Will iOS 7’s Activation Lock really deter iPhone theft?

Apple Activation Lock for iOS 7

During the massive WWDC keynote today the folks at Apple walked the audience of developers through several new features of iOS 7, the operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices. Toward the end of the keynote one really interesting and useful feature got a mention but barely any talk time: Activation Lock. There were no demos or anything, but Activation Lock might be one of the most important updates to iOS in a long time.

Activation Lock builds on the security and theft recovery already available to iOS devices in the form of Find My iPhone. This feature turned on, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac owners can locate a missing device using another compatible Apple product. The service shows where your missing device is on a map, will play a sound to help you locate it if it’s lost in your house, and will even remotely lock your device or wipe it to protect your data. All of that is awesome, but what if your iOS device is not just misplaced, but stolen? If the thief is at all smart (and hey, some aren’t…) they won’t give you a chance to find your iPhone or iPad. Instead of leaving Find My iPhone on, the thief might turn it off and/or factory reset/wipe the device themselves. If the goal is to resell the device and not steal your personal information, this method is handy.

Well, until now. With Activation Lock the iOS device will continue to display the Lock screen “please call me to return my iPhone” message even after the phone is wiped by the thief. No one will be able to re-activate or get into the device without the original owner’s Apple ID and password. Don’t have that? Enjoy your brick of a phone.

This feature is only available for devices compatible with iOS 7. That means the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, the iPad Mini, and the iPod Touch fifth generation and up are all compatible. Everyone else will need to keep a better eye on their stuff.

There are a few flaws in this system, of course. Find My iPhone only works when the device is connected to Wi-Fi or mobile broadband. There aren’t many deep details available on Activation Lock right now, so it’s hard to determine under what circumstances it will work – is it on automatically when iOS 7 is activated? If Find My iPhone can’t connect to the device will Activation Lock work? What if you want to sell the device yourself later on? As iOS 7 gets closer to release we hope to get the answers.

Apple is touting this new security feature as a theft deterrent, but how long will it take for iPhone and iPad thieves to catch on? And will they continue to steal devices and just sell them for parts – it’s not as lucrative, but better than nothing. I wonder how many will end up calling the owner in frustration and giving it back?


Apple resurrects the iPhone SE with brand-new units starting at $249

Apple quietly started selling the iPhone SE again, at even lower prices than when it was discontinued four months ago. Brand new units of the 32GB version are on sale for $249, while the 128GB version is going for $299.

How to choose an iPad in 2019: A practical guide to Apple’s tablets

Selecting an iPad from Apple's lineup can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Our comprehensive guide should put the numbers and specs in practical, easy-to-understand terms. Find your ideal iPad with the help of our guide.
Smart Home

Want a smarter home? Ditch the keys with these great smart locks

A good smart lock should offer a combination of security and convenience. Fortunately, these devices keep your home protected, your family safe, and your belongings secure from possible intruders.

Having trouble logging in? Here's how to reset your Apple ID password

To use any of Apple's services, you need to have an Apple ID and know your password. Thankfully, there are ways to deal with forgotten passwords and regain access to your account. Here's how to reset your Apple ID password.

Join the Apple club with our complete guide to switching from Android to iOS

If Android simply isn’t cutting it for you anymore, then you might be considering Apple’s warm embrace. Here’s how to make the switch from Android to iOS without losing your contacts, sleep, or hair!

Popular Android navigation apps are just Google Maps with ads, researcher says

A malware researcher found that 19 free Android navigation apps on the Google Play Store were nothing more than Google Maps, but with ads. One of the apps asked for a payment to remove the ads, while some of them presented security risks.

The Cat S48c is the phone designed for construction workers (or the clumsy)

The Cat S48c is a rugged smartphone that's available from Sprint. It mixes midrange specs with a huge battery wrapped in an extremely tough and protective body. If you need a phone that can survive the construction site, then this is it.

Google Maps will now help drivers stay within speed limits, avoid speed traps

Google Maps will now start showing speed limits and speed camera locations, so that drivers will not be flagged for speeding tickets. The new features arrive to the app years after they were introduced in Waze.

Text up a storm with the best messaging apps for iOS and Android

These days, most people tend to favor digital messages over phone calls. We have the best messaging apps that allow you to share photos and documents, send text messages, and more with end-to-end encryption.

If you want Samsung's advanced folding phone, be prepared to pay a lot for it

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy Fold, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.

Do these case images confirm a side-mounted fingerprint scanner on the S10 E?

It won't be long now; With 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.

Verizon 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.

The best iPhone 6 cases for style and protection

No one likes a bruised Apple. Scratches, scuffs, and cracks on a new iPhone 6 are enough to ruin anyone’s day. Check out the best iPhone 6 cases and get some protection on that shiny new smartphone.