Rebel yell

Many phones supplied by the big networks are SIM locked so they can only be used on that particular network, or more correctly will only accept SIMs issued by that network. So what happens once your contract is up? You’ll probably want to hand that phone on to a colleague or family member who may want to use it on a different network. Or perhaps you’ve bought a more recent phone on Ebay, but it turns up tied to a particular network. Or what if you want a particular phone model that’s only available from one network (like the iPhone on O2) but you can’t get a reliable signal from that carrier? Once upon a time the solution was simple – take the phone to that dodgy geezer down your local market, who for a crisp tenner would take it away and return it with the SIM lock defeated so it worked on any network. All a bit seedy, but it did the trick.

Rebel yell

That was fine back when phones were cheap and cheerful Nokia bricks, but not something you want for your shiny new smartphone. The device itself might be worth four or five hundred quid, so do you really want to leave it with Arthur Daley? Will he still be there when you get back? More important, today’s smartphones are infinitely more complicated than those original Nokia bricks and run grown-up operating systems. Rather than a single CPU with a Flash ROM, they contain various subsystems, each with its own firmware. You have to worry whether letting market-stall-guy mess with it is like asking your Kwik-Fit mechanic to mend your Rolex…

So what is the answer? The simplest is to ask your network for an unlock code: surprisingly, some will just dish this out for free, so you can type it in and unlock your phone. Others might charge you a few quid. Either way, this is the easiest and most reliable route to using a phone on a different network. But there will always be cases where it isn’t possible. For example, UK iPhones are locked to O2 and no matter how nicely you ask the company I doubt it will let you unlock one during the initial 18- month contract. So I’ve recently being playing with an alternative solution, and a very clever one at that.

It’s called the Rebel Simcard and it’s a very thin shim that fits between your mobile’s SIM and its SIM holder inside the phone. It doesn’t change anything in the SIM, nor the communications between phone and network. All it does is fool the phone that it’s working on the network it’s locked to when it isn’t. The beauty of this is that you don’t need to do anything to the phone – the only change you might need to make to your original SIM is to cut a small notch in it to accommodate the tiny chip on the Rebel Simcard wafer, and even that might not be necessary since there’s a version with the chip on the other side that works in many phones including the iPhone. This means that you should have no warranty issues, and so far as I’m aware it’s perfectly legal.

Does it work? Well, after a bit of faffing around I got mine to, but I’ve found forum postings from people who failed with theirs, or else who found the technical support poor (I didn’t need to contact the support people myself, so I can’t confirm or deny that).

I bought mine from, which is the official site for the manufacturer, Solutions Point. What I actually bought was a bundle of five Rebel Simcards, a cutter (more on which in a moment) and a programmer for £41 including P&P and VAT – so well under a tenner for each card.

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