How to activate a new or used iPhone for use with a cellular service provider, or troubleshoot it
- If you're setting up a new or used iPhone, you'll need to activate your iPhone with a cellular service provider.
- Activation is the initial part of the iPhone's setup wizard and you should be able to complete it in just a few minutes, as long as you have a SIM card that's activated for your cellular carrier's service plan.
- If you have activation problems, there are a number of steps you can take to troubleshoot, including resetting the SIM card and trying to activate via Wi-Fi.
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For the most part, this process is painless and straightforward thanks to the iPhone's setup wizard.
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How to activate an iPhoneIf you purchased the iPhone new in an Apple store or at a wireless provider, your SIM card has probably already been installed for you.
If not, you need to insert the SIM card yourself. To do that, ensure the phone is turned off, and carefully insert the tray ejection pin into the hole on the side of the phone until the tray pops out.
1. Insert the SIM card in the tray and push it back into the phone.
2. Also, note that the SIM card must be activated by the cellular carrier you have a plan with. A T-Mobile SIM card will not work in a phone that's locked to AT&T, for example. If you want to unlock your iPhone and use it with a different carrier, see the article, "How to unlock an iPhone from its current carrier and switch it to a new one."
3. Turn on your iPhone by holding down the Power button until you see the Apple logo appear on the screen.4. Begin the setup process by following the on-screen instructions.
5. When you're asked to choose a connection option, you can choose your Wi-Fi network and enter your Wi-Fi password, or choose to activate the phone over the cellular network.
6. You may be asked to sign in with your Apple ID. This is a security feature called Activation Lock designed to prevent theft. If this is your own iPhone, log in with your Apple ID. If this phone belonged to someone else, you need to ask the original owner to sign in with their Apple ID so you can complete the setup. You can change the Apple ID later.
It will take several minutes for the phone to activate.
Complete the iPhone setup
Once your iPhone is activated, you can proceed with the rest of the initial setup. Following the instructions in the setup wizard, you have several choices:
- Set up the iPhone as a new device. This is the simplest and fastest setup option, but you will be left with a factory-fresh iPhone with no apps or data installed.
- Restore apps and data from iCloud. If you are moving to a new iPhone and had iCloud backups set up on your old phone, you'll want to choose this option to restore the most recent backup to your new phone.
- Restore apps and data from an iTunes backup. If you don't use iCloud, you may have manually backed up your old iPhone using iTunes on your computer. If so, you can choose this option and connect your iPhone to the computer using a USB connection cable. Note, though, that Apple has announced it is discontinuing the iTunes app and will no longer support the program, so this option may not be viable much longer.
- Migrate data from an Android phone. If you are moving to the iPhone from an Android device, you can use Apple's Move to iOS app.
How to troubleshoot an iPhone that won't activate
If you are having trouble activating your iPhone, there are a few things that might have gone wrong. Try these troubleshooting steps:
- If the iPhone reports that there is no SIM card installed or the SIM card is invalid, make sure that the SIM card is compatible with the plan you currently have with your cellular provider. If it is, turn your phone off, open the SIM tray, and make sure the card is properly seated. Then reinsert the card and restart the phone.
- Visit Apple's System Status web page to make sure that there is a green dot beside "iOS Device Activation." If it's offline, try activating again later.
- If you are trying to activate via a cellular data connection, go somewhere that has Wi-Fi and try that way instead.
- Restart your iPhone and try again.
- If none of these help you activate your phone, contact your cellular carrier or Apple support for assistance.