iPhone 3G S Activation: How Long is “Some Time?”


iphone-3gs-activationSo it’s the day after the first iPhone 3G S handsets arrived. I figured the initial activation challenges must be over, but we still have two new iPhones that can’t actually be used as a phone. I think we’re hosed until I call or stop in an AT&T (s T) store at this point, but I’m hoping that I’m wrong.

With the new, included SIM cards, our new iPhones just sit at the “Waiting for activation” screen. I’ve cycled them on and off several times as some have suggested, but it’s deja vu all over again. I wasn’t entirely sure we were supposed to use the new SIM cards, since these are upgrades from original iPhones. When I put the old SIMs in the new devices, they “activated” and were usable. Of course, that’s only because those SIMs were provisioned and are active.

After hours of using the new phones with the old SIMs (even over 3G), AT&T sent me a text message and email address. They tell me that I’m using an ineligible plan with my iPhone 3G S. I suppose that’s accurate since the old SIMs are tied to the old plans. So, I put the new SIMs back in and here I wait. And wait. And wait some more.

On a whim, I logged into our AT&T account online. It shows that our devices are now iPhone 3G S handsets, but the rate/date plans appear to show the old info. When we ordered the new phones from Apple, we specified and chose new plans but apparently AT&T didn’t get the message. Funny how I get messages very quickly when I’m using the wrong plan on my new phone, no?

At this point, we can use the iPhone 3G S for everything else, so I’m enjoying the new features. I did some preliminary browser testing over Wi-Fi with the 3G S and the Palm Pre (s PALM): so far, these two run neck-and-neck. It all depends on the web site I test with; sometimes the iPhone is faster, and other times the Pre wins out. Even if I can’t make a phone call with my new iPhone, I can at least browse the web and use apps. Hmm, maybe I’ll get Skype on there since I’m on Wi-Fi for now. I could always use SkypeOut in a pinch…


lewis peano

ive gone on the sim swap thing on 02 today and it didnt let me swap saying it was an invalid sim number and today however i typed in the same information and it let me. and went on to page saying my phone will go off soon so fingers crossed thats me done with this ordeal, maybe it will help you too.


Hope this helps someone out there. We upgraded two phones to iphones. Problem arose because when we got phones in mail, I mixed up the phones and sim cards they sent. The sim card must match the phone and the phone must match the phone number you are trying to activate. Once I switched the sim cards back to their correct phones, the line activated.
Good luck!


hi, i recently purchased a new iphone 3gs on 3.1 at best buy without contract. is there any other way to activate the phone in my case? im worried it won’t activate without a contract at AT&T. i just wanna use wifi and wait until someone is able to unlock 3gs on 3.1. please help!


I purchased iphone 3G S from ebay. But when i connected to itunes, it asked me to enter billing zip code and last 4 digits of SSN. I do not have that info. So i am not able to proceed beyond this. Can someone help me out.


Will, i got a iphone and im in the UK, it is definitely not AT&T because in the UK, the iphone is on the best possible network and i am having this problem (02-UK)


After 30 minutes I gave up on my phone activating after trying the tricks above. I called att and spoke to a very good CSR.

They took the sim card info and manually activated it. It took 20 min. I had a nice chat with the CSR during and my phone works great.

The number to call


Thanks Jason! #3 worked for me! Even ATT customer support couldn’t help me…


Jason, thanks so much! I got my 3GS today and was stuck in the activation loop. 1 and 2 didn’t work for me but suggestion 3, the AT&T website activation, took about 5 minutes. I’m golden.


After new phone activation process, once your old iphone indicates ‘no service’, just turn off the new iphone and turn it on. It will detect the service.


An update on my Apple bluetooth headset nonpairing problem: I synced the new iPhone and the headset to my iMac and charged overnight. This morning they pair! Yay!!

Dave Zatz

You upload any videos to YouTube yet? That might be the killer features that moves me to purchase.


I bought the 3GS at the Apple store today. It activated with no problem. However, my Apple bluetooth headset won’t pair with my new iPhone. Looks like a trip to the Genius bar for me tomorrow.


I confronted the staff at the Apple store about the activations and their line was “We’re doing this to make sure people leave with activated phones.”

Well we all waited in line extra long for our “activations” and we didn’t leave with activated phones. But each time a “consumer unit” left I’m sure Apple’s computers had confirmed with at&t’s computers that Apple was credited $400.

And as people that pre-ordered phones from the Apple store discovered: their iPhone 3Gs’ came with their IMEI’s locked to the specific phone number they’d been purchased for. (a buddy of mine pre-ordered)

I was able to get home, start the restore and pump 14GB of goodness into my 3Gs before at&t finished activating it. (about 2 hours)

I do enjoy my touch to focus camera and voice control though: I feel like Captain Kirk making phone calls with it.

Kevin C. Tofel

I got tired of waiting and even though I was hoping for no AT&T intervention, I called them up. My CSR had me read through the IMEI and SIM card numbers and she manually activated them for me. I’m glad she was able to help because going to an AT&T store is a bit of a hike for us in the sticks. Plus it would have defeated the purpose of ordering online!


Weird. My 3g activated within 30 minutes when I upgraded to 3.0 on Wednesday. Then my 3g s activated on Friday no problem.


Easy. Just “borrow” James’s MiFi, keep in in you pocket, and install Skype.


I had to turn mine off several times – I’d wait about 20 min then try again. I think it took three tries – maybe an hour total.

Jason Ehrlich

Problem is easy to solve.
1) Turn OFF your old iPhone or AT&T phone. It seems the new SIM will not activate if the other phone is still on.
2) There are various reports that turning OFF 3G mode and then power cycling seems to help.
3) http://www.att.com/activations appears to be resolve this problem in seconds.

#1 and #2 combination worked for me and the phones (2 of them) activated within seconds after this. #3 also has been reported to work in seconds.


Kevin C. Tofel

Yup. Easy to solve.

1. Did that yesterday and today.
2. Tried various combinations like this. No dice.
3. ATT activations site returns the message: Our records indicate that all wireless numbers have been upgraded for this account.

Easy! ;)

John Shiffler

Thank you! After steps 1) & 2) my 3 G S activated immediately. Please teach AT&T this.


I have been waiting over 24 hours for mine to activate. I have called AT&T 3 times in the last 2 days with no luck. But when I called this morning the AT&T guy told me to bring it in and he would give me another SIM card because all the 3G phones he sold today activated immediately. So it can’t be a server issue now. Plus people who activated theirs after mine have went through with no problem.


Well i can say Months :( mine is still dead hope i still have warranty this will be the second one in the warrenty time :(

Rick Huizinga


I had the same “This may take some time” message and I was able to get my iPhone activated very quickly by power cycling the 3G S. The procedure I followed was:

1) Performed a final sync of my 1st gen iPhone to iTunes so I would have an up-to-date backup.
2) Plugged in the new iPhone 3G S and followed the iTunes setup procedure.
3) Performed a full sync of the iPhone 3G S while waiting for activation.
4) Waited for my 1st Gen iPhone to be deactivated. This is indicated by a “No Service” label in the status bar rather than “AT&T”. Some have said that the old iPhone needs to be turned on for deactivation to successfully complete.
5) Once my old iPhone was deactivated, the 3G S will continue to needlessly wait for activation. This wait can be bypassed by power cycling the 3G S. After the phone reboots, it should be fully activated.

Good luck.


The iphone needs a new carrier. The #1 reason I don’t have one is AT&T.

Posted from my very cool palm pre :-)

Comments are closed.