How To Troubleshoot Unlocked Cell Phones

Remember the good old days of land-line phones?  You bought whatever phone you wanted and used whatever phone company you wanted.  As long as the phone jack plugged into the wall, you never had to worry about troubleshooting the phone or network.  It's too bad you can’t do that with a cell phone.  Although convenient and versatile, cell phones sacrificed the caller's ability to choose a phone company.

Until now.  Cell phone users are discovering the joys of unlocking their phones from the phone network that each phone serves.  With unlocked cell phones, you can by a SIM card from any company and use that network instead of the one the phone originally came with.  But, like with anything else having to do with phones, unlocked cell phones are not trouble-free.

No CDMA Phones, Please

One way to troubleshoot unlocked cell phones is to avoid those types that can’t be unlocked.  Unfortunately, there are only some types of cell phone carriers that can become unlocked.  These are known as GSM carriers and include:

  • AT&T
  • T-Mobile
  • Cingular
  • Suncom
  • Cellular One
  • Orange
  • O2
  • Vodafone

If your cell phone is locked to any other network or is a CDMA phone, (short for Code Division Multiple Access) then forget about unlocking it.  It will not be able to become unlocked.  Do not fall for classified ads or online auction lots that claim these phones are unlocked.  They are not.

Don’t Ignore the Obvious

If you have an iPhone or any other type of touch-screen phone, it will become slow to react.  This may seem as if there is a problem with the new phone network, when it's a just a problem with the touch screen.  Body oil from fingerprints and everyday dust can dull the phone, so clean the screen often with a micro-fiber cloth used for eyeglasses.

Also, be sure to keep your phone fully charged.  It usually takes at least a half-hour to charge up the average cell phone.  You can avoid a lot of troubles by making sure the phone is charged up.

The last obvious thing to keep in mind is that you need a SIM card for your new phone network before you can start making calls on that network or even reconfiguring the phone to work on that network.  Although you can buy already unlocked phones or pay someone else to unlock it, you still need to get the SIM card from the other network before you can do anything on that network.

Text Messaging

Although the most important thing with a cell phone is to send and receive a phone call, that's not the entire reason you get a cell phone, is it?  Many people consider that their phone is useless if you can’t text.  Switching to a new phone network may render the text option useless – but only momentarily.

The only magic ingredient you need to troubleshoot this unlocked cell phone problem is a code for the new network that will allow text messaging.  You can contact the new network for that code or even go to online active forums about unlocked cell phones, your particular model of phone or for users of your new phone network.  All of these online forums should be free to join.  Look to see what the date of the last post was.  If it was more than a week ago, skip it and find another forum.  Otherwise, you may post your questions and not get a reply.

Specific Modes

Some cell phones that can be unlocked need to placed on certain "modes" in order to basically do anything.  You need to take some time to be aware of what the phone's display looks like when in such modes.  There may be more black dots than usual, or they may be an icon lit or there may be different words on the screen.  In this way, you can troubleshoot one major cell phone problem of accidentally being in the wrong mode.

For example, some Sony Ericsson cell phones have a mode called "airplane" or "flight mode."  This is another way of turning the phone off, presumably during airplane rides.  When you turn the phone on, it will ask you what mode you want.  Select "Phone On" and not "flight mode" or "airplane mode" or some other mode that sounds a lot different than "Phone On."


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