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I live in the USA. I want to purchase a used iPhone 5 and repurpose it and activate it with my existing Apple ID, and use it as if it were an iPod touch, without a service contract from a phone provider. I also do not want to jailbreak this iPhone.

I'm familiar with questions like this one and with Apple's knowledge base article "Using an iPhone without a wireless service plan", but my usage scenario seems to be different.

To the best that I can understand, Apple's instructions apply to a person who has an existing iPhone mobile service plan. In this scenario, said person buys a newer, second iPhone for use with his existing SIM card and mobile provider, but wants to keep the old iPhone and use it merely as an iPod touch. The instructions are to take the working SIM card registered to that person's mobile provider account for use with the new iPhone, and use it to activate the old iPhone once, remove the SIM card, and then keep the old iPhone for use as an iPod touch. But this presumes, unless I am mistaken, that both the new iPhone and the old iPhone will be registered to the same Apple ID.

I, on the other hand, have never had an iPhone service contract with a company like AT&T or Verizon. I honestly have no need for an iPhone. Rather, I have owned a succession of iPod touches over the years, which I use over WiFi every day. I don't want or need a mobile account with a service provider for an iPhone.

My old iPod touch 4th generation is no longer doing what I need it to do because today's apps run too slow on it. I don't want to buy an iPod touch 5th generation at this point because it only has an A5 processor, and I don't want to wait to see if Apple ever releases a newer-generation iPod touch.

So my question is this: Can I purchase a used iPhone without a mobile service contract, borrow an iPhone SIM card from a friend who has his own Apple ID different from mine, and use my friend's active SIM card one-time to register my used iPhone to my own Apple ID, not to my friend's Apple ID?

If this will not work, what method can I use, if any, to end up with a working iPhone-as-iPod-touch that is registered to my own existing Apple ID and nobody else's, considering that I have never had a mobile service plan for an iPhone at all?

  • You could edit Apple ID out of this and not change a thing as you don't get to enter an AppleID until after the iOS activates. – bmike Mar 3 '14 at 13:43
  • @bmike, I'm afraid I just don't understand the process here, never having tried this. Please elaborate. – user9290 Mar 3 '14 at 13:49
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I solved the problem by making an appointment at the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store, explaining what I was trying to do, and asking for their help. Even though I purchased a used iPhone 5c from a third-party, they brought out a working new Sprint SIM card and activated the iPhone with Apple (for use as an iPod touch only. with no phone service) for me. They also let me keep the SIM card in case I need it to reset the iPhone.

The new SIM card that the Sprint Store had given me earlier, for one reason or another, did not work.

The Genius in the Apple Store told me that Sprint SIM cards are very specific, and some would work in a 5c and others would not.

The Sprint SIM card model that did work with my iPhone 5C was Sprint part number SIMGLW406C.

The Sprint SIM card model that did not work with my iPhone 5C was Sprint part number SIMGLW406R.

  • Good to know. I've only done it with AT&T phones and they seem to be a bit less finicky. Glad to see you got the issue resolved. – Steve Chambers Mar 9 '14 at 20:40
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The SIM card, while required for activation, holds no information about the AppleID.

I am not sure if you can uses a friend's SIM card to do this but you CAN walk into an AT&T store and get a SIM card for your iPhone.

Just tell them your friend messed up his SIM card and needs another one. You should not need to give them a phone number or anything else, there should be no charge for the SIM card.

Once you have a valid, new, SIM card you should be able to activate the phone and use it as an iPod touch without having a cellular service plan.

  • So are you saying that any SIM card from the mobile provider that the phone is locked to would work to activate an iPhone as an iPod touch--that it does not have to be a SIM card taken from an iPhone belonging to someone who already has that iPhone registered for mobile service from that provider? Honestly, I have zero experience with this and I just don't understand the parameters. – user9290 Mar 4 '14 at 18:01
  • Is the iPhone provisioned for Sprint or a completely unlocked phone compatible with Sprint's network? You DO need a SIM card for Apple to activate to phone, once activated you can remove the SIM. I've done this several times in the last week as we have a bunch of old (AT&T) iPhones we are handing our for use as iPod Touches. I just used a new unused SIM we got from a local AT&T store if the SIM that was in it would not work. – Steve Chambers Mar 8 '14 at 0:48
  • The phone is provisioned for Sprint and locked. I bought it from a commercial reseller as used, but as near as I can tell, it is in fact brand-new and has never been used before. I got a never-before-used SIM card from a Sprint store, right out of the sealed packaging. When I brought it home to try it, I could not get it to work. In the morning I'm going to an Apple Store Genius Bar to see if they can tell me anything. – user9290 Mar 8 '14 at 6:01
  • When I put in the SIM card, the iPhone says "No Service". When I connect to a known-good WiFi, on the phone, then I get the "Try again later" message no matter what I do. I've done a couple of safe-mode resets on the iPhone and reinstallations through iTunes, to no avail. – user9290 Mar 8 '14 at 6:06
  • The Apple Store Genius Bar solved my problems, as I explained in my own answer. Sorry for the frustration! – user9290 Mar 8 '14 at 18:55

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