Cell Phones

New iPhone 12 from Bell appears to be locked

  • Last Updated:
  • Sep 10th, 2021 3:39 pm
[OP]
Member
Feb 4, 2005
449 posts
25 upvotes
Ottawa

New iPhone 12 from Bell appears to be locked

I moved my cell phone service to Bell yesterday, and they had a good offer on the iPhone 12 Mini and I liked the smaller form factor so I took them up on the deal.

Everything went smoothly porting my number from FIZZ to Bell. One I returned home, I tried moving the eSIM for my second line (voice/text only with with Freedom Mobile), and the new phone would not accept the plan when I scanned the QR code generated on the Freedom My Account page (The code worked fine to re-add the plan to my old iPhone, so not a Freedom problem).

I tried put the old FIZZ physical SIM in the iPhone, and I got a SIM Not Supported message. Digging in the settings Unger Geenral --> About, the Carrier Lock setting says "SIM Locked". I went onto the Bell MyBell account website, and used the "Unlock Phone" link on the device page. If I enter the IMEI for the physical SIM, the system says it cannot find the IMEI (Error DE01). If I enter the IMEI for the eSIM, the system says the IMEI was found but that it cannot be unlocked (Error DE04).

I'm certain the CRTC no longer allows the sale of locked phones, so this surely can't be intentional. Is this a glitch? Does it get unlocked shortly after purchase (it's been about 15 hours)? I remember hearing of phones being locked during shipping to deter thefts.

The phone is far less useful to me if I cannot add my second Freedom Mobile line. And regardless, it's not permitted to sell locked phones in Canada, so this should not happen.

Any thoughts?
17 replies
Deal Fanatic
Aug 27, 2004
7437 posts
882 upvotes
Toronto, ON
Bell got approval from the CRTC to ship locked phones that get automatically unlocked after they are purchased. It's an anti-theft measure - if someone breaks into a Bell store and steals 50 phones, those phones are locked and stay locked in the thieves' hands.

I'm not sure exactly what the process for the automatic unlocking is. I know my iPhone 11 Pro Max purchased on the Bell 3-year corporate side (where dealers claimed locking was still practiced, as weird as it sounded that they have a separate locked inventory for 3-year-corporate devices) claimed to be locked in the Apple interface, but when I put a Fido SIM a year and a half later it... worked, to my great shock.

I would probably say to give it a day or two...
Deal Expert
User avatar
Oct 28, 2004
22282 posts
3565 upvotes
Toronto
curious - have you popped your active Bell sim into the iphone? Or is the Bell eSIM on the new iphone?


As far as I know, an active sim is needed on the iphone to register the Iphone onto the Bell network & once registered, it becomes fully unlocked.

Bell iphones are locked to Bell until an active Bell sim is popped into the Iphone and the Iphone registers onto the Bell network - then it is unlocked.


Found the previous RFD thread on this below - more info below. Tho your scenario seems a little different since you are talking about the eSIM but I don't see how this could be different vs a physical sim.

solved-help-virgin-iphone-showing-sim-locked-2443355/

FS: Nothing at the moment
Heatware: 63-0-0
[OP]
Member
Feb 4, 2005
449 posts
25 upvotes
Ottawa
ji2o0k wrote: curious - have you popped your active Bell sim into the iphone? Or is the Bell eSIM on the new iphone?


As far as I know, an active sim is needed on the iphone to register the Iphone onto the Bell network & once registered, it becomes fully unlocked.

Bell iphones are locked to Bell until an active Bell sim is popped into the Iphone and the Iphone registers onto the Bell network - then it is unlocked.


Found the previous RFD thread on this below - more info below. Tho your scenario seems a little different since you are talking about the eSIM but I don't see how this could be different vs a physical sim.

solved-help-virgin-iphone-showing-sim-locked-2443355/
Yes, we put the Bell SIM in right there at the Bell store to test connectivity and I have been using it since for calls texts and data.
Deal Fanatic
Aug 27, 2004
7437 posts
882 upvotes
Toronto, ON
rfman wrote: Yes, we put the Bell SIM in right there at the Bell store to test connectivity and I have been using it since for calls texts and data.
Dumb question - have you done a full reboot of the phone? Also, when you are trying to set up the second SIM, does the phone have wifi connectivity (so it can reach the apple activation/lock servers)?
[OP]
Member
Feb 4, 2005
449 posts
25 upvotes
Ottawa
VivienM wrote: Dumb question - have you done a full reboot of the phone? Also, when you are trying to set up the second SIM, does the phone have wifi connectivity (so it can reach the apple activation/lock servers)?
Yes, I did a full reboot of the phone to no avail. Phone is on WiFi at all times while troubleshooting.
[OP]
Member
Feb 4, 2005
449 posts
25 upvotes
Ottawa
Update:

This gets even weirder now. Spent a bit of time with phone support; from their end, they say the phone is shown as unlocked. They recommended I go to my closest Bell store and get a new SIM card. They swapped the SIM, but even after reboot, the phone is still locked. The lady at the store was a bit perplexed that an iPhone that was bought from Bell and immediately activated with a physical SIM would still be shown as locked. She thought the phone might be defective and recommended I return to the store where I bought it and have it exchanged. That would be annoying since I bought the last iPhone 12 mini 128GB in stock at that store (and a specifically went to that store because every other one I called had no stock of the 128GB).

Meanwhile, the phone support person referred my case to their back-end network support folks and gave me a ticket #. Not sure if that will go anywhere.

Two other points of information that may or may not have a connection to this issue:

1) Out of the box, the phone's battery was 100% dead. The employee at the store had to plug it in to get it booted for the 1st time.

2) While we were getting the iPad SIM added to my account to share my phone plan's data, another employee (looked like it was perhaps the manager), went through the setup steps skipping through everything so that he could get to the home screen and show that everything was working and we could verify that my number had ported properly. Since I didn't want to setup this new phone from scratch manually, the first thing I did when I got home was a factory reset and then I migrated from my old iPhone using the setup process.


I'm not certain what to do at this point, quite frankly. I'll give it a few days regardless since stores are closed tomorrow for Labour Day anyways. Maybe I'll try to do another factory reset, or a restore from my Mac tonight or tomorrow when I have more time. I've rarely had issues with iPhones, but this one is really weird.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Oct 28, 2004
22282 posts
3565 upvotes
Toronto
Have you tried popping in another active physical carrier sim in the iPhone by itself?

If so, does it say locked also?

Or is this with esim?

I wonder if bell has to be esim first in order for another carrier esim to be loaded as a secondary?

I recall seeing that somewhere…will try to dig it up

FS: Nothing at the moment
Heatware: 63-0-0
[OP]
Member
Feb 4, 2005
449 posts
25 upvotes
Ottawa
ji2o0k wrote: Have you tried popping in another active physical carrier sim in the iPhone by itself?

If so, does it say locked also?

Or is this with esim?

I wonder if bell has to be esim first in order for another carrier esim to be loaded as a secondary?

I recall seeing that somewhere…will try to dig it up
I tried my wife's active FIZZ SIM (physical SIM card), in the iPhone 12 mini, and it is clearly locked even for physical SIM. This has nothing to do with eSIM at this point; the phone is carrier locked, period. (Even though Bell tells me otherwise)

I don't think the order matters for eSIM vs physical SIM card activation. On my old iPhone 11, I was running with only the physical SIM for quite a while before I added the eSIM cellular account later. Right not that old phone is running eSIM only and still works fine. I'm probably going to put my Bell SIM back in that one until I can figure out what's going on with that 12 mini.

I'm going to try restoring from my Mac via USB without the SIM installed. If I remember correctly, that forces a full re-image of the iPhone and perhaps force it to re-activate properly and unlock the phone.
Deal Fanatic
Aug 27, 2004
7437 posts
882 upvotes
Toronto, ON
rfman wrote: If I remember correctly, that forces a full re-image of the iPhone and perhaps force it to re-activate properly and unlock the phone.
Key question - is your phone showing as unlocked in Apple's database? I wonder if it's possible Bell's system wrongly didn't tell Apple's to unlock the device...
[OP]
Member
Feb 4, 2005
449 posts
25 upvotes
Ottawa
VivienM wrote: Key question - is your phone showing as unlocked in Apple's database? I wonder if it's possible Bell's system wrongly didn't tell Apple's to unlock the device...
As far as I know, I have no way of checking that unfortunately.

Restoring from the iPhone MacOS did not solve my issue. Your hypothesis that Apple's activation servers and Bell's are out of sync seems like a logical root cause, but I don't see how I can resolve that. I don't think Apple support can do much there to help.

Looks like I might have to return the iPhone after all.
[OP]
Member
Feb 4, 2005
449 posts
25 upvotes
Ottawa
rfman wrote: As far as I know, I have no way of checking that unfortunately.

Restoring from the iPhone MacOS did not solve my issue. Your hypothesis that Apple's activation servers and Bell's are out of sync seems like a logical root cause, but I don't see how I can resolve that. I don't think Apple support can do much there to help.

Looks like I might have to return the iPhone after all.
Update: I contacted Apple Support, and they confirmed that their Activation Server shows the phone as locked. So Bell says it is unlocked, and Apple says it is locked. The Bell unlocking web page says the IMEI cannot be found. I'm not quit sure how this will get resolved quite frankly. I'm reverting back to my old factory unlocked iPhone 11 for now where I can run both lines on the same phone until this gets sorted out.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Oct 28, 2004
22282 posts
3565 upvotes
Toronto
rfman wrote: Update: I contacted Apple Support, and they confirmed that their Activation Server shows the phone as locked. So Bell says it is unlocked, and Apple says it is locked. The Bell unlocking web page says the IMEI cannot be found. I'm not quit sure how this will get resolved quite frankly. I'm reverting back to my old factory unlocked iPhone 11 for now where I can run both lines on the same phone until this gets sorted out.
Dang, sorry to hear this - what a mess!

Hope Bell sorts this out, sounds like something is messed up on Bell’s end

FS: Nothing at the moment
Heatware: 63-0-0
Deal Fanatic
Aug 27, 2004
7437 posts
882 upvotes
Toronto, ON
rfman wrote: Update: I contacted Apple Support, and they confirmed that their Activation Server shows the phone as locked. So Bell says it is unlocked, and Apple says it is locked. The Bell unlocking web page says the IMEI cannot be found. I'm not quit sure how this will get resolved quite frankly. I'm reverting back to my old factory unlocked iPhone 11 for now where I can run both lines on the same phone until this gets sorted out.
Wait until Tuesday or Wednesday, see if there was just a backlog in communication between Bell and Apple. And if it doesn't fix itself, you'll have more luck trying to reach the right person at Bell on a weekday...
[OP]
Member
Feb 4, 2005
449 posts
25 upvotes
Ottawa
Final update:

Bell support never got back to me since I spoke to them on Sunday. The iPhone did not magically unlock itself and it's now almost a week since I got it and activated it. I went back to the store to look at exchanging the phone, but there are no more iPhone 12 mini 128GB at that store or any nearby. Looked at going with a regular 12, but the back to school promo was over and the price they wanted was too high. So I ended up just returning the phone, keeping the plan (on month-to-month) and putting the SIM back in my old iPhone 11. No 5G for now, but I'll order myself a shiny new iPhone 13 in the next couple weeks.

This exercise in frustration has served as a good reminder as to why I had decided many years ago to never buy a phone from a carrier. I'm gonna stick with that for the foreseeable future.
Jr. Member
Dec 12, 2007
119 posts
171 upvotes
saint john
rfman wrote: Final update:

This exercise in frustration has served as a good reminder as to why I had decided many years ago to never buy a phone from a carrier. I'm gonna stick with that for the foreseeable future.
Exactly the way it is supposed to be. Bell, or rogers, should only sell SIM cards. Imaging if they sell TVs and the TVs are locked to their networks, and saying TVs are $0 if subscribe their TV networks for two years?
Deal Expert
User avatar
Oct 28, 2004
22282 posts
3565 upvotes
Toronto
Thx for sharing OP, sorry to hear what you went thru - can imagine how frustrating that would be!


Yes, best is to get the cheapest BYOD plan and buy phones outright….less headaches and you get the freedom to jump to the cheapest plan / carrier.

FS: Nothing at the moment
Heatware: 63-0-0

Top