Used iPhones: Apple quietly kills tool to check lock status of secondhand devices

Buyers of used iPhones can no longer check online whether a device is locked to another account before purchasing it.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Until recently, buyers could use iCloud to check the IMEI or serial number of a device being sold online to see whether it was still locked by another Apple account.

Image: Apple

Apple has quietly removed a feature on iCloud that helped buyers remotely check the Activation Lock status of a used iPhone before buying it.

Until recently, buyers could go to iCloud.com and type in the IMEI or serial number of a device being sold online to check whether it was still locked by another Apple account.

Apple apparently thinks the tool, which helped facilitate the secondhand iOS device market, is redundant, having removed the checker page in iCloud. It's also scrubbed the reference to it in the 'Find My iPhone Activation Lock' support page. The change was spotted by MacRumors.

The support page used to say:

"How do I check for Activation Lock before purchasing a used device?

"When you buy an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch from someone other than Apple or an authorized Apple reseller, it is up to you to ensure that the device is erased and no longer linked to the previous owner's account.

"You can check the current Activation Lock status of a device when you visit icloud.com/activationlock from any Mac or PC."

Apple also offered several steps to check the status of a device if the buyer had physical access to it, which remains unchanged.

Activation Lock, a feature enabled by Find My iPhone, locks iOS devices down unless the Apple ID and password is known.

Apple introduced the Activation Lock status checker in 2014, specifically to help buyers of secondhand iOS devices avoid purchasing a device that's still locked. Activation Lock itself was introduced with iOS 7 to prevent thieves from reactivating a device after wiping it.

ZDNet has asked Apple why it's removed the feature from iCloud and will update the story if it receives an answer.

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