“Could Not Activate iPhone 4S” Error? Here Are Fixes for AT&T Activation Problems

Oct 14, 2011 - 44 Comments

Could Not Activate iPhone error

The hoards of people attempting to activate their brand new iPhone 4S have overloaded AT&T’s activation servers, resulting in some users receiving error messages saying “Could Not Activate iPhone”, followed by the message details:

“Your activation is still pending. You will receive an email notification once your activation is complete.

We’re sorry. There was a problem connecting to the server. Please try again later.”

Making it beyond that, many users are stuck at a screen that simply says “Activation” with the spinning wait cursor, alongside a message of “It may take up to 3 minutes to activate your iPhone.” In some cases, users have reported seeing that message for hours, not just minutes. Even attempting to activate through iTunes can result in the error message.

Possible solutions to “Could Not Activate” iPhone error:

  • Using your prior iPhone, dial AT&T’s 611 hotline and talk to a human for manual activation
  • Visit AT&T’s online activation web page here and try to activate through the web
  • Email AT&T Customer Care directly: attcustomercare@att.com with your account number and contact number and request direct activation
  • Tweet AT&T Customer Care at @attcustomercare (they will probably tell you to email them)
  • Simply wait it out and try again later when AT&T’s servers catch up to demand

The activation trouble is reasonably widespread in the USA, and there are multiple growing forum threads on the matter already. Currently, CDMA providers such as Sprint and Verizon do not seem to be undergoing any problems activating phones.

This is the second hiccup this week due to immense demand of Apple’s latest and greatest releases. The first was a series of “internal error” messages related to installing iOS 5, the most prominent being Error 3200 and 3002.

If you want to buy an iPhone 4S, here’s where you can find one today.


Related articles:

Posted by: Matt Chan in iPhone, News


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  1. Aj says:

    Folks, what worked from me was to go in to the restore mode.. hold power and home button till reboot and keep holding on to the home button…

    then plug in to itunes..
    nothing happens..

    power off and power on unplugged from the computer..

    I went through the welcome screens and registered with my provider att

  2. Charles says:

    I pre-ordered my 4s from AT&T, and upgraded from my 3gs.

    My problem is, I don’t even get the activation sequence in the first place! The screen where it asks you to enter your billing information, the screen telling you it could take up to 3 minutes, etc…none of it even occurs!

    I tried resetting my phone to factory settings, and this still didn’t work in terms of getting the screen to show.

    I called AT&T and tried the whole “give them your IMEI and ICCID and they’ll do it for you” and no luck!

    I tried plugging it into iTunes but iTunes doesn’t give me any activation prompts either!

    What in the world am I to do???

  3. nancy says:

    ugh now im left with no iphone4 or the 4s. I keep getting sim card is not associated with the account? I hope they at least pay us back with itunes giftcards =) thats the least they can do

  4. Justin says:

    Hey guys, I did a double hard reset on my new iphone 4s and went through the standalone activation again and it went right through. This after 2 hours of trying this afternoon. Hope this helps. Let me know if it works for anyone else.

  5. Jay says:

    Call 611, talk to a PERSON, give them your sim card and IMEI number from the iPhone, activated instantly. I was on hold for 2 minutes at most.

  6. kev says:

    You guys are angry.

    Looks like preorder problems mostly, activations in most retailers went fine today.

  7. Sarah says:

    OMG i finally got it to work! just restart your phone (press both buttons and wait for the apple logo to appear) and do the process again. woo!

    • Brek says:

      I’ve waited for my “email activation” for over 4 hours. This works! Make sure you hold them down until the apple comes up. Don’t let go of the buttons till the apple sign appears.

  8. Sassy says:

    Is the slooooow activation issue only with Apple.com purchased AT&T phones? Or any AT&T customer trying to set up their 4S?

  9. Phillip says:

    James you crack me up… and don’t even talk about the iPhone 5 coming out — I haven’t thought about that yet!! Thanks for the added stress — I need another drink now..

  10. jagadish says:

    ACT005: We apologize for any inconvenience. iPhone users must connect to iTunes to activate service. All other users click here to register your mobile number and update your new equipment. If you need further assistance, please contact Customer Service at 1-800-331-0500.

  11. Lucas says:

    this is lame. had my iPhone 4S mailed into me, then tried to activate it, and no luck. while my brother went into Apple at 4am and waited in line, and got it activated on the spot. AT&T IM NEVER RENEWING ANOTHER CONTRACT AS LONG AS I LIVE. YOU GUYS SUCK. =)

  12. Diane Lee says:

    I used the website link from here, got mine activated on first attempt.

    • Carol says:

      The website link above also worked for me on the first try. The phone activated immediately. I had tried online activation from AT&T Premier services as they told me to in the confirmation email when I ordered the phone, but it did not work at all.

  13. Arnold says:

    I called ATT at 611 and they tried to activate my new Iphone 4S manually and they could not get it done. I have now been trying to activate this phone for 3 1/2 hours. ATT just does not prepare for these Apple events.

  14. Jeff says:

    According to @attcustomercare everything is FINE! This is what they sent me. http://i56.tinypic.com/167319g.png

    • Brian says:

      Nice blocking out your twitter name, too bad you forgot to remove it from the reply! @jefferylaguna

    • James says:

      Verizon and Sprint don’t have “these issues” because they have FAR fewer iPhone users than AT&T.

      That’s like asking “Why does @New York always have so many traffic issues? @Maine and @New Hampshire don’t have an issue.”

      (I found it funny you took the time to put @ in front of verizon and sprint)

  15. Thom says:

    Tried to use AT&T website and got this message:
    ACT005: We apologize for any inconvenience. iPhone users must connect to iTunes to activate service. All other users click here to register your mobile number and update your new equipment. If you need further assistance, please contact Customer Service at 1-800-331-0500.

  16. D says:

    Yeah, but in a few weeks you’ll be trying to decide whether to hold out for the iPhone 5

  17. Nicole says:

    Well isn’t James so much better than the rest of us? I hope you feel good looking down on everyone else, James.

    • Sarah says:

      hahaha. amen.

      • James says:

        I don’t look down at everyone else… just people who make impatient decisions and then whine about it. It’s just like when Lion came out and all these idiots complained about long download times a couple hours after the release. What did you think would happen??? It just came out!

        If you want to wait in painfully long lines for phones, vampire & Harry Potter movies or whatever to “be the first”… knock yourself out. But don’t cry about the long waits or crappy seats when you knew that’s what you were going to get.

  18. James says:

    Anyone who complains about this should get a foot up their @$$. It happens EVERY TIME a new iPhone model comes out. What did you expect?

    It’ll be the exact same phone in 3 or 4 weeks when I walk into a quiet Apple Store and pleasantly buy my iPhone 4S off the shelf and activate it with ease.

  19. TDurden says:

    called 611 for activation. no prompts to activate. Got a person and they couldn’t do it over the phone.

    • Eli Ruggles says:

      I called 611 as well and got the same result.

      Have been trying to activate mine sporadically from the phone and from iTunes for about 4 hours.

    • Shawn says:

      Why iFail? The Verizon and Sprint networks seem to have no problems covering the user activation of the iPhone.

      All I can say is the first Siri reminder I will be setting is to remind myself NOT to re-up on the AT&T network next go around.

      • James says:

        Do you understand the percentage of iPhone users that are still on AT&T? Verizon and Sprint still has a minute share and aren’t dealing with the massive server activity that AT&T is.

    • Sally says:

      We’ve spent two days in Verizon hell trying to activate the new iphone – is there an end in sight? We thought switching from AT&T to Verizon would be a breeze!

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