Apple releases 'Activation Lock' status checker for used iOS devices

Buyers of second hand iPhones can now more easily check that the previous owner still doesn't have control over the device.

2014-10-02 12.15.59 pm
Activation Lock checker. Image: Apple

With the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on the market, there's likely to be a few used iPhones hitting eBay in coming months. Now, buyers of used iPhones check online whether it's been fully released by the seller.

Apple has published a page on iCloud.com where buyers of second-hand iPhones, iPads and iPods can check the 'Activation Lock' status of the device.

Buyers simply need to type a device’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number or serial number into the field on the 'Check Activation Lock Status' page. The new checker was first spotted by iDownload

Apple introduced Activation Lock as part of the Find My iPhone feature in iOS 7 to prevent others from using an iOS 7 device that they had found or stolen. Devices with Activation Lock enabled require the correct Apple ID and password to be entered before a person can turn off Find My iPhone, erase the device, or reactivate and use it.

Prior to Activation Lock, the only option users had if they lost a device was to change their Apple ID password to prevent others from accessing services and accounts, such as iTunes, that were linked to the device.

Police in the US lauded Apple for the additional feature in iOS 7, which helped cut rates of iPhone theft in London and New York by around 30 percent

While Activation Lock offers additional security to the original owners of devices, it's a potential problem for a buyer if the previous owner still has rights to the handset under Activation Lock. Alternatively, a device that has been stolen may still have Activation Lock enabled, so the checker tool would provide useful information to a buyer in both cases before handing over cash.

Apple notes in its updated support page when purchasing an iPhone from anyone other than Apple or an authorised reseller, it's up to the buyer "to ensure that the device has been erased and is no longer linked to the previous owner's account." 

Apple offers several other steps to check before taking ownership of a second-hand iPhone, including to check a device isn't passcode locked and the new owner is not during set up being asked to provide the previous owner's Apple ID and password. 

"Don't take ownership of any used iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch until it has been removed from the previous owner's account," it states.  

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