When the iPhone I bought from eBay arrived I tried to set it up but it kept on asking me for the previous owners Apple ID and password, which I didn’t know.
Yep, the device was iCloud locked.
This is when I realized I’d been caught with a well-known scam.
Sellers on eBay sell activation locked devices to unsuspecting buyers knowing they are practically unusable.
I thought I was stuck with a worthless iPhone but before throwing it out I decided to do some research to see if there was a way to do an iCloud unlock on it.
After a lot of trial and error, I eventually found a solution to unlock it quickly and easily so I could set up and use the iPhone properly.
You’ll find my recommendations and conclusions of my research below.
The Apple activation lock is a complex security system that is almost impossible to hack. Here are the conclusions of my research into it:
- There are some free methods to remove the iCloud lock such as:
- Getting the original owner to type in his Apple ID and password to the phone and signing out of iCloud, or
- Unlocking the device remotely via Apple’s website icloud.com if the seller is located miles away, or
- Asking Apple to remove it
- However, Apple will not help you remove the iCloud lock without proof you are the owner, such as the original receipt
- There are many free unlocking services online but all the free ones I tried were scams
- Most of the paid unlockers are scams that rip you off leaving you hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket
- The only safe way to iCloud unlock your iPhone is to use one of the recommended services
If you want to remove the iCloud lock on your iPhone and none of the free methods worked for you then your best bet is to use a trusted supplier to unlock your device.
I recommend AppleiPhoneUnlock because they are quick and reliable and offer a money-back guarantee.
Can you really unlock an iCloud locked iPhone?
Yes, it is possible to unlock the iCloud activation lock…
…but be very careful who you use as most companies are scammers.
I am ashamed to tell you that I spent a fortune with different suppliers trying to get the activation lock removed from my iPhone. I had almost given up hope. I believed it would end up as an expensive paperweight or discarded in a drawer.
Eventually, after trying dozens of methods over a couple of months I found a couple of suppliers that actually worked. Yes, they managed to remove the lock for me.
I decided that I needed to write an article so that others wouldn’t have to go through the same frustrating journey as me.
There are a bunch of websites that claim to do this for free with an activation lock removal tool, PDF, or service.
Sounds almost too good to be true…
…unfortunately, it is.
The free options I tried were confusing. They were inaccurate. All were scams of one type or another. Some were actually dangerous and ended up infecting my computer with a virus.
Don’t make the same mistakes as me – avoid the free iCloud removal tools and services.
Unbelievably, many of the paid options were scams too.
Companies advertised fees of up to $250 USD (£200 GBP) with no service actually provided.
Oddly, the price had no relation to the quality service offered with the best companies charging around $65 USD (£50 GBP).
Some of the paid companies I suggest you avoid include:
- i-Cloud unlock buddy
- Unlock instantly
- iPhone approved unlock
- iPhone unlock
- iRemove Tools
- i-Cloud remover
Some companies will never manage to do it. They will take your money then stop all communication leaving you out of pocket and angry.
This happened to me with several iCloud unlock providers.
However, if you use a good quality service the process to unlock your iPhone works like this:
Step 1: See what model iPhone you have
Step 2: Get the IMEI number from your iPhone
On these devices, you’ll find the IMEI on the SIM tray.
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 3G
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 4 (GSM model)
- iPhone 4s
On these devices, you’ll find the IMEI on the back.
- iPhone 6
- iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 5c
- iPhone 5
Step 3: Pick an iCloud unlocker
You need to careful choose a supplier that will do what they promise. I suggest you pick one I have reviewed.
Step 4: Ask them to unlock iCloud on your iPhone
All of the suppliers I recommend have an easy to use website.
You simply let them know your iPhone IMEI and model, then pay for the service. You will get an order confirmation letting you know the order has been placed.
If you have any questions you can get in touch with them via each companies responsive help desk.
Step 5: iCloud lock is unlocked
Normally less than 3 or 4 days later they will complete the iPhone unlock. Some unlocking services are quicker than others but normally it is done within a week.
The actual speed depends on the supplier you choose.
Once completed you will be able to setup your iPhone properly without being asked for the previous owners Apple ID or password.
After an extensive search, I had a huge list of companies that claimed to offer unlocking services.
I went through them all one-by-one carefully examining their websites. Most looked impressive and made bold claims. Many had customer testimonials and some had very persuasive videos showing how their methods worked.
It was tough to decide who was a scammer.
I decided to checkout if they had contact details or an ‘about’ page that provided more details on who the owners were. After all if they did a good job they would have nothing to hide.
Many didn’t have this basic information so I decided not to trust them. After all how was I meant to contact them if I had an issue?
If there was a way to contact them I wrote them an email to ask them about there service. If I got no response I removed them from my shortlist. If a company doesn’t respond to pre-sales questions how would they answer any post-sales ones after I had paid? I decide I didn’t want to find out.
If the service included downloadable software or online tool I tried it out to see if it worked. If it didn’t then it was cut from my list.
I then checked each of the remaining candidates in some of the online review sites such as TrustReview to evaluate real customer feedback.
If they were poorly regarded then they were removed from my list.
I then tried out the remaining suppliers by paying them money to unlock locked iPhone.
This resulted in the following shortlist…
- Price: deposit of $20 USD (£19 GBP)
- Speed: around 2 days
- Customer Services: Quick and helpful
DoctorUnlock have just started unlocking iCloud accounts and their enthusiasm really shows with the quality of their service and their high success rate.
They have a good helpdesk team that answered my questions in a friendly manor within an hour or two.
I tried unlocking a variety of iPhone models from an older iPhone 4 through to a newer iPhone X. All of them had the iCloud activation lock removed quickly without a hitch.
The only negative is their charging structure. It isn’t very clear on their website but the payment you make initially is simply a deposit for the service. The remainder of the fee is payable before the unlock is completed.
I found this a bit inconvenient as the website makes it look like the lower price is for the complete service. It isn’t.
Having said this, every single iCloud unlocking service I tried did the exact same thing. So they were not doing something unusual for this market segment but I’d prefer more upfront pricing.
Overall, I found that I actually ended up paying nearer $50 USD (£39.99 GBP) for the unlock. I believe this is still value for money considering the alternative is to buy a replacement iPhone for several hundred dollars.
They accept a wide range of payment methods including Mastercard, Amex, Visa, Maestro and Nochex giving lots of flexibility on how to pay. Of course their website is highly secure.
They also offer a 100% money back guarantee if they can’t deliver the service – although I didn’t have to try this out as all my devices were unlocked.
If your device is locked and you need to get it unlocked, you should use DoctorUnlock.
Runner up iCloud unlock provider: AppleiPhoneUnlock.uk
- Price: deposit of $20 USD (£19 GBP)
- Speed: between 2 to 5 days
- Customer Services: 24 hour response time
AppleiPhoneUnlock only started unlocking iCloud account in 2018 also making them newcomers. Having said that they have rocketed up to 2nd place in my list because they prove a great service.
They respond quickly to queries and appear to offer a great service but they are ‘too new’ to be my top pick. They need a longer track record to gain my endorsement as the best.
They also failed to unlock an iPhone 5 when I was carrying out the testing. However they refunded me in vouchers quickly and without a fuss.
Unlock speed was a little slower than my top pick but still a very acceptable 2-5 days to complete. I know speed may be important for some of you so this is another reason why it was the runner up. DoctorUnlock tell me this is something they are working hard to improve so I’ll keep an eye on this.
They use the same charging structure as DoctorUnlock meaning the ask for an initial deposit followed by a second payment to complete the unlock. They say this is because the final price depends on a number of factors such as the model, it’s location and age of your iPhone. These other factors are taken into account once the unlock has been purchased to give a final fee.
This means they have the ability to unlock devices from anywhere in the world.
AppleiPhoneUnlock accepts a wider variety of payment methods including American Express.
Overall AppleiPhoneUnlock is a good supplier but not yet quite up to the standard of the best. They are gaining on top spot rapidly and DoctorUnlock need to stay on their toes or they may well be replaced as the premium iCloud removal service.
People also ask
Will having an iCloud backup help?
An iCloud backup will not help you unlock iCloud locked devices. The iCloud backup would help you to restore your device if you had forgotten your passcode and had to erase, reset and recover it. However, the passcode recovery procedure does not help you with iCloud locked iPhones.
How can I fix iCloud so my iPhone works?
You can’t fix iCloud because it hasn’t actually broken. What has happened is that the iOS system has secured your iPhone so it can’t be used by someone else if stolen. This is actually how it is meant to work so there isn’t a way to fix iCloud, just a method to follow in order to remove it.
How did I end up with an iCloud locked iPhone?
Having an iCloud locked iPhone is due to the previous owner forgetting to sign out of iCloud before selling their phone to you. Your iCloud locked iPhone won’t be able to be used as it is linked to the iCloud account of the original owner unless you know their username and iCloud password. If you don’t know their login details then they need to sign out of iCloud using the Find my iPhone App to unlock iCloud activation lock.
Can I unlock iCloud activation lock?
Yes, you can unlock iCloud activation lock and remove the iCloud account for free or by paying a reliable service provider such as the ones mentioned in this article.
Can I remove iCloud account on iPhone?
Yes, you can remove iCloud account on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and the Apple Watch even when the iCloud lock has been triggered. This can be done by asking the previous owner to remove it remotely for you or by using one of the recommended paid services found in this article. So if your iPhone has been locked by iCloud activation lock you can remove the iCloud lock for free, or by using a good quality paid service.
Will using an iOS system recovery tool help me?
Using an iOS system recovery tool will not help you because the lock is not an iOS issue. The iOS system is installed on your device and controls how it works whereas the iCloud lock is controlled remotely by Apple from their servers. Performing an iOS system recovery is pointless and a waste of your time.
The iCloud lock is designed to prevent someone stealing your iPhone and selling it on. It is a good idea as it reduces theft and protects your data. However, it can lead to innocent buyers purchasing locked phones through no fault of their own. The way Apple has implemented this security system means you are stuck at the lock screen and can’t enable your device which seems harsh.
The same Apple ID security system is in place with all iOS based devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. I have further articles that explain how to bypass, unlock, or remove iCloud activation lock if you would like to know more, or try some other solutions.