One way or another, most of us have acquired a second-hand device. If you purchased or have been gifted a second-hand iPhone, there may be a glaring issue when you power it on. The iPhone displays an Activation Lock and is useless to you until it is unlocked. Will you be able to use your newly acquired phone—Is it possible to unlock an iCloud locked iPhone?
What Is an iCloud Locked iPhone?
The iCloud lock prevents you from using the iPhone as a security measure for the iPhone owner and a level of deterrence for would-be thieves. The iPhone with an iCloud lock displays “Activation Lock” when the phone is turned on. This prevents the next user from activating the phone. This makes the phone unusable in its state, and it becomes less attractive to buyers if the thief tries to sell it. There are a range of reasons why a second-hand iPhone may have an Activation Lock.
The iCloud Activation Lock is an obvious advantage to any iPhone owner looking to keep their phone and privacy safe. Apple provided the iCloud Activation Lock as a feature in iOS 7 and has included it in updates since. iOS 7 covered variations of the iPhone 4 and 5 back in 2014. For purchasers of a second-hand phone, this can be a big disappointment if you bought the phone in good faith. You will not be able to use the phone until it is removed.
The iCloud lock has expanded to other devices such as the iPad and Apple Watch to protect the device owners. It may appear as though resetting the device will grant access, but that is not the case. You can drain the battery in hopes that it clears the lock—to no effect. Even Jailbreaking and hacking will not bypass the iCloud lock. This is an ingenious move by Apple to protect the property owner, but are you stuck with an Apple brick if you purchased the phone legitimately?
Is it possible to unlock an iCloud locked iPhone? We recommend you ask the seller or previous owner a few questions before finding out whether you can unlock the iPhone. It is possible that they stole the phone, so you want to be sure it was not stolen. To figure out how you will unlock the iPhone you must know if you can contact the previous owner. There are other routes you can take if you cannot contact the owner, which we will get to later.
Are All iCloud-Locked Phones Stolen?
Image via: Flickr
Just because the iCloud lock is enabled, it doesn’t mean that the phone was definitely stolen. While that is a possibility, it could just be that the previous owner enabled Find My Phone. After a year of using the phone, it is a simple mistake to forget to disable the lock prior to clearing the phone data. Without the previous owner’s knowledge, the phone is locked when they sell it.
The iCloud lock could also come up because the previous owner was still signed in to iCloud prior to clearing the phone’s data. This is a common reason, and the previous owner might not have known that the iPhone will lock as a preventative measure to protect their phone.
If you know the previous owner, you can ask them, but if you purchased the phone from an online seller, this raises a red flag. A reseller may have little interaction with the previous owner. This could mean that someone stole the phone, or as in the previous case—they forgot to disable the lock. If you are dealing with an online seller, always ask them to confirm the iPhone is not locked before purchase. Even if the phone was legitimately acquired, it can cause problems for the buyer.
Is It Possible to Unlock an iCloud Locked iPhone? Yes!
Image via: Flickr
Your Best Chance—Contact the Owner
Is it possible to unlock an iCloud locked iPhone? If you were gifted the phone or purchased it from the original owner, it is simple. They can unlock the phone by entering their iCloud login details at the Activation Lock. This is the easiest way to access the iPhone. If it is possible to get the login details from the original owner, we strongly recommend that this is how you unlock the iPhone.
A Nearby Owner
If you can reach out to the owner and they are nearby to meet you, but they are unsure how to unlock it, we have a quick step-by-step guide.
- Enter Apple login credentials on the Activation screen
- Once you have access to the home screen, select settings
- Select Apple ID on iOS 10.3 and up or iCloud on older devices
- Select Sign Out
- The device will prompt for Apple ID and Password
- Select Turn Off on iOS 10.3 and up or Sign Out on older devices, followed by Delete from my iPhone
To clean the data from the iPhone
- Go back to settings
- Select General, then Reset
- Select Erase All Content and Settings
- The iPhone will restart and you will no longer see the Activation Lock
There is still a chance to unlock the phone remotely if the previous owner does not live nearby. Here are the step-by-step instructions.
- Sign in with your Apple ID from iCloud.com
- Go to Find My Phone
- From All My Devices select the device you want to unlock
- Choose Erase iPhone and Remove from Account
- Restart the iPhone after they have removed it from the account
- You should no longer see the Activation Lock upon startup
Uncooperative Seller—Chances are Slim
Maybe you have gotten through to the seller and confirmed the iPhone was not stolen, but they will not help you. Either they don’t care, or cannot provide the credentials. You’ve tried to drain the battery and reset the phone. Maybe you’ve considered less ethical ways to access your precious new gadget. Many frustrated buyers have asked, “Is it possible to unlock an iCloud locked iPhone?”
If the seller will not cooperate, there is still a chance to unlock your iPhone. There are many sites that will promise an unlocked fully functional iPhone, but these sites are suspicious for good reason. You should avoid sending your iPhone to them because even if they are successful in unlocking the iPhone, there are some drawbacks. iCloud unlocking services are rogue service providers that are not certified by Apple, so always approach with caution. When possible, always use legitimate means to unlock the phone or avoid the sale entirely.
The iPhone unlocking services that promise to unlock the iCloud Activation Lock can do so, but they sever the connection to Apple. This means that you no longer have a fully functional iPhone, and you no longer have permission to retrieve updates from Apple. They are not to be confused with unlocking services for iPhones locked to a wireless service network.
Your final chance to get a fully functional iPhone from an iCloud locked brick is to contact Apple. If you can get in touch with Apple Support and provide proof of purchase with your explanation, they may help. This is not a surefire way, but if you convince them the sale was genuine and your intentions are not malicious, they should be able to unlock the iPhone for you.
Next time you are purchasing a secondhand iPhone, save yourself the trouble and avoid purchasing one with an iCloud lock. Ask the seller to confirm it in a video, or if you know the seller personally, just ask them before you hand over the cash.
Image via: Flickr
The iCloud Activation Lock is a great feature for users, much to second-hand buyers’ dismay. It offers users protection from theft and secures their data. It is most likely here to stay in future iOS releases and has been around since iOS 7 in 2014. It is a powerful deterrence to theft.
Is it possible to unlock an iCloud locked iPhone? It is possible. Now that you know what trouble it can cause if you buy from a seller who will not cooperate, you should do your diligence to make sure the phone is not locked before you buy it. If the seller will not cooperate, there are probably 100s of other iPhones available second hand with the lock removed. Don’t sweat it.
It is best to confirm the iCloud Activation Lock is disabled before you buy the phone, but if the previous owner is cooperative, you can easily have it unlocked. iCloud is left on by mistake when the previous owner clears the data in most cases. If they are nearby, they just have to log in and disable iCloud before removing their data. Even a remote sale can be resolved if the owner logs in at iCloud and removes the data.
Your final hope is not to trust the unlocking services available online. Instead, if you purchased the phone legitimately, call Apple Support and provide your proof of purchase. They have helped people out if they can prove the second-hand phone was purchased legitimately and not stolen.