Planning to buy a used iPhone or iPad? If you are buying it from an user, either locally or from a source like eBay, Amazon will now be a bit more complicated.
For reasons still unknown, Apple appears to have removed the Activation Lock feature that was previously available through iCloud.com. Activation Lock is a security feature in iOS. With this, a device remains registered with that account until the user deactivates the function.
This way, if a device is stolen and up for sale, the buyers can check the device’s IMEI or serial number and see if the device is still registered with the iCloud account.
For example, a thief with a stolen iPhone might list it on Craigslist or eBay for a low price with the idea of selling it quickly. But if the phone is still locked on the owner’s account, you won’t be able to do anything with it. And without the activation lock checker, you can’t determine that status before purchasing.
However, all is not lost. If it is an online purchase, you can still request the IMEI number of the device and use the verification function of the carriers:
- T Mobile
Sprint ‘s bring-your-own-device service mentions an IMEI checker, but I couldn’t find anywhere to enter a number. Fortunately, third-party IMEI checkers are also available, like this one from Swappa Buyer and Seller of Services.
It is important to note, however, that while an IMEI check can help you determine if a phone is stolen, it will not indicate whether it is still locked to the previous owner’s account. In fact, I think it is entirely possible for an IMEI to appear “clean” while the iPhone or iPad is still locked by the user.
Apple offers the following guidelines when purchasing a used device:
When you purchase an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Apple Watch from someone other than Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller, it is your responsibility to ensure that the device has been erased and is no longer linked to the previous owner’s account. Follow these steps before purchasing the device:
- Turn on the device and slide to unlock.
- If the password lock screen or home screen appears, the device has not been erased. Ask the seller to completely erase the device and go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase all content and settings. Do not take possession of any used iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch until it has been erased.
- Starts the device setup process.
- After choosing a language, country or region and connecting to a network, the device will begin activation. If asked for the Apple ID and password of the previous owner, the device will remain linked to their account. Give the device back to the seller and ask them to enter their password. If the previous owner is not present, they can remove the device from their account by logging into icloud.com/find. Do not take possession of any used iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch until it has been removed from the previous owner’s account.
You will know that a device is ready for use when you are prompted to “Set up your iPhone”, “Set up your iPad” or “Set up your iPod” the first time you turn it on.
Just buy from someone you can meet in person, and take the time to go through the setup process before pulling out your wallet.