Thousands Of iOS Devices Bricked Around The World As iTunes Activation Servers Topple? [Update: Fixed?]

Thousands Of iOS Devices Bricked Around The World As iTunes Activation Servers Topple? [Update: Fixed?]

(Update: Many — but not all — of the users in the Apple Support Communities are now reporting that the activation servers are back online, and their devices working again.)

Looks like the Lion Beta 3 Preview might not be the only problem Apple’s dealing with this morning.

As of last night, an ongoing problem with Apple’s activation servers seems to be leaving many iDevices recently updated or restored to iOS 4.3.3 bricked around the world.

In an fifteen page thread on Apple’s Support Communities, dozens of users are reporting (temporarily?) bricked iPads, iPad 2, iPod Touches, iPhones and more.

The bricking occurs after upgrading the device’s firmware to the latest version through iTunes or restoring, which goes okay, but iTunes then can’t seem to be able to contact Apple’s activation servers, resulting in the following message:

There is a problem with your device.

We’re sorry, the device you connected may be damaged and cannot be activated for service. We recommend you visit your nearest Apple Store for more information. To find your nearest Apple Store, click here.

The problem appears to be international in scope and is being reported on all devices. It happens on both Windows and OS X. A downed activation server seems to be the culprit.

I’ve tried to duplicate this issue myself, but with no success. First, I updated iPod Touch third-generation from iOS 4.2 to iOS 4.3.3 on iTunes 10.2.1 and then wiped and restored using 10.2.2. Although other users still report problems, my update went just fine, on both occasions. I then did the same thing with my iPad 2.

Even so, the Apple Support Communities are filled with users reporting problems. This issue does not seem to have been fixed yet, my own attempts to duplicated it aside.

For right now, don’t upgrade your iOS device if prompted by iTunes to update to the latest firmware version. Until we can confirm that Apple has fixed this problem, your device may be unusable.

Anyone else having the issue? Anyone else not having the issue? Please let us know in the comments.

[Thanks to Rob Vazquez for the tip!]

  • Sumarumi

    Someone on the Apple forum seems to have found a solution: https://discussions.apple.com/… 

  • brownlee

    Good tip. I’ll give it a try myself as soon as this iPod gets done updating. 

  • Fring

    Oh sh*t, just updated my iPad ok but my daughter’s Touch is dead. If Apple knew the wroth she generates they would be quaking.
    Expect an update before the weekend is out… I hope

  • Michal Kollar?ík

     Thanks god, i was restoring yesterday :)

  • Canalesed

    For all the jail breakers with their SHSHs, using TinyUmbrella’s TSS servers should definitely help you!

  • Canalesed

    For all the jail breakers with their SHSHs, using TinyUmbrella’s TSS servers should definitely help you!

  • Hampus

    You really shouldn’t be using the word bricked.
    Even if the activation server currently messes up any devices being updated it won’t be bricked, as soon as the problem is solved you can just restore to the newest version and the device will work again after being activated…

    There is even a link in the comment to someone who made a restore now and got it working…

  • Samuel98s

     I tried to update my iPhone 4 to 4.3.3 Thursday morning, but it told me I had to restore, so I did. I restored it and it was about to sync and it said I was using a different SIM card. Yesterday, I took it to the Apple store and the guy at the Genius bar tried one thing and then gave me a replacement.

  • Chris Wong

     You can’t access http://gs.apple.com. Probably that’s the problem.

  • brownlee

    We’re trying to confirm if the issue is fixed now. I’ wasn’t able to duplicate on my iPod Touch, but I just updated my iTunes to a new version, and now I’m about to try again. We’ll see how this goes. I’m not seeing any reports that the issue has been fixed. I may have to try to sacrifice my iPad 2 for the good of the cause here. :)

  • Dch

     http://www.downforeveryoneorju… says it’s but but I get a 404 error page when I go to http://gs.apple.com

  • Dapsycho

    Annoying… really annoying. I had to reset my ipod touch only to find out later that apple server can’t activate it.

    Smart guys at apple should fix this soon.

  • mahimahimahi

    Free battery for you. Nice!

    EDIT: although being without a phone must have sucked

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

     These people like to use very dramatic terms when it comes to Apple problems.  It’s called click baiting.  Make it seem as though the Apple device is rendered totally unusable in order to stir up emotions and show how Apple is screwing over its customers.  

  • Tzuheng H

    Still doesn’t work even I use tinyumbrella to downgrade to iOS 4.1 

  • Bob Forsberg

    Blogging 101:

    Bricked is the permanent failure of a device to operate.
    Disabled is the temporary failure of a device to operate.

    Please be accurate or at least truthful with your information.

  • Jhoffman897

    I updated my iPhone and iPad 2 last night. No problems

  • phillip320

     I just updated about an hour ago. I had zero problems. Still, which I’d check Google Reader beforehand. Better safe than sorry.

  • Steve9012

    this is not a sulution only a way to get out of the loop that your idevice is going through 

  • AKC322

    A number of users around the world are reporting that the servers are up and they are no longer getting this error message.

  • Matt Ward

     fixed for me now in Canada.

  • Steve9012

    i have found a solution after reading comments all day one thing that stood out was ITUNES 10.1 so i updated itunes to latest version (10.2) then took my bricked ipad put it into recovery mode updated it and it worked i now have a living ipad.

  • Applefan

    It works again!! :-)

  • Steve9012

    come on guys the solution is to update itunes then put your idevice into recovery update it. i have just recovered my bricked ipad 

  • prof_peabody

    To those people making fun of John’s use of the word ‘bricked” …

    You are wrong.  “Bricked” means dead or inactive, there is no requirement for it to be permanently so till the end of time or anything like that.  If things were happening as described, “bricked” is entirely appropriate.  

  • Pinkie

    No, _you’re_ wrong. “Bricked” means “it may as well be a brick.” Dead forever. Not the same as “not working now” which happens all the time.

  • JDWages

    Since so many prefer to define their own terms these days, perhaps “bricked” means whatever it is you want it to mean.

  • honjk

    well even though you appear to want to use “Bricked” in a use that no one to date has ever used it,   regardless,  the devices are not permanently or temporarily “inactive”  because they simply need to update their iTunes….   worse the author can’t even show a “bricking” of his devices in trying to reproduce these people’s problems,  yet says there is an “ongoing” problem…  ????

    the better term would be “alleged” problem maybe, since he can not repeat it.

  • orthorim

     Quite possibly it’s in the 10s of thousands… Apple should just get rid of the whole idiotic “activation” process. What’s the use of that for those people paying for the devices, the customers? Nothing!

  • Tzuheng H

    The problem has gone, thanks god~ 

  • Nanchatte

     Please don’t use the word bricked in a headline unless you really mean it… It might be misconstrued as puffery or worse, clickbait. Generaly, there is no future use for a bricked device other than as a brick or a paperweight. Bricking is permanent and final. It cannot be fixed with a firmware update or otherwise restored by an end user. If set for “repair” the only recourse is to replace the logic board or part thereof, yet in your article you point out that some have had success in restoring their devices… ergo not bricked.Bricking is permanent and final. It cannot be fixed with a firmware update or otherwise restored by an end user. If set for “repair” the only recourse is to replace the logic board or part thereof, yet in your article you point out that some have had success in restoring their devices… ergo not bricked.

  • Nanchatte

      Please don’t use the word bricked in a headline unless you really mean it… It might be misconstrued as puffery or worse, clickbait. Generaly, there is no future use for a bricked device other than as a brick or a paperweight. Bricking is permanent and final. It cannot be fixed with a firmware update or otherwise restored by an end user. If set for “repair” the only recourse is to replace the logic board or part thereof, yet in your article you point out that some have had success in restoring their devices… ergo not bricked. Please don’t use the word bricked in a headline unless you really mean it… It might be misconstrued as puffery or worse, clickbait. Generaly, there is no future use for a bricked device other than as a brick or a paperweight. Bricking is permanent and final. It cannot be fixed with a firmware update or otherwise restored by an end user. If set for “repair” the only recourse is to replace the logic board or part thereof, yet in your article you point out that some have had success in restoring their devices… ergo not bricked.

  • Nanchatte

      Please don’t use the word bricked in a headline unless you really mean it… It might be misconstrued as puffery or worse, clickbait. Generaly, there is no future use for a bricked device other than as a brick or a paperweight. Bricking is permanent and final. It cannot be fixed with a firmware update or otherwise restored by an end user. If set for “repair” the only recourse is to replace the logic board or part thereof, yet in your article you point out that some have had success in restoring their devices… ergo not bricked. Please don’t use the word bricked in a headline unless you really mean it… It might be misconstrued as puffery or worse, clickbait. Generaly, there is no future use for a bricked device other than as a brick or a paperweight. Bricking is permanent and final. It cannot be fixed with a firmware update or otherwise restored by an end user. If set for “repair” the only recourse is to replace the logic board or part thereof, yet in your article you point out that some have had success in restoring their devices… ergo not bricked.

  • RDaneel

     I was thinking of visiting Cult of Mac more often. I’ve gotten tired of reading click bait articles and troll missives on other sites like Mac Rumors and AppleInsider. This article confirms this site is no different than all the others. Anybody know of an Apple centric site that is not overrun with trolls and haters?

  • jeffsters

    Good luck with that!   I’ll be avoiding CultOfStupidity in the future if at all possible.  Maybe if these bloggers and fanboi sites see a downturn in traffic they’ll just report facts and not sensationalize.  Heck even my favorite store Other World Computing has gotten into the act with the iMac hard drive fiasco!  Why can’t people collect the full story and then post?  No…everyone wants to be the “first” and facts be damned! 

    Pretty bad when I think I need to go read Paul Thurrott for factual reporting!

    Oh the horror!

  • jeffsters

    Prof, let’s not play word games here…I think we’ve had enough of that here already haven’t we?  The headline and tone and sensational and worthy of “The Register” not a the kind of site I thought this was. The FACT is the headline should have been what the story was…”Apple’s Activation Servers Go Down For Some” or something.  That I NEVER would have clicked on.  I don’t care!  However “Thousands Of iOS Devices Bricked Around The World As iTunes Activation Servers Topple? ” THAT is something I clicked on, and that’s the point.  It’s click bait!  A rose by any other name… so…fool me once….

  • Brett

    What do expect from a blog whose very title associates Apple with the word cult?  Objective reporting?  Hah!

    “I’ve tried to duplicate this issue myself, but with no success.”  That’s certainly a convoluted (and negative) way putting it–  as if the writer was actually disappointed that the problem wasn’t universal. I suppose if stated more clearly: “I was unable to duplicate the problem”, it just wouldn’t have delivered the desired spin.

  • James S

    The author took a tech support issue that most Mac sites didn’t even consider newsworthy enough to mention and he presented it in a breathless, overhyped “clickbait” style to make it sound like some kind of global disaster for Apple.  

    I don’t think I’ll be back. 

  • buggsy2

    I’ll join the criticism using the word “bricked” without qualification in the headline. Since it’s relatively easily fixed, it’s not bricked. Bricked is either permanently useless, or at best it has to be sent back to the factory for repair…can’t be fixed at home. The author, like all hypesters, is trolling for clikage.

  • LavaLight

    Hey, Leander! Let’s continue to destroy whatever little brand the Cult of Mac site  has left by continuing to letting sensationalists like John Brownlee write stupid articles like this! I know you are competing with TUAW to see who can employee the worst writers with the least critical thinking ability, but I have to say, this story really takes the cake.

  • cheesy11

    hmm guess the author got a bit too happy and decided to scare us all happy aprils fool, wait…

  • Polaristar

    As of now I have my SIM in a $10 AT&T Go Phone because I picked the day that iTune servers fail as the day I wanted to use my “Original” iPhone again… can’t activate it! Started trying Friday the 13th and as of this morning, 5/16/11, still no activation. 6 hrs with AT&T CSRs in person & 4 hrs on the phone, BestBuy tried for an hr, drove over 300 miles on this quest…  2 AT&T stores and an Apple Store twice yesterday. Now I find out this morning that the server is down? Why couldn’t Apple cop to it on Friday or Saturday when the AT&T CSRs and myself spoke to them???
    Thoroughly pissed.

  • Spamblocker55

    lolz that is also haf incorrect bricked you only need two mod or re flash the hard drive.. which you can get files of the internet for that

  • aliencj

    iPod classic has had a similar problem. I even bought a new one thinking it was the iPod but the same thing is happening with the new one, it won’t sync all the library to the iPod just select songs etc.

  • MAJB

    Today I connected my ipad2 to my windows 7 pc and itunes started an update. During the update the conection got lost (or something) but the ipad now only shows an itunes icon and a cable pic. Been delting Apple files in the order as mentioned in their doc and restarting the computer and then reinstalling itunes. However, whatwever I do the ipad only keeps showing the icon and cable mentioned. When I connect the USB cable to the pc i thear the connection sound and the Apple USB driver is OK. Not possible to reset/restart the ipad2. No other screens appear on it. Also not the restart slider. Simultaneously pressing for 10 seconds the start + home button does not do anything either. Nice work APPLE !!!!!!!!!! Can I get my money back?????

  • Samuele Briggi

    Hi all…sorry for opening again this post but today i got stucked by this error…. 01/18/12 
    The iPhone4 don’t want activate and i get this error….probably the same error of server?!

  • Whitley306

    I have an 3 month old Iphone 5C from sasktel in canada. On saturday may 17th 2014 my phone randomly in the middle of the day stopped recieving a mobile network connection. I could still connect to wifi though. I was unable to make calls at all, it wouldnt even let me dial out. No texting either. I was out with some friends I stopped at the sasktel jump.ca outlet in the mall and they changed the sim card for me to see if it would fix the issue and it didnt work. They told me to go to the wireless age where i bought the phone. It was late in the day at this point and I knew I would be unable to go to the wireless age until after may long weekend. I tried resetting my phone (not a factory reset) no luck. i still could not get a mobile connection. Today is Monday and i did a factory reset on my phone and now I cannot reactivate my phone. Its stuck in the activation stage and I am getting the error message ”

    There is a problem with your iPhone.

    We’re sorry, the iPhone you connected is not recognized and cannot be activated for service. We recommend you visit your nearest Apple Store for more information.”

    My 3 month old Iphone is now useless. Where is the update? I switched from Android to Apple hoping for a better service. And then this? Not impressed at all.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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