What to do before selling, trading or giving away your iPhone or iPad

You want someone to get a fresh iPhone or iPad, but you also want to be sure no one gets your data with it. Here’s how to make trading in, giving, or selling your iOS device painless for everyone.

If you’re giving your old iPhone or iPad to a relative, you’re going to get questions about it in return. There’s nothing you can do there. But for everyone else, you can prepare your iOS device so that it works for them like it came straight from the factory.

Clearly, that’s better for them, and clearly it also means you won’t then have to worry about any of your data being inadvertently left on the device. But what’s less immediately clear until it happens to you, is that preparing your old device correctly can help you with your new one.

That’s particularly the case if you have an iPhone and an Apple Watch. Most of the steps you need to take to prepare to get rid of your iOS device apply equally to iPhones and iPads, but the Watch does make a difference.

Specifically, if you have an Apple Watch, prepare for selling your iPhone by unpairing it first. Take it from us, Apple Watch is stubborn about staying paired — and about not pairing to a new iPhone.

Be sure to unpair your Apple Watch from your old device

Be sure to unpair your Apple Watch from your old device

Start by unpairing your Apple Watch

  1. Keep the Watch on your wrist and bring it close to your iPhone
  2. On the iPhone, open the Watch app
  3. Tap on My Watch at the foot of the screen
  4. Tap All Watches at the top
  5. If you have more than one Watch, find the one you want in the list
  6. Tap on the i button to the right of it
  7. Choose Unpair Apple Watch
    1. If you have a cellular Watch, you’ll be prompted to remove your carrier’s plan
    2. Do that, even if you’re planning to keep the cell contract with another Watch or iPhone
    3. When prompted, enter your Apple ID password to turn off Activation Lock
    4. Tap to confirm you really want to unpair the Watch
    5. Wait while the Apple Watch does one last backup of your data

That last part about backing up your data won’t take long. But while that’s underway, make sure you back up your iPhone too.

If you’re an iPad user, you don’t have to worry about pairing with Apple Watch like this, but backup your device anyway. It does mean you won’t lose anything, but it also means that setting up the next device with all of your personal information will be quick.

Removing your personal information from the old iPhone or iPad is essential, but it’s quick too. Or it is once you have unpaired the Watch and backed up your iPhone.

Sign out of iCloud. You may see different options depending on where you use different Apple IDs

Sign out of iCloud. You may see different options depending on where you use different Apple IDs

How to remove your personal information from an old iPhone or iPad

  1. Go to Settings and tap on your name at the top
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page that appears and choose Sign Out
  3. If prompted, choose Sign Out of iCloud and Store
  4. Otherwise, just tap Sign Out
  5. Enter your Apple ID password to confirm
  6. Tap Turn Off

That unplugs your iPhone or iPad from your iCloud and Store accounts, now you just have to get rid of any data of yours that’s physically on the phone. We’ll say it one more time, though: be sure you have a backup.

How to delete personal information

  1. In Settings, choose General
  2. Scroll down to the bottom and tap on Reset
  3. Now tap on Erase All Content and Settings
  4. If prompted, enter your Apple ID and password
  5. Tap Erase

You’re done. You can now sell, gift wrap, or trade in that old iOS device and know both that your old data is gone, and that your recipient will have a fresh start.

All of which is necessary and good, but all of which supposes that you still have the device. If you’ve already sold it or there’s no way to undo the wrapping paper without anyone noticing, you can still sort out your old data.

Once you are certain you've backed up your iOS device, go through to erase all content.

Once you are certain you’ve backed up your iOS device, go through to erase all content.

What to do if you’ve already given the iOS device away

  1. Open Find My on another device or on iCloud.com
  2. Select the device and choose Erase
  3. When it’s shown as being erased, choose Remove from Account

You can also remove Apple Pay credit card details via iCloud.com. Click on Account Settings to get a list of devices using Apple Pay.

Choose the device you’ve given away, and click Remove next to Apple Pay.