A few words about the new ‘Activation Lock’ function in iOS 7

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If you owe an iOS 7 device, you might be familiar, or at least aware of the new function ‘Activation Lock’ found within ‘Find My iPhone.’ This function makes it harder for anyone to access, use or sell an iPhone, iPod or iPad in case of theft of loss.

After iOS 7 was released, New York Police cops have gone around handing out flyers, and asking people to upgrade to the new operating system. The reason? It appears that they had enough of chasing after iPhone thieves, and they give credit to the new ‘Activation Lock’ function in iOS 7.

What is ‘Activation Lock’ and how does it help?

‘Activation Lock’ is a new security feature in iOS 7, an extra layer of protection, which will prevent a thief from deactivating the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature. To find out more about ‘Find My iPhone’ and other ways to protect your iPhone read our article 'iPhone theft or loss: four ways to protect your iPhone and personal data.'

So far ‘Find my phone’ was great for locating your lost or stolen iPhone, but it had a flaw: anyone could deactivate the feature if they knew where to go in Settings, or by restoring the phone. Now, in order to do this, one has to know the Apple iD and the account password of the original owner.

It is obvious how the new feature helps: if before, the first thing a thief would have done was to reset the iPhone to its factory settings in order to remove any trace of the previous owner, now this is impossible.

With ‘Activation Lock’, you need to provide your Apple ID and password before you can:

  • Sign out of iCloud on the phone

  • Turn off Find My iPhone

  • Erase and reset the phone

This means that even as an owner of the phone, you need to make sure that you don’t forget these details. However, if you do forget your Apple account details, all you have to do is to reset it at My Apple ID, or to contact Apple Support and verify your identity.

How to activate it and how does it work

In order to use Activation Lock, you need to turn on ‘Find My iPhone’. You can easily do this by going into Settings -> select iCloud -> and turn ‘Find my iPhone’ ON.

From here, ‘Find My iPhone’ will do its job. Here is how the magic works, in case you never used this function (and hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s better to be informed).

If you lost your phone, go to iCloud.com and sign in with your Apple ID and password. On Find My iPhone app, iCloud will be able to find out where your iPhone is by making it play a sound (this will help if your iPhone is mislaid somewhere nearby), or by showing you exactly where the iPhone is located, on a map. Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 12.13.44.png

The next thing you can do is to put your iPhone into Lost Mode - this will lock your iPhone with a passcode you supply, and you can set a custom message such as ‘Bring me Home’ or ‘I’m lost.’ Let’s hope that your iPhone will get back to you as quickly as it has disappeared.

If you’re worried that your device has fallen into the wrong hands, you can also completely erase your iPhone. It won’t be very pleasant in case you don’t have a backup and you find your iPhone eventually, but at least you are sure that no one will be able to use your data or your phone.

In order to do this go into Settings -> General-> Reset-> Erase all content and settings. All the data on your iPhone will be deleted, and ‘Find My iPhone’ will be turned off at the same time.

Deactivating the ‘Find My iPhone’ function is also something you must do if you decide to give away or sell your iPhone - if you don’t want this security feature to stay in the next owner’s way.

We’ve heard stories of iPhone theft, where ‘Find my iPhone’ has successfully rescued the iPhones from the thief’s hands. But we’d like to hear more stories, so if you have a similar story, share it with us in a comment and you’ll get a free iPhone case.

March 26, 2014