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The security feature, designed to prevent use of lost or stolen devices, must be turned off before you buy a used iPhone.

check-activation-lock-status.jpgScreenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Looking to buy a used iPhone? You'll certainly want to make sure that the Activation Lock is turned off so that you can activate it yourself. A brand new tool from Apple can help you do just that.

Part of Apple's iCloud Find My Phone feature, a new webpage tool called Check Activation Lock Status lets you remotely check the status of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch by plugging in the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number or serial number.

In return, the page will tell you if Activation Lock is on or off. If it's on, you'll need to manually enter the current user's name and password to access the phone. If it's off, then that means the phone is available for you to activate it yourself.

Introduced in iOS 7, Activation Lock is a security measure designed to make sure that another person can't use your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch if it's lost or stolen. The feature is automatically enabled if you turn on the Find My iPhone option on your device. After Activation Lock is enabled, your Apple ID and password are required before other people can erase your device or activate it and try to use it themselves.

Law enforcement officials had long been urging Apple and other device makers to implement and turn on such a "kill switch" feature to help crack down on the use of stolen phones. As such, checking the status of the Activation Lock via the new website tool is a good way to make sure a used iPhone or iPad that you're considering buying isn't stolen.

"Before you purchase an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch from somebody else, make sure that Find My iPhone Activation Lock is turned off and the device is ready for you to use," Apple explains on the tool's webpage.

Of course, it also works the other way. Let's say you're selling your phone to another person or an online service such as Gazelle. In that case, Activation Lock needs to be turned off so the other party can activate the phone. If you forget to do that, Apple's website tool can at least determine the status of Activation Lock. Of course, if the lock is still turned on, the buyer of your phone will need to contact you to make arrangements to turn it off in order to access and reactivate the phone.

(Via iDownloadBlog)

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

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