How to Fix ‘iPhone Unable to Activate’ Problem

Do you know how to solve the “Unable to Activate – An update is required to activate your iPhone” issue on your iPhone? Here in this post, you can get some simple and efficient methods to help you get out of this problem.

Joy Taylor Last Updated: Dec. 01, 2020

Setting up an iPhone is normally a smooth process that can be completed in just a few easy steps. One of the first things you will have to do is to activate your device. This step can turn out to be very frustrating if the message ‘Unable to Activate – An update is required to activate your iPhone’ appears on the screen.

This can happen for a variety of reasons that are mostly related to WiFi connection and SIM card issues. Fixing this issue shouldn’t take too much time, and in this article, we are going to show you how to do it. So let’s get started.

The most common causes of the ‘iPhone Unable to Activate’ Error

‘Unable to Activate – An update is required to activate your iPhone’ message that may pop up during the device activation process, regardless of the iPhone model you have.  iPhone 11 Pro Max owners as well as the people who have one of the iPhone’s dual SIM models may encounter this message more frequently, than the owners of older iPhone models.

Here are some of the reasons why you may be having difficulties activating your iPhone.

  • Activation Lock isn’t disabled.
  • One or both SIM cards are not inserted properly or they are not supported by iPhone.
  • Your iPhone is locked to a mobile service provider.
  • The mobile carrier is having technical difficulties.
  • The activation server may be temporarily unavailable.
  • Your device isn’t connected to the Internet.

Each of these issues can be resolved easily, so you shouldn’t panic because chances are that this is only a temporary problem that can be fixed quickly. However, you’ll need to determine what caused this issue, before you can take appropriate steps to resolve it.

Fixing the ‘iPhone unable to activate’ issue isn’t a difficult task and you’ll probably fix it in just a few moments. Let’s take a look at how you can do that.

Make sure that a SIM card is properly inserted into the device

Activating an iPhone without a SIM card can be a highly technical process, and you shouldn’t initiate it if you haven’t inserted a SIM card into the device.

Take extra care to position the card properly on the SIM card tray, as the device may not recognize it if it’s not placed into the appropriate slot correctly. In case you have a dual SIM iPhone, you should ensure that both SIM cards are in place before starting the device activation process.

If the message iPhone unable to activate’ pops up on the screen, you can try taking out the SIM card tray, checking if the cards are in place, and putting it back. If the issue persists, you should find out if the SIM card you have is compatible with your device.

Be Patient

Sometimes the best thing to do when this message appears during the device activation process is to do nothing. Apple’s activation servers may be overwhelmed at times, after the launch of a new version of the iPhone or following a new system update. You can check the system status, at this link.

Restart your iPhone

In case the ‘Unable to Activate – An update is required to activate your iPhone’ message appears once you try to activate your iPhone, restarting your device may resolve the issue. You should hold the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons to restart older versions on iPhones.

In case you have iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, X, 8.1, or 8 this process is somewhat different as there is no Home button. You can find the precise instructions on how to restart your iPhone at the Apple’s support webpage

Check if the Activation Lock is on

This issue can only occur if the device you’re trying to activate belonged to someone else before you. An Activation Lock may still be on as the device is still attached to the previous owner. To resolve the issue, you will have to insert the Apple ID and password that were already used on the device.

Optionally, the previous owner can remove the device from their iCloud by logging into the Find My iPhone app. Also, if you can prove that the iPhone now belongs to you, you may seek assistance at the Apple Store or AppleCare.

Install the update for iOS and carrier with iTunes

An iPhone can be activated through iTunes, even if you don’t have a SIM card, although it may take some time to complete the task successfully. Make sure that you have the latest version of iTunes installed on your computer, and update the software if it is outdated.

Step 1. Launch iTunes on your computer, then turn off the iPhone you want to activate, use a USB cable to connect it to a computer, and then switch on the device.

iTunes should launch automatically as soon as you connect your iOS device to the computer, but if this doesn’t happen for whatever reason, you should simply double-click on the iTunes icon.

Step 2. As soon as iTunes detects your iPhone it will ask you to go through the activation process.

Alternatively, you can click on the Activate your iPhone that is located on the left side of the iTunes’ interface.

Step 3. Proceed to log in to your Apple ID and click Continue to complete the activation process.

Contact customer support

Getting in touch with either Apple’s or your mobile carrier’s customer support is your best bet if you still cannot activate your iPhone after trying all of the solutions for this issue we covered in this article.

Your device may have a hardware problem that is preventing you from activating it, but you should be able to replace your iPhone if the warranty period didn’t expire.

Use AnyFix to fix the ‘iPhone unable to Activate’ problem

AnyFix is an efficient tool that helps its users restore their iOS, iPadOS, tvOS devices to a functional state while avoiding the loss of data. Besides repairing the operating system, you can also upgrade or downgrade the OS, reset a device, or repair iTunes. So here’s what you need to do in order to solve the ‘iPhone unable to Activate’ problem with AnyFix:

Step 1. Download AnyFix and open it on your computer > Click on the System Repair on the top.

Free Download

Free Download

* 100% Clean & Safe

Free Download * 100% Clean & Safe

Tap on System Repair

Tap on System Repair

Step 2. Choose the 50+ iPhone Problems > and then click on the Start Now.

Choose the 50+ iPhone Problem to Fix System Issue

Choose the 50+ iPhone Problem to Fix System Issue

Step 3.  There are 3 repair modes you can choose, we recommend the Standard Repair to start the fix which won’t risk any data loss.

Choose One Repair Mode

Choose One Repair Mode

Step 4. Once the repair journey finished, you will get out of the QuickStart Not Working issue on iPhone.

Repair Completed Page

Repair Completed Page


Although seeing the ‘Unable to Activate – An update is required to activate your iPhone’ while you are trying to set up the device can be unpleasant, fixing this issue shouldn’t be too hard. Ensuring that the SIM cards are in a correct position and that your iPhone has access to the Internet can reduce the chances that you will encounter this message. Hopefully, this article has helped you fix the ‘iPhone unable to Activate’ problem. Leave a comment and share your experiences with us.

Joy Taylor

Member of iMobie team as well as an Apple fan, love to help more users solve various types of iOS & Android related issues.