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How to Fix Unable to Activate iPhone after iOS 16 Update

One of the main problems that can occur when updating your iPhone to the latest version of iOS is being unable to activate the iPhone. This is a common iOS problem that many users have reported, so we’ve decided to finally take an in-depth look at this problem and share with you some of the solutions we have found. Let’s begin with some of the reasons why your iPhone says “Unable to Activate” soon after an iOS 17 update.

Why Does My iPhone Say Unable to Activate?

There are several reasons why you may be having problems activating the iPhone. The following are just some of the most common ones:

  • If Activation Lock is setup on your iPhone and the device is tied to another iCloud account, you may have problems activating it.
  • Problems with the carrier can also make it harder to activate an iPhone. Most AT&T and Verizon customers in the US have reported this problem with the iPhone X.
  • It is also possible that the activation server is down. This can happen particularly when the server is experiencing a high volume of traffic, especially soon after Apple releases a new update.
  • You may also be unable to activate the iPhone if your SIM card is not supported.
  • The activation process can also fail due to internet connectivity issues or a software problem with the device.

The following are some of the most effective solutions to try if you are unable to activate the iPhone after an iOS 17/16 update:

What to Do When You Can’t Activate Your iPhone

Since you have known the reasons why this error message occurs, let’s check some solutions below:

1. Check Apple System Status

The first thing you need to do when your iPhone is unable to activate is to check the Apple system status page. It is very likely that there is nothing wrong with your device and it is simply a problem with the Apple system servers being unavailable at the time.

Like we mentioned before, this problem has happened during an update since millions of iOS users around the world are trying to update and activate their devices at the same time, overwhelming the servers.

To check the status, go to Apple System Status page and if “iOS Device Activation” is not green, then the server is facing some kinds of issue. The good news is, you just need to wait for the servers to come back online and the activation process should proceed normally.

apple system status

2. Check If the SIM Card Is Properly Placed

Actually, it’s quite complicated to activate iPhone without SIM card, and the activation may fail if the SIM card is not properly inserted.

Thus we should make sure to put the SIM card on the card stay properly cause the device may not be detected if the card is not correctly placed.

3. Remove SIM Card and Reinsert It

You should also consider removing the SIM card and reinserting it especially when you see a message saying “SIM card is unsupported error” or “No SIM/Invalid SIM error”.

To remove the SIM card, turn off the iPhone and then use the SIM ejector tool to remove the SIM card. Then reinsert the SIM card, before making sure that the SIM tray is closed perfectly.

If on the other hand you see the “No SIM” or “Invalid SIM” message popup, try using a different SIM card. If you are able to activate the device with another SIM card then the problem may be the SIM card.

You should also make sure that you have an active plan with your wireless carrier. If you are unsure, contact your carrier.

reinsert the sim card

4. Restart iPhone

It is also possible that the device is unable to activate because of a software issue. In this case, the best thing you can do is restart the device. Here’s how to restart the various iPhone models:

  • Restart an iPhone with Face ID: press and hold the power button and one of the volume buttons. Swipe the “Slide to Power Off” slider to turn off the device and then press and hold the power button again to turn on the device.
  • Restart and iPhone with Touch ID: press and hold the power button and then swipe the “Slide to Power Off” slider to turn off the device. Now press the power button again to turn on the device.

restart iphone

You may be asked to enter the password whole activating the device. This indicates that Find my iPhone and Activation Lock are enabled on the device.

5. Ensure that iPhone is Not Locked

If the iPhone is locked to a particular network, you will not be able to activate it. Therefore, if you are trying to fix the carrier activation error, the best thing you can do is contact the mobile carrier to enquire if the device is locked to the carrier. If it is, you may need to unlock the device and this will vary depending on the carrier. For more info, please refer to How to Check if iPhone is Unlocked.

6. Unlock Activation Lock

If the device you are trying to activate is a second-hand one, it is possible that the previous owner may have neglected to remove the Activation Lock. Activation Lock is a part of the Find My iPhone designed to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing the device.

In this case, you may want to contact the previous owner and ask them to disable Find my iPhone. Also, there are ways to remove Find My iPhone Activation Lock without previous owner.

7. Connect to a Reliable Wi-Fi Network

The process of activating an iPhone requires a stable internet connection. You may therefore want to ensure that the network you are using is dependable and strong enough to support the process. If you are having issues with your Wi-Fi network, you should consider choosing a different network or using a cellular data connection.

8. Activate iPhone Using iTunes

If you are still unable to activate the device, you should try using iTunes or Finder. If you are using iTunes, you may want to make sure you have the latest version of iTunes before you start. Once iTunes is up-to-date, follow these simple steps:

  • Turn off the iPhone and then connect it to the computer. With the device connected, turn it on and then open iTunes or Finder.
  • When the device appears at the top left corner of the window, select it. If you are using Finder, you will see the device in the “Locations” folder.
  • A popup will appear asking if you want to activate the device. Sign in with your Apple ID and then click “Continue” to activate the device.

activate iphone with itunes

9. Restore iPhone Using Recovery Mode

Recovery mode is a great way to eliminate some of the software issues that could be interfering with the activation process. If you are not having much luck activating the device with iTunes, you can try to restore it in recovery mode. Follow these simple steps to do it:

  • Connect the device to your computer and then open Finder (macOS Catalina or later) or iTunes (PC and macOS Mojave or earlier).
  • Put your device in recovery mode. The procedure to put the device in recovery mode will depend on the iPhone model.
  • When the device is in recovery mode, a message will popup in iTunes or Finder asking if you want to Update or Restore the device. Click on “Restore” and keep the device connected to the computer until the process is complete.

itunes recovery mode

The restore option will erase all exiting data and settings on the device and install the latest version of iOS. If you attempt to fix the problem without losing data, choose “Update”.

10. Call Your Carrier or Contact Apple

If none of the solutions above get you any closer to activating the iPhone, then we recommend calling your carrier to see if there is anything they can do to help. If they can’t help or they determine that the problem is not with their network, then your only choice of action is to contact Apple Support. Perhaps there is a problem with the device, preventing you from activating the device. If the device is still under warranty you may be able to save some money on the repair costs.

Fix ‘iPhone Unable to Activate’ in One Click

FoneGeek iOS System Recovery is a professional and efficient program that help us restore our iPhone or iPad without losing any data. In addition to repairing the iOS system, we can also use this tool to update or downgrade iOS version, etc.

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While it can be frustrating to see the 'Unable to Activate: An update is required to activate your iPhone' while setting up your iPhone, resolving this issue is not that difficult. By reading the 10 methods in this article, you shall be unable to activate your iPhone.

Edwin J. Parke

As a professional writer who is interested in technology, Edwin J. Parke has helped thousands of users by offering various tips to solve their problems.

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