If you plan to buy a used iPhone 4, iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 this September you should be sure to check that the seller unlocked the device or you could be stuck with a useless iPhone that not even Apple can help you unlock.
The new IOS 7 update should arrive just before the iPhone 5S release date, which means many users who are upgrading to the iPhone 5S and selling an old iPhone could be running the new software.
There is nothing wrong with iOS 7, and users shouldn’t be wary of buying an iPhone with iOS 7 installed on it, but the new iOS 7 security features could confuse sellers and hamper what the buyer can do with the iPhone if they don’t check everything out before handing over the cash.
What is Activation Lock?
In addition to completely redesigning the look of iOS for iOS 7 Apple added a new Activation Lock feature which the company hopes will help dissuade thieves from stealing an iPhone.
This handy anti-theft feature could also lock out someone who buys a used iPhone from a seller that did not unlink their Apple ID from the iPhone. This would leave the new owner without a working iPhone and could allow an unscrupulous seller to demand more cash to unlink the account.
It could also be an issue for a seller who knows an iPhone is stolen, but is counting on a buyer who doesn’t know that the phone is essentially useless.
The Activation Lock ties an iPhone to the Apple ID the user links it to during setup. As long as the Apple ID is linked to the iPhone and Find My iPhone is turned on, no one else can reset the iPhone, even if they plug it into a computer.
On iOS 6, users could plug a locked iPhone into iTunes and reset the device to factory settings. With iOS 7, Activation Lock will show the message above instead of resetting an iPhone.
What To Check When Buying a Used iPhone on iOS 7
When buying a new iPhone, it is important to make sure that it is either not set up at all, with a Welcome to iOS screen that prompts the user to sign in and get set up or that Find My iPhone is not turned on.
If the iPhone shows a iOS 7 setup screen with multiple languages of Welcome to iOS on it, you are good to go.
If the iPhone is past this screen, make sure Find My iPhone is Off and go to Settings -> General -> Reset -> Erase All Content and Settings. This will completely reset the phone to factory settings.
If the phone is locked or will not reset and the seller tells you that you should take it home and restore, say no thanks and get out of there as it could be a stolen iPhone at worst and an iPhone you can’t use at best.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes scammers will seal up an iPhone or iPad box with plastic so it looks like new, but instead of an iPhone inside it is a small weight or brick. Make sure you open up a device before handing over cash, confirm it is not locked and then don’t let that device out of your hands as a scammer can also switch devices easily, as shown in the video below.