How to Prepare Your iPhone For Sale

What to Know

  • Back up your iPhone and unpair your Apple Watch if you paired one to the iPhone.
  • Turn off Find My iPhone and iCloud and deregister Messages if you're switching to Android.
  • Restore the iPhone to its factory settings and clean it up.

One of the great things about the iPhone is that old models retain their value, so when you decide to upgrade to a new model you can usually sell your old iPhone for a decent amount of money. If that's your plan, follow these steps—to protect yourself and your buyer—before selling your used iPhone.

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Unpair Apple Watch

Unpair Apple Watch and iPhone
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If you've got an Apple Watch, be sure to unpair it from the phone you're going to sell before you sell it. Each Apple Watch can only be connected to one phone at a time. So if your Watch is connected to a phone you no longer have, you'll have to erase your Watch and lose data from it to set it up with your new phone.

Once you've unpaired your Watch from your iPhone, just follow the steps in this article to pair it to your next phone.

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Back Up Your Phone

Transferring data between smartphones
Getting your contacts from iPhone to Android doesn't have to be hard.

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The most important step in getting ready to sell your iPhone is to back up your data. We all store a lot of important personal information on our phones — from emails to health data to banking info to photos — that we wouldn't want a stranger to access. Deleting that data makes sense, but you'll want to have a backup of it so you can put in on your new phone.

You have two options for the kind of backup you prefer:

You're likely already doing one of these. If so, do one final backup (depending on your settings, you may need to back up photos to a separate app). If you haven't been backing up, follow the steps in these articles.

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Confirm the Back Up Worked

Phone in back pocket
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Carpenters say that you should measure twice and cut once. That's because careful planning often prevents mistakes from being made. It would be terrible to delete all the data from your iPhone and sell the phone only to discover that you hadn't properly backed it up.

So, before you move to the next step, check to make sure that your most important information — your address book, photos (especially photos! So many people lose these without realizing it), music, etc. — is on your computer or in iCloud. (And, remember: virtually anything that you've gotten from the iTunes or App Stores can be redownloaded for free).

If you're missing things, back up again. If everything's there, move on to the next step.

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Turn Off Find My iPhone & iCloud

How to use Find My iPhone
Find My iPhone in action on iCloud.

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This step is super crucial. If you've ever used iCloud or Find My iPhone, there's a great chance that Activation Lock has been enabled on your phone.

This is a powerful anti-theft feature that requires the original Apple ID used to activate the phone in order to activate it for a new user. This is great to stop thieves, but if you sell your iPhone without turning the feature off, it's going to stop the buyer from ever using the phone.

Solve this problem by turning off Find My iPhone and signing out of iCloud before selling your iPhone. If you don't, you're going to hear from the person who buys it.

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Unlock Your Phone

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Can unlocking your phone result in a broken warranty?.

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This one is optional, but in many cases, a used iPhone is worth more if it's unlocked from its original cell phone network.

When iPhones are activated, they're "locked" to one network. After a certain period of time, iPhones can be unlocked, which allows them to work with any cell phone network.

Selling an unlocked iPhone means that the buyer has more flexibility and you can sell to anyone, not just customers of your current phone company. This is especially valuable if you're selling to an iPhone trade-in company.

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Erase All Your Data by Restoring to Factory Settings

Reset iPhone to factory settings

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Once you know all your data is backed up, safe, and ready to be moved to your new phone, you're safe to erase your iPhone. The easiest way to do this is to restore it to factory settings. This process deletes all data and settings and returns the phone to the state it was in when it first came out of the factory where it was assembled.

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Check iCloud for Success

Mirror setting across apple devices
image credit John Lamb/Digital Vision/Getty Images

With the factory reset process completed, your iPhone should reboot and show you the setup screen. At this point, you shouldn't do anything else with your old iPhone. If everything has gone right, your old iPhone only has the iOS and built-in apps on it and is ready for its new owner to set it up.

The best way to confirm this is iCloud and Find My iPhone. Log in to Find My iPhone at When you've logged in, check to see if Find My iPhone shows your old phone. If it doesn't, you're all set to move to the next step.

If your old phone still shows up in Find My iPhone, use the site to Erase your iPhone. When that's done, select your iPhone and remove it from your account. If you don't do this, your iPhone will still be locked to your Find My iPhone account and the new owner won't be able to use it — and no one likes an unhappy buyer.

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Clean iPhone

A woman cleaning an iPhone with a cloth

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Speaking of making buyers happy, whoever buys your iPhone will like what they get a lot more if the phone is clean. Spending just a few minutes with cleaning products you already have around your house will make the phone you sell feel new to your buyer.

You can clean the screen and back of the phone with a little water and a soft cloth.

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Make Sure Service Is Working on Your New Phone

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Download Netflix and you can watch anywhere.

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When all of your data is deleted and Find My iPhone is no longer tracking your old iPhone, there's just one more step to prepare your iPhone for sale: making sure your new iPhone is working. 

Your phone service should have transferred from your old phone to your new one when you bought and activated the new phone. You may already know it works: you may have gotten phone calls on the new phone. If not, ask someone to call you and make sure the call goes to your new phone. If it does, all is well.

If it doesn't, contact your phone company to make sure everything is correct about your service before getting rid of your old phone. 

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If You're Switching to Android: Deregister iMessage

iMessage removal tool
Apple's iMessage number removal tool.

This one only applies if you're selling your iPhone because you're switching to Android.

If you're doing that, make sure you deregister your phone number from Apple's iMessage texting platform. If you don't, you could have problems getting all texts on your new Android device.

Remember, though: If you're sticking with iPhone, there's no need to do this. In fact, doing it will cause you problems.

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