Revolutionary Activation Process
Thanks to its partnership with AT&T, Apple actually managed to do something quite different with the first iPhone. Eschewing the carrier subsidies that had already been the norm for many years, Apple chose to sell the iPhone outright at full price. Since users weren’t buying it on contract, this meant that there was no paperwork to fill out when purchasing it, so you could actually buy it as easily as an iPod.
Activation was handled entirely online via iTunes from the comfort of your home. You’d buy your iPhone at an Apple Store or other retailer, take it home, plug it into your Mac or PC, fire up iTunes, and then follow a series of steps that would walk you through the process of either signing up for a new AT&T account or transferring your existing account information over.
The SIM card inside the iPhone would be automatically provisioned, and most users were up and running within minutes. It was a great way to set up a new iPhone with service.
Unfortunately, since this required a special arrangement with AT&T, it didn’t scale all that well when Apple began making the iPhone available on other carriers. Nor did Apple’s strategy of selling the iPhone at full retail price without offering carrier subsidies. By the time the iPhone 3G was released the following year, Apple had fallen into line with other mobile phone makers and began selling the iPhone with more traditional subsidies and in-store activations.
This activation feature, however, was also the precursor to what would later become the Activation Lock security feature in iOS 7. From the very beginning, Apple’s iPhones have required authorization from the Apple mothership before they would be “activated” for use, so Activation Lock is just an extra step that requires the original owner’s Apple ID and password to be entered before the activation process could be completed.