Experiencing iPhone 4S activation issues on AT&T? [Updated]

It is iPhone 4S release day which means activation troubles. Many people, including myself, have had their new, shiny iPhone 4S in their hands for hours, but have yet to get past the activation screen. When trying to activate with iTunes or directly on the phone, users are presented with the following message:

Your activation is still pending. You will receive an email notification once your activation is complete.

We're sorry. There was a problem connecting to the server. Please try again later.

It appears that this only an issue with AT&T. iPhone 4S customers on Verizon and Sprint are activating without any issues.

Other users are reporting of receiving an email telling them that their iPhone 4S cannot activate and instructs them to call with a reference number.

Many other users have let me know that they put in their old sim card before turning on their iPhone 4S and it started up without a problem and did not prompt them to activate. So if you have not received your iPhone 4S yet, you may want to try this first. I tried my old sim after trying to activate with my new sim, and I'm still getting the same message.

Who's still waiting to activate? Who has successfully activated? Does anyone have any tricks to getting our iPhone 4S's to activate quicker? Anyone wishing they went with Verizon or Sprint, instead?

Update: I called AT&T and they said that since I ordered my iPhone 4S through Apple, it never made it to AT&T's system and my activation never entered the queue. The customer service representative told me that the current wait is 1-2 hours and manually entered my IMEI and ICCID numbers to put me in the queue. So if you purchased through Apple.com, I highly recommend you give AT&T a call.

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Leanna Lofte

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.

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Reader comments

Experiencing iPhone 4S activation issues on AT&T? [Updated]


DAMN, i tried once with the new sim before trying my old, majorly regretting not trying my old first as I'm at 5 hours and counting and still not activating.

Please turn your old phone off and keep it off and also give us a call to check your imei/sim and the data pkg on your line if you have the unlimited plan you must have the new unlimited data 4s to access network- If activation done at apple your contracts is the only thing added- Thank you

I've had mine for 6 hours now and I still haven't gotten it activated. And I went to AT&T and they tried blaming apple. I swear if you couldn't talk and surf the web at the same time I would have gone to Verizon.

I left my new 4s at home and went back to work after I got that message this morning. About 30 minutes ago I lost all service on my 3gs so I am hoping my 4s is sitting at home & has the service on it. But who knows.

2 hours & nothing AT&T wasn't prepared even though they are supposedly the fastest of the 3 networks.

I don't think any 'Tricks' work, aka turning off your old phone reboot the 4S, etc. AT&T is crushed. Wait until tonight or poke the screen a 100 times. Life is short, find something else to do for a few hours ;)

I was one of the lucky ones. Steps below that worked fine for me:

  1. Back up iPhone 4 with old SIM.
  2. Removed old SIM from 4 and new SIM 4S.
  3. Powered up 4S with no SIM and restored backup from 4.
  4. Put old SIM in 4S and trash new SIM.

And there was much rejoicing. El yay.

If you did the ATT website you would not have had issues except with missing grandfathered text plans if not changed before- your imei/sim and data pkg was already added- Issues were with the Apple preorders mostly

It's another cluster function. Are the other providers having similar issues, or is it only AT&T again?

Received it 3.5 hrs ago via UPS and it's still not activated. I called AT&T and the lady said there was a "10 minute delay." Funny she should mention that because it's been over 200 minutes!

There were activation issues at the Lennox Mall Atlanta Apple store with both Sprint and AT&T but Verizon appeared to have no problem with activation. I got there at 11am. Finally got activated around 2pm. It was worth the wait.

Mine finally went through at 3:15, I'm restoring now. I had to whisper to it (please let my activation slip through). :-)

What's the best way to activate? Should I go through the email links I got from AT&T or on-screen on the phone? My 4S is waiting in my apartment office. I hope all of these issues have stopped by the time I get home.

Just got activated and so you just need to keep trying. I also called and they just said to keep trying and it finally worked for me.

This always happens when a new phone comes out. It's due to overload of all the new phones being activated. You guys should have known this by now..

Mine just arrived 20 minutes ago. The biggest lie of the day was when it told me it could take three minutes to activate my iPhone. Yeah, right.
Within 2 minutes, it quit trying and said I'd receive an e-mail.

I had issues with mine when I got it from the UPS guy about 10:30 am Eastern. I live close to an AT&T corporate store, so I just drove down there, told them what was up and the activated it real quick. Travel and all it was a 20 minute deal. Then again my AT&T store rocks.
I shouldn't have to do it, but it was painless.

im not sure if things are working now but i started to restore my iPhone 4 and went to check the 4s activation again and it worked lol

I called att and finally figured it out. The number on my SIM card didn't match the records for my phone. Once that was changed in att.'s system my phone started working. I'm now a happy camper.

Does anyone know if old sim or new sim make any difference? If it doesn't, I'll try old sim first. Haven't gotten home yet...

I've had mine for about an hour, but I think I've only been trying to activate for about 30 or 40 minutes. I figured this would happen. When my 3GS showed up, it came early in the morning. I had no problems since half the county was still waking up and waiting in line for their iPhone 3GS. But today, my 4S showed up at 4:00 eastern, which basically means I'm screwed for activation probably until the middle of the night. sigh
On the plus side, at least I'm not stuck at my computer since this thing can activate by itself. That's nice.

I just got thru to my cousin who works at Apple..he said the trick is to power down and restart..hit the up volume 3 times and the down volume twice..the screen will flicker and then press and hold the home button down for 15 secs..the screen flashes again and will work.

Pittsburgh PA 10:30 ups delivery pulled it out of the box. Followed the steps restored from iCloud and was up and running 2 min later

Been trying all since 11am ET (6 hours and counting). Tried 3g, wi-fi, iTunes, and sent email. Nada. So, do I get a day's credit on my bill? Didn't think so...

I believe my AT&T 4S was activated at Best Buy before I left the store. I had zero problems.

That's still a fail for me. Unfortunately I have the 3GS so SIM swapping will not work. But I will try the other "troubleshoots" people are speaking about.

I am having the same problems as you guys...I decided to take matters into my own hands...I went down to my ATT store and demanded to speak to the manager. He came out and was very nasty with me saying, "oh lord its one the Apple freaks, I should have called in instead of having to deal with you guys!" I couldn't believe it...he said that if Steve jobs was in his store he would kill him..thank god... If you live in Elizabethtown Ky...the store manager is a fucking jerk and deserves to be fired....if I had had lube on me I would have greased up my new iphone and shoved it up his obvious violated anus!!

I just kept trying and trying, finally it went through on cell data. Tried on wifi thinking it would be better but didn't. Hopefully everyone gets theirs activated today

How did you "deselect" your wifi network to switch to cell data, it is not letting me pass that screen, there is no "skip" option since I've already set up the wifi.

I had no issues. But I activated via an email that was sent to me by AT&T Premiere. The 2nd email they sent didn't work, but the 1st email (the order email) had a direct activation link and that worked. It took 5 mins.

Well it's unfortunate that some people have had issues, however my experience and my wife's experience with purchasing and activating our iPhone 4S's has been quick and painless. We purchased them through AT&T online and received them today and installation and activation with iCloud and AT&T was fast. I'm very pleased with my experience.

All those people who ask why wait in line? This is one reason.
I was in line about a half-hour at my AT&T store, and the line was nearly done by the time I left. I'm sure plenty of people later had no wait at all. At least you know they'll get it done at the store. They also had some sweet accessory bundles on sale. Had my new shiny running early this morning.

I preordered my ATT iphone 4s from Apple. It arrived this morning and no activation yet. I went to the ATT store where they manually entered my IMEI and ICCID numbers to put me in the queue. I then got an error message saying the SIM card in my phone did not match the card associated with my account. This was demonstrably false as the ATT guy and I both looked at ATT's computer accurately displaying the IMEI and ICCID numbers on the SIM. We forced another SIM, and that transfer accurately went through on ATT's system, but the error message persisted on the phone.
I called Apple, who most unhelpfully told me to connect to itunes and call back if there were problems. I asked the rep how I was supposed to call when my only phone was NOT WORKING? She didn't have an answer for that.
I'm off to the "genius" bar and am not leaving without a working phone.
B as in B
S as in S

Did you upgrade another line other then yours to get the phone...because if you did you have to activate the phone first using the number you upgraded and then after it activates on that number is when you can switch the phone numbers. I had the same issue as you at first and took 6 hrs for att to figure that out.

What happens if you didn't?
AT&T already swapped my hardware and the old phone works on the new number but the new phone will not activate. Do they have to switch them back, activate the new one and then switch them again?

did you switch sims to your old one? to activate new sim must be in the phone if cross upgrading accept contract on teh upgrade line and choose set up as new phone enter YOUR apple id and one you reach the icloud then turn phone on and switch sims

mine arrived today... been trying to activate it since 11am PST (it's almost 3PM now) still no luck... DISAPPOINTED WITH ALL THIS CRAP. The worst part is that I don't have a phone now that I deactivated my old SIM and activated the new one that came with the 4S... and good luck going to the local store if you live in Westwood, CA... the lines are over 2hrs long just to get into the store

I am in the same position you are. Going to the local AT&T store is useless, they just give you the same information you already have. The severs cannot handle the load.

I turned off my old 3G, turned on my new 4S, plugged it into iTunes and it attempted - but failed - activation. I tried it a 2nd time, 'cause I'm impatient like that and whaddayaknow, it went right through.

Activation botched. No help from AT&T. Just have to wait. Perhaps Tim should call what's-his-name.

I was having problems and just kept trying...this was at about 9am. Finally it just worked while I was on the phone with At&t. My problem was that I bought it on another line on my family plan and had to give At&t my IMEI number over the phone as I was unable to simply switch my sim card to the new phone.
Overall tho, At&t was VERY helpful on the phone and got me up and running very quickly.
Good luck to the rest of you...

After waiting two hours thinking I would get an email, I tried starting over with the activation.
This time around, it still failed to activate, but I did not get the message that I was in a queue and would receive an email. I got a screen that said if I turned my iPhone off and on, I could restart the activation process.
Three tries and it was activated.

I've had the same problem and have been waiting for the email and also been constantly retrying to activate.
But what just worked for me was ejecting the 4S sim and reinserting it.. and then it activated just fine!

Thanks for the tip for calling AT&T. I'm still waiting for activation but AT&T now has my appropriate IMEI and ICCID numbers as well as the appropriate unlimited data plan (grandfathered in since 2007).

The problem is the icloud switch and the network server. There are also vs and sprint people reporting issues ( like me I have Verizon). I find it odd that you dumb fucks love blaming a carrier for an issue they can't control when its truly your insolence and impatience that needs to be adjusted. The phone is not Jesus, stop acting like it is you stupid shits

Two phones. No issues. Both ordered directly from AT&T. So the "AT&T sucks" chants don't apply to all. Thanks for the smooth process AT&T!

I called AT&T about why I can't activate - they said Apple servers are down and that we are supposed to get an email when activation has been completed. I blame AT&T servers just like with the preorder.

I pre-ordered from Apple. Am on AT&T. Couldn't get it to activate going through the new phone. Combining advice from a couple of posters below, I turned off my 3GS and plugged the new phone into iTunes. It activated in less than 45 seconds. I did NOT call AT&T to give them my IMEI or ICCID numbers, so apparently some of the pre-orders got through...

I received my phone at 9:00 AM and was not able to get connected until 3:00PM after I read your post and called AT&T to give them my serial number and IMEI numbers. After that presto! Right at the very nexct sync!!

Errors all day. Made a genius bar appointment. They replaced my phone with a new (not refurbed) unit on the spot. Working now.

I called AT&T, they asked me a few basic questions to confirm I had the phone with the number I ordered as an update, then patched me straight through to Apple Care, who then told me to either wait, or go to an AY&T store. Good news is it finally connected and activated using the phone around 330pm....

I found a trick that worked for both iPhone 4S's delivered today:
After failing to active (for many hours); I just simply made a phone call from my old 3GS...Within seconds, the 3GS received NO SERVICE and the 4S came to life...
As I hooked it to iTunes to restore, I then did the same thing with my wife's old, old 3G...Yup...same thing happened...Right when the call was about to go through; no service and the 4S came to life...
Here's hoping it works for you!

Just activated on AT&T in about 2 minutes. Followed the advice of the person who said to turn off your old phone first. Turned off my iPhone 3G and it worked like a champ.

Worked for me too. Guess it wasn't AT&T it was having two phones compete for same number. Turn off old phone. Then activate

Worked for me too! Turned off both old and new iphones. Waited a minute. Turned on new iphone. Voila activated. Wasted a 4hours waiting for nothing.

I took mine to Best Buy after hours of frustration and explained to them that i preordered through apple and were getting the error messages. He screwed with it for a little bit then entered the correct IMEI numbers on ATT's website and boom. I was in business. My account showed that I was still using the iPhone4 which I had sold about a week prior and was running a 3G temporarliy. Anyway Siri is pretty cool, hope it gets better though.

I called ATT and they manually entered my info and got me working after about 30 minutes. They also credited me the $18 activation fee when I asked them to.

Just so everyone knows i tried about 13 times activating and nothing, i got pissed and said am going to AT&T. Before going i said let me try one more time, this time i chose NOT to turn on the Location services and WOAH it worked, i tried this method THREE TIMES in a row and it worked perfectly. So for right now this is the best way to activate your phone. you can later turn the location services in the system sets.

This is news to me as I pre-ordered my 4S through Apple and upon its receipt was able to activate no problem. I just backed up my 3GS via iTunes, then plugged in my 4S to do a restore from backup. All worked fine for me. Guess "I'm the 1%".
Sorry, had to say it

I am surprised - maybe apple was parking the info at one time earlier on- but possible with the multitudes of orders stopped at some time congrats as you needed the new sim to activate and the 3gs is not compatible

I had problems also. When I was on hold with AT&T Customer Service I decided to reboot the phone and there was the signal! How stupid of me!

I pre-orded the iPhone 4S as an AT&T customer, it arrived to me at 10:00 am yesterday and was sooo excited to use it. I had the activation issue for over 15 hours and was very very upset. Nobody at AT&T or Apple could help me with this issue. I finally went online and read a forum and found a way to activate immediately, which worked for me. Hold down the power and home buttons at the same time, wait for the apple to appear on the screen and then let go of the 2 buttons. Then do the activation process again and the phone should activate right away. This worked for me and I was so happy after being without a phone for 15 hours. I danced a jig in my living room as my girlfriend laughed at me. The phone is awesome, however Siri is not working all the time. I called Apple and they said this is a known issue and they are working to fix it. However my confidence is down after yesterday's activation fiasco.

I purchased mine through the Apple Store without an issue. Bottom line is the AT&T servers couldn't handle the volume and I did my activation later in the evening.

Due to the fact apple did not park the information reg imei/sim. We at customer care had to use common sense to activate- there were some issues with unpaid past due bills and customers keeping their old phones active while trying to activate the new ones. The issues easily solved was when customers remain calm and allow us to do our jobs rather than screaming and insulting us and the AT&T network- The Apple rep s did admit they had opened the web to 3 providers and yes AT&T the largest providers of Service for Iphones users was swamped- Calm and Patience gets it through faster. We value your business your at AT&T and are here to assist you, within the AT&T policies- and also respecting Apple expectations of us- Please be aware any issues with apps or Itunes, Siri at this time must go through Apple we dont have the technology to deal with anything but the network and simple functions of the phone like texting, email, and Voicemail and have no fix its when the ios updates create other issues- until apple tells us how to correct it- or sends out an update from thier programmers. Also please be aware if you call us on the phone that need fixing we cannot troubleshoot properly or if you are driving on the highway on the phone- Accidents can happen at this time Please take care and call us when you have another phone or can log into a computer to get help from AT&T tech chat available for cutomers without a home phone-or another phone to troubleshoot- Thank you for the time

Walked into Apple Store in Kenwood, OH, asked for 4S 64GB. Sales guy went and got it, and we stepped through adding it to my AT&T acct, then the setup. No hiccups, not a single problem. Was in and out of the store in 15 min with a working active iPhone 4S. Even the sales guy said he'd never seen one setup so smoothly. Cuz I'm smooth.

I was at the ATT store at 8AM when it opened. The phone activated fine but they would not transfer any data. Later in the day, I received a sim card failure. ATT service only advice was to return to the ATT store for another sim card. After replacement it worked.

Activation would be a great problem to have, here it is Oct 23rd and my PRE-ORDER still hasn't shipped. What part of pre-order am I not understanding? I was under the impression that if I pre-ordered my iPhone 4s from at&t that I could get it on time.
Boy was iWrong!
My friend walked into a store on launch day and picked one up and has been using his iPhone 4s ever since. I'm not sure I will ever pre-order again, especially from AT&T.

I had no idea how fun it would be to get to know all the other travelers when I started RVing. After a few years of intermittent travel, meeting new people on the road is one of my favorite parts of owing an RV.