How to unlock a linked iPhone/iPad

Apple in their wisdom, have implemented a way of reducing iPhone and iPad theft – by linking an iOS device to an Apple ID (aka iTunes account, or iCloud account). This is good, because there is no way to wipe and reuse the device without providing the correct Apple ID username and password. eBay is full of these too, selling them for parts only.

iphone lockedAn example locked iPhone from eBay

This is also bad though, particularly for businesses. You can dish out iPhones to all your staff, but unless you disable the use of Apple IDs, or manage the credentials with email accounts you have access to, this is out of your control. Staff can use their personal Apple ID on a device, and when they leave for whatever reason, you get handed back a completely useless device.

Some companies can enforce this as part of someone’s contract or terms of employment; return the phone in working order, or you’ll be charged for it. This is a big hassle to chase up though, and you can still be left with a non-functioning phone at the end of it.

After researching the locked iOS device problem, and calling around… there is a way you can reset these phones to be in working order again. The problem with this process is that you need Apple to press a magic button, and will have to convince them to do so.

Here’s a step by step on how I managed to get a few phones unlocked

1. Call Apple. You don’t need a valid AppleCare support or anything like that, and tell them you have a locked device, along with saying if it’s business or personal. They’ll then transfer you through to the local area that looks after locked devices

2. The local area will raise a case for you, and want to know the IMEI or serial number of the device.

3. You’ll then receive an email from a ‘do not reply’ Apple address, similar to this:

Please review the Form below and complete or correct any needed information. Afterwards please copy and send to [email protected] using “xxx” as the subject, and attach any and all Proof of Purchase documents, unless confirmed by advisor. A reply will be sent within 2 to 10 business days.

To be considered valid, the receipt must include the following information:

1. Reseller’s name
2. Reseller’s address, phone number or website URL
3. Date of purchase when the product was originally sold
4. Product serial number, IMEI number or MEID number

The serial number can be typed or handwritten. If the reseller didn’t provide the serial number on the receipt, you can write the number on the receipt before you send it. For help finding your product’s serial number, see this article:

How to find the serial number of your Apple hardware product

4. Find your proof of purchase (receipt or invoice). For me, there was no IMEI or Serial number referenced, so I handwrote the serial number on the invoice and scanned it in.

5. Email your invoice to the address provided on the last email

6. For businesses at least, you’ll then receive an email like this:

Hi Adam,

Thanks for contacting AppleCare for your unlock request for Find My iPhone: Activation Lock. To complete your request, we’ll need more information. Please fill out the following Statement of Ownership and Authority.

UNLOCK AUTHORIZATION STATEMENT: “I [CUSTOMER NAME] representing [BUSINESS/INSTITUTION NAME] authorize Apple, Inc. to unlock the devices listed.”

Reply to this email with the completed form. We’ll confirm we received your email within 2 business days and continue to work on your request. For faster turnaround time, please keep the case number in the subject line of your reply.

We look forward to hearing from you.

For consumer, you may need to have a signed declaration from a Justice of the Peace (J.P.).

7. Send back your one liner ‘unlock authorization statement’, then wait a few days. 2 business days for companies, but I was told it’s a week or longer for consumers.

8. If all goes well, you’ll then get the final email stating that the lock has been removed:

Thanks for sending the proof of purchase for this product:

Serial number: XXX

After reviewing the provided documentation, we have turned off Find My iPhone Activation Lock on your device. You can now perform a recovery-mode restore to erase the device and set it up with a different Apple ID.

For more information on how to perform a recovery-mode restore, see this article:

iOS: Unable to update or restore

Warning: When you restore the device and remove the current Apple ID, all data associated with that Apple ID will be deleted from the device and will not be restored when you set up a different Apple ID. This includes, but is not limited to, iTunes and App Store purchases, content stored in iCloud, and any iMessage conversations.

Please contact us by phone if you have any other issues or questions. To find the right phone number, see this article:

Thanks for contacting AppleCare.

9. Try your phone again, and it should check with the Apple servers and be completely unlocked.

Please comment if this process has worked or failed for you.