|A different glamour shot of the Garnet Red S3, why not?|
SIM unlocking. Bleh. If you've ever looked into doing this in the past, you'll know the kind of sordid and potentially scam-filled world you're getting into.
We're generally lucky in the Android realm, since usually a developer will at some point come along with a way to do this on your Rooted device without ever having to go near one of those probably-fake paid unlocking services. Sometimes though you pick up a device before that development is done, and have little option but to look into said paid services. Since I'm in New Zealand on the Telecom network here, the latter scenario applied to me.
[For reference to anyone here in NZ looking at getting a US variant for whatever reason, be aware that the AT&T SIII will only work really well on the Telecom XT network where data is concerned. It has 3G in the 850 and 2100MHz bands only, and the upshot of that is that outside main centres it is likely to drop off 3G coverage if you're on Vodafone, and 2Degrees customers will need to purchase National 3G Data Packs to operate at all and will suffer the same poor coverage. If you're still interested, you can pick up AT&T SIIIs via Ebay for about $800NZD all up.]
So, how to unlock my AT&T SIII?
Firstly let me say this: if you are an AT&T customer in good standing with them, you should be able to simply pick up a phone and call them to request the unlock code. You might need to talk to several different customer service reps until you strike one who is happy to give you the code, but there is no cost and you do not need any of the paid services out there.
Secondly: the Root Toolkit I used to Root my AT&T SIII (see here) will at some point support SIM unlocking without needing to pay anyone a bleeding red cent. If you can wait, then obviously that is the best option if you're not an AT&T customer.
OK, so, if you can't wait, and you're not an AT&T customer, what service should you use?
|One more picture?|
That is the thorny question. If, like me, you take to Google to get the answer, you'll quickly find yourself mired in search results that seem far from reputable. There are a million services, most of their websites look dodgy, and all of them offer various incentives to get money back from the purchase price. "Hey get $5 back for writing a positive post at XDA!", that sort of thing. The problem with that is that it creates many forum posts from people who only signed on to XDA to make one post and get their fiver back. The preponderance of posts of this kind, from users with non-existent post counts really makes it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. I mean, I don't know about you, but glowing posts about a service from someone with a single post to their name just makes me think "shill".
In the end I decided to go www.cellunlocker.net. They weren't the cheapest service out there at $25USD, but they were basically the only one that I could find any semi-decent endorsements for from members of reasonable standing at XDA. Furthermore, they had a Paypal option allowing the possibility of raising a dispute if need be, and also sheltering my credit card details from them.
Basically you check that they can get a code for your device by submitting your IMEI number, if they can get your code you pay them, and then wait for the code to be emailed to you. I must say I had some trepidation during the wait. ALL of the unlocking services claim these ultra-fast turnaround times, which just tweaks my scam alert senses, and Cellunlocker were no different. You can imagine my surprise when the email with the code did indeed arrive around 10-15 minutes later. The code worked perfectly, and I've been using the AT&T SIII on Telecom NZ for the last several days without issues (well, almost without issues, there is the small matter of AT&Ts lies about "4G" in the signal indicator). Excellent.
Now, to be crystal clear: I am not getting any money or inducements of any kind for writing this. That just feels tainted to me. The intention in writing this piece was to be able to recommend an unlocking service that works based on my personal experience, given how hard it is to find trustworthy verification for these services. Hopefully this helps others get their phones unlocked without needing to expose themselves to any of the many fraudulent services that are running in this area.
Having said all of that, free is obviously better than paid: the best option remains to wait until a developer makes it possible for you to unlock your own device yourself (or, even better still, pay the developer a donation, it'll cost a packet less than these services, and encourage a dev to keep working on our behalf).
NOTE: The dialler codes for entering SIM unlock codes do not work on the AT&T SIII, you will need another networks micro SIM in order to get the code entry field to appear on device boot.
NOTE 2: From reading various feedback it seems SIM unlocks for some other networks are more difficult to obtain and/or may take longer to acquire than for AT&T, so depending on which network your device is locked to your mileage may vary.