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Before you buy a used iPhone or iPad, check its Activation Lock Status on iCloud

The secondhand market for used iPhones and iPads is hot, and unfortunately so are some the devices being sold on it. To try and protect people from buying devices that turn out to have been lost, stolen, or otherwise misappropriated, Apple has created a new Activation Lock Status checker on iCloud.com

Before you purchase an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch from somebody else, make sure Find My iPhone Activation Lock is turned off and the device is ready for you to use.

Activation Lock is a feature designed to make iPhones and iPads less appealing to thieves. It debuted in iOS 7 and prevents anyone from restoring or otherwise taking over an iPhone or iPad without first entering the Apple ID password of the owner. The theory is, if the device can't be used, it becomes little more than a glass and aluminum paper weight, it's value drops, and so people are less likely to steal them.

Of course, it can't stop thieves who have unwittingly stolen Activation Lock protected iPhones and iPads from trying to pawn them off anyway. That's where the Activation Lock Status checker comes in. Take the EMEI or serial number, enter it in, and iCloud.com will tell you its status.

Unfortunately, the Activation Lock Status checker currently only works on the web, and only on a desktop browser. That means you can check an IMEI or serial number emailed or texted to you, if you think you can trust it, or you can bring a laptop with you to an in-person sale, but you can't yet just read it off and plug it into your iPhone or iPad to check. (Of course it's not hard to imagine Apple adding that functionality to a future Find My Friends app update.)

If you occasionally or routine buy and/or sell your iPhones and iPads on the secondhand market, let me know — how useful will the Activation Lock Status checker be to you?

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

15 Comments
  • Hey great tip Rene. This is definitely a good thing. I occasionally buy second hand iPhones to use for a back up and usually use swappa to verify the imei is clean and not on a installment plan, but being able use this new tool is awesome. I am sure this will definitely be helpful for many people.
  • Great tip! iCloud Activation Lock is very useful. I lost my iPhone 4S 10 months ago, it was stolen when i was in a train. Fortunately, I locked the iPhone with iCloud. Yesterday, somebody called me. He bought iPhone 4S online, with message on activation screen, which is my number. Lucky me, he will send me the iPhone 4S.
  • That's a great idea but not executed very well. You really need to be able to check that from a mobile device. Sent from the iMore App
  • I came here to post the same thing. Seconded.
  • ^
    Exactly. They're on the right track, but to be able to check from a mobile device would be clutch. Especially since my iPad is my only computer. Would be ironic if the person was indeed a thief and took your iPad when you showed up to the transaction though Heehee.
  • I wish there was something like this to verify carrier subsidy lock status.
  • I unfortunately brought a locked an iPhone 5 so I'm sad. Sent from the iMore App
  • Safest way is Amazon right? Or even eBay is better than craigslist. I'm one of those idiots that had no clue about the big Nigerian craigslist scam until they stole my galaxy s4. By nature I'm a trusting person, I ignored all the warning signs too. I'll never use craigslist again.
  • I'm a Nigerian and I'm offended. Leave the country out of it please. Most of us are trying to get somewhere with our lives. On second thought, the place is hella corrupt, and that's why I don't live there anymore. I can't get anywhere if I have to pay through my nose to get bad services from the government(workers) . And with the government(workers) screwing everyone, everyone tries to screw someone else to get a tiny bit of living money. It's a rough place man. Posted via iMore App
  • It really has nothing to do with Nigeria itself, but for some reason that is where the scammers always say they are from. I guess it is easier to sell to innocent Americans that way. On the topic of the article, would it work if you set Chrome to use the desktop site?
    Well that worked. simple enough
  • I nice feature would be to pull the serial from the device itself.
  • Also make sure that they deregister it from their apple account. When I take my phone is for service , the Apple rep gets confused because the phone comes up under someone else's name when they look it up.
  • Useful for average buyers that are not aware of the activation trick, but has its limitations. I dont really get the comment that says 'unless you can bring a laptop to an in-person sale', this might not prove handy. I mean, whether you have access to that web page or not, can't you just make sure that any icloud account on the phone is deleted/find-my-iPhone is off before you buy the phone? Doesnt that do the trick? If I understand correctly, these are the only steps you need to follow before doing a clean restore/install. If the seller/alleged owner cant enter the password prompt when doing any of these two things, smth is fishy obviously and you should walk away. Also, this doesnt complete solve the craiglist type of sale. The crook can just fake the imei/serial number (using that of another, similar, legit device) an still send paper weight. Anyhow, it quickly allowed me to remotely check on my fleet of Apple mobile devices and realize that one of my gf's iPhones is not locked. We'll fix that tonight.
  • When you buy iPhone, You can use an app called "Test & Check for iPhone" to test all iPhone functional.
    video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gyv5QI-lno
    download : https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1022281157?at=10l3Vy
  • download android app to check free icloud lock
    https://www.imore.com/e?link=https2F2Flinks%2F1... contact@eadevelopers.com