If you need to unlock iPhone without the password or PIN, you might find yourself in a bit of a bind.
One of the big attractions of an iPhone is its simplicity.
Unlike its rival Android, there’s only one interface to learn and one set of manufacturer-specific software to navigate.
An iPhone 8 provides a very similar user experience to an iPhone 5, right down to the inherent security and bug-bashing updates rolled out as part of smaller ‘dot’ updates to iOS.
However, that security may become a double-edged sword if you’re unable to unlock an iPhone.
Perhaps you forgot your password or PIN, or the Touch ID fingerprint recognition software suddenly stopped working.
An Android unit can be unlocked through the Google Play Store, by starting it in Safe Mode, or using a variety of ingenious workarounds (including dragging-and-dropping files onto its hard drive to disable the lock screen).
As a sealed unit controllable only through iTunes, unlocking an iPhone is far less straightforward.
So what do you do if you’re locked out?
The importance of being earnest with backups
We’d always recommend writing your passcode down in a secure location – in a diary or a text file on a computer (obviously without a giveaway name like ‘My phone passcode.txt’).
Apple takes a more high-tech approach to personal information, stressing the importance of data backups for scenarios where users become locked out.
This is because it’s easy to lose all the data on a device. If you enter the wrong passcode six times in a row, you’ll be locked out and your handset will be disabled.
You’ll get four more opportunities to enter your passcode, over a few hours.
After 10 failed attempts, the screen will display a message about connecting to iTunes.
From here, the only way to access it involves erasing the hard drive and setting up a new security code.
That means deleting everything not stored on the SIM card, from contacts and photos to apps and game data. You won’t be able to copy anything onto the SIM card at this stage, either.
Some users will have enabled the “Erase all data on this iPhone after 10 failed passcode attempts” option in the Settings menu, which means their data will already have been wiped.
Unlock an iPhone with a linked iTunes account
If you’ve already synced your device with the iTunes store, you can connect it to iTunes to make a backup of certain files and folders before it deletes everything off the hard drive.
The same is true of iCloud, which may be used to restore apps and data.
You’ll still have to reset any personalised settings, while anything not stored in iTunes or iCloud (like social media conversations or website passwords) will be lost.
If your iPhone isn’t linked to an iTunes account
Resetting the device in this scenario involves restoring the handset through Recovery Mode, which is accessed in different ways depending on the model:
- On an iPhone 6 or older, hold the Home and Top buttons
- On an iPhone 7, hold the Home and Volume Down buttons
- On an iPhone 8, tap the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons in sequence, before holding the Side button
Unlock an iPhone with Siri
This is perhaps the closest Apple has come to an Android-style workaround for people locked out of their devices.
An option in the Settings > General menu enables you to allow access to Siri even while the handset is locked.
That gives you some control over contacts, notifications and even Apple Pay.
Clearly, it’s debatable whether this option should be enabled, but it’s worth knowing about.
When all hope (and data) is lost
Rebooting a wiped iPhone after being locked out is a curiously conflicting experience. It’s good to have access again, but every element of personalisation has been erased.
Third-party applications like Stellar Phoenix Data Recovery may be able soften the blow.
These programs can potentially recover photos and videos, contacts and call logs.
The awkwardly-titled ‘dr.fone Recover (iOS)’ app claims to have the highest iPhone data recovery rate of any such app.
You have to install recovery software onto a computer, before running a scan to see what information can be retrieved. They won’t perform a full restoration, but every little helps.