlock submissions, they disabled a majority of the direct sources’ access and only left a few options and vendors’ access intact. This doesn’t mean everyone who was working directly was abusing the system; it simply means that direct supply is now limited to far fewer direct vendors. With these vendors having less competition to worry about, prices will go up.
Most unlock vendors have since reinstated IMEI unlocking services on their website along with IMEI Status checks; at a varying cost of $20-$35 per unlock. Expect the cost to remain in the same ball park for the long haul and kiss the days of cheap (under $1) unlocks goodbye forever!
Update On IMEI Unlocking Shutdown 11-4-2013
Unlocking prices have skyrocketed to around $100 a piece. Even at such a price, customers are experiencing
extremely delayed unlocking times mostly refunds and empty promises from reputable unlocking companies. These companies are experiencing changes every few days and most might not admit so, but they really shouldn’t even be offering unlocking services now. If you submit an unlock at this point, even at a high price, you can only cross your fingers and hope that your IMEI gets submitted and if fails, that your vendor will refund you promptly. Speaking on the phone this week with a few clients, pretty much no one is able to submit an IMEI successfully with any vendor at any price unless you’re an AT&T customer.
I’ve been banned from a few forums, sent some nasty comments and received some wild e-mails for even referencing that an unlocking shutdown was coming. This is mostly because these admins wanted to continue to collect their customers’ money and hope that they weren’t further restricted. All I can say at this point is this:
I do not know ONE unlocking company that can truthfully guarantee successful unlocking of one or many devices via IMEI for iPhones ANYWHERE as of today.
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