‘Looks like scoring a used iPhone just got a bit more tricky.
Apple’s iCloud Activation Lock tool—which allowed potential buyers to check if a used iOS device (i.e. iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and Apple Watches) is tied to an active account—appears to have been removed from iCloud.com. The change was first noticed by MacRumors.
Activation Lock, first introduced with iOS 7 in 2013, is enabled automatically when a user turns on their device’s Find My iPhone feature. It ties an iOS device to a single iCloud account, effectively protecting the phone from being hijacked by someone else. It’s the reason why you have to take a few moments to wipe an iOS device and turn off Find My iPhone when you trade your old iPhone in for a new one—if you didn’t, your old device would still be tied to your account, and useless on the resale market.
The Activation Lock status checking tool was first introduced in 2014 to help buyers on the resale market steer clear of locked (and thus: potentially stolen) devices. By entering the IMEI or Serial Number, buyers would instantly be alerted of a product still tied to an iCloud account, and take the proper steps with the seller to either unlock the device or stop the sale.
Now, however, searching for the tool’s page results in a 404 error, and all mention of the feature has been removed from Apple’s Activation Lock support page. When reached for comment about the tool’s removal, Apple reps no response.
Either way, now that the tool’s offline, be sure to do your homework if you’re buying a used iOS device. If you’re not dealing with a retailer that’s been certified by Apple, make sure to ask the seller about the Activation Lock up front. If they can’t guarantee the device isn’t still locked, don’t buy it.
This story was updated to reflect Apple’s response to our questions.