In terms of how much difference it makes to you, the phone owner, there isn’t a great deal of difference between a SIM unlock code, subsidy code, and network unlock code.
All of these have been imposed on your handset by the carrier in order to stop you from removing their SIM and using one from a different supplier.
However, all of these can be removed using a cell unlock from a reputable mobile unlocking service.
Mobile network carriers provide handsets at a subsidized cost to you in order to recoup the difference (and more) during the life of a contract.
In order to ensure you remain with them, service providers often come to an agreement with manufacturers in order to place a ‘secret’ code into the phone software which locks the handset to that particular network operator.
This is an eight to sixteen-digit code that applies a restriction to lock it to one supplier.
An unlock code can be the same as the subsidy code or can be used by a professional cell phone unlock company to generate one.
Alternatively, mobile unlocking may reset the subsidy code and then a new code can be entered into the handset.
Network unlock code
These are similar to the subsidy code in that a combination of specially generated characters must be inputted into the mobile in order to unlock it from one specific network.
Once the lock has been removed, the phone can then be used on any network as it is now capable of communicating with them all via their SIM cards.
These unlock codes are generated using the IMEI number of each individual phone, which when given to a professional cell unlock service, generates a unique combination of characters that can be used to free your phone from the network restriction.
Again, a restriction code is included on your phone’s software by the manufacturer, at the request of the mobile network.
These are intended for use by the carrier only, although many people refer to them as an unlock code.
A cell unlock company may use this code in order to unlock a phone from restrictions placed on it by the carrier.
Do I need to know the difference?
Not really. If you want to remove the lock then you have a few options – calling your carrier and asking for the unlock code, using a professional cell unlock service or taking your handset to a local independent cell store which provides the service.
The latter options are recommended as your cell company may not want to play ball and give you the unlock code; if they do, it’s likely to cost you up to 10 times more than using a cell unlock service for mobile unlocking.