After openening a new and sealed iPhone SE (bought personally from the store of a major UK chain retailer) and setting it up I was worried to find it had iOS 12.1 installed.

I thought surely this can’t be possible.

Surely it shipped with an older iOS in the first place. iOS 10 or iOS 11.

Especially since the serial number claims the device was manufactured in late May 2018. With iOS 12 being launched in September and iOS 12.1 being launched in late October - does this suggest the phone (which was sealed in plastic shrink wrap and sold as “new”), from a reputable UK wide chain retailer, has been pre-owned or tampered with in some way?

How else could it come to have iOS 12.1 on it?

Should I be worried.

2 Answers 2


It is not uncommon for sellers and manufacturers to open "sealed" products, update them, charge the battery, etc. and reseal them to sell as new.

In the US, it's perfectly legal to resell a previously opened product (and not as refurbished) provided that the process is conspicuous and documented. It's likely the UK has a similar law.

There are steps you can take even if you have questions about the legitimacy of the product you purchase. However, my best advice is that if you feel that packaging is suspicious, trust your instincts. Return the product for replacement or refund. That type of concern with always linger regardless of whether or not it's unfounded.


It's possible that It could be a refurbished unit.

You will know by the different letter designation beginning your Model number:

M – Brand new device, meaning the device was purchased new
F – Refurbished device, meaning the device has been through refurbishing process
N – Replacement device, meaning the originally bought device was replaced by this model likely due to a service request
P – Personalized device with engraving, meaning the device was customized with an engraving on purchase

There will be little difference to a "Brand New" unit - you should still get your 1year AppleCare.

Check that here:


The only thing you have to decide is if the device being "New" means anything to you and of course, whether or not you paid RRP for a refurb unit.

Hope this helps!

Edited - Serial number written instead of Model number, edited to remove conjecture.

  • Thanks for your reply, much appreciated. Confusingly, under SETTINGS > GENERAL > ABOUT - “MP...” are the first two characters. It’s recorded as M, so I suppose there’s no official refurbishing perhaps? Might this mean it was still somehow opened, used briefly, updated, then somehow repackaged?
    – Matt
    Feb 11, 2019 at 16:05
  • There is a very specific definition to the term "refurbished" both in the US and the UK. Saying that it's refurbished without evidence to support that claim is conjecture, at best.
    – Allan
    Feb 11, 2019 at 16:09
  • It's possible that being as your SE will have been one of the last produced before being discontinued (Sep18), iOS12 was installed from factory. It could also be as you suggested. Unfortunately without access to the Apple retail internal system I can't tell you if/when that phone was first activated.
    – Rab
    Feb 11, 2019 at 16:11
  • Thanks. I had checked the limited warranty apple provides (which is indicative of activation), and it is consistent with being 1 year on (minus one day of course) from when I opened and set it up, just I suppose you’re right, without being able to find an activation date, even this information may only relate to some phenomenon other than the physical device being “turned on” and “setup”/ “activated” for the first time.
    – Matt
    Feb 11, 2019 at 16:16
  • I have to admit to be being very paranoid over the fact that the device (according to my “pay as you go” (a UK term for pre-paid) app from the telecoms provider) seems to be using (consuming) “data” from the allowance while left open on the desktop, or indeed asleep (by which I mean off by the screen but not shutdown). I turned “mobile data” and iCloud off for all apps, but somehow (usually to my suspicion) after having taken photographs and written text notes - my remaining data allowance seems to have reduced by 1 to several megabytes, during a time in which the phone had been left open
    – Matt
    Feb 11, 2019 at 16:25

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