Apple is making it harder to tell if the used iPhone you want to buy is stolen. The company recently shut down its Check Activation Lock Status webpage, which was a handy tool for checking to see if an iPhone was open for activation and not still locked to another user’s iCloud account.
Check Activation Lock Status worked by checking the iPhone’s serial number or IMEI device number to see if the Find My iPhone activation lock was turned off. If so, the phone can be set up as a new device on someone else’s iCloud. If the seller refused to provide the IMEI or serial number, there’s a good chance the iPhone was stolen.
You can take care of all three requirements by going to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings on the iPhone you’re planning to sell. You’ll have to authenticate with your iPhone passcode to complete the process. Alternately, you can login to your iCloud account and unlink the phone from the Find My iPhone page.
Apple isn’t saying why it shut down the Check Activation Lock Status feature. It’s possible the company decided it was some sort of security or privacy risk, or it’s possible not enough people used the feature so Apple decided to turn it off.
Regardless of why Apple turned off Check Activation Lock Status, buying an iPhone off Ebay or Craigslist just got a little more risky because you have to trust that the seller really understands how to unlink the phone from their iCloud account. That’s a pretty big leap of faith considering how many iPhone owners don’t understand the difference between pressing the power button to lock the screen and actually turning off the device.
[Thanks to our TMO readers for the heads up]