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?