Newer iPhones Difficult to Refurbish Thanks to Activation Lock

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You most likely don’t spend a large amount of time worrying about what happens to your devices and machines after you trade them in. To the contrary, you may spend some time considering buying a refurbished device or computer because it can be considerably cheaper/

But the phones become refurbished somehow, right? That’s because after you upgrade, the old ones are fixed up to resell. The problem is after Apple introduced Activation Lock, it meant people forget or do not realize they need to turn off the “Find My” option.

iPhones Not Refurbishable/Recyclable

The Activation Lock feature’s purpose is to prevent others from using your device if it’s lost or stolen. It’s a great relief to have that on your phone or iPad and know that if it’s stolen, the thief won’t be able to access any of your content on your phone.

When you get rid of an old iPhone, you want to use the Reset feature to completely wipe the phone of everything, including the Activation Lock. If you forget, however, and turn in your phone or sell it to a friend, it will keep asking for your Apple ID and not allow it to be set up as a new phone.

This means recyclers and refurbishers have no use for your old iPhone, as it does nothing for them. They can’t get past the Activation Lock. This leads to less available refurbished phones, which jacks the price up much more. It also means we’re not doing the environment any favors.

“We receive four to six thousand locked iPhones per month,” reports Peter Schindler, the Wireless Alliance founder and owner. Phones turned in with the Activation Lock still activated “have to get parted out or scrapped.”

But mostly this is only happening because people are just unaware of how to properly turn over a phone. “People don’t realize that if you don’t properly resent your device, that phone is effectively bricked once you send it to me,” explains Schindler.

“They’re just not thinking through the steps or don’t connect the fact that [Find My iPhone] is a permanent, never-ending lock on the phone. They think, ‘Oh, well, I turned the phone off. Find My iPhone must be turned off too.’ They don’t associate it with bricking the iPhone.” He further notes that iPhone users “associate it in their mind as just a retrieval tool.”

News Iphone Activation Lock Boxed

But this is something Apple could solve with proper education of what users should do when they are through using their phones. All you need to do is turn off the Find My feature or do a Reset of your phone.

Macs, Too

But now this problem is extending past iPhones to Macs. Macs that have Apple’s new T2 security chip also have Activation Lock. Traditionally, Macs have an optional firmware password that prevents unauthorized users from wiping a Mac’s storage drive, and even that still presents a problem, with around 20 percent of MacBooks getting turned in locked.

That’s bypassable with special tools and methods that Apple probably doesn’t approve of. But with the T2 security chip, any change in the hardware activates a hardware lock, and it can only be undone by an Apple-authorized repair service.

“It upset me as a human being when I have to toss six thousand phones a month that could otherwise go into someone’s hands who’d actually appreciate and use that device for many more years,” said Schindler, and now that’s going to start happening with Macs as well.


Schindler would like to see Apple implement a bypass that would allow certified recyclers and refurbishers to unlock iPhones and Macs if they’re not reported as lost or stolen, as 98 percent of the locked devices he sees aren’t lost or stolen.

“People don’t steal a phone to then go run and drop it off at their local recycling center,” he notes. And smartphone thefts aren’t as big of a problem as they once were anyway. But if they do come in contact with such phones, refurbishers would be happy to return stolen devices if they knew how to connect the original owner or verify it was indeed stolen.

Schindler is considering filing a DMCA exemption request if Apple doesn’t rectify this on its own. “They’re preventing us from reusing what is rightfully our property,” he said.

What do you do with your old devices? Did you realize what you need to do with them to be sure they are able to be recycled and refurbished? Tell us in the comments below.

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