iPhone 6s turns on in Activation Mode and is forcing me to update


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 8, 2018
I was on my phone when it dies, I plug it in, it turns on a few minutes later to the white "Hello" "Slide to Set Up" screen. The phone is running iOS 9.3 I think, somewhere around there. It's 3 years old and it wasn't running as well as when I got it, but nothing too bad, just kind of slower. So, I wake it up to the hello screen, I slide, put in number passcode, then it asks to select a wifi. I enter my wifi, then it loads for a few seconds and gives me a screen with a big "Activation Error" at the top, followed by "Activation could not be completed. Please restore the phone and install the latest version of iOS and attempt activation again. If the problem persists, please contact customer support." I chatted with support and they told to hook up the phone to iTunes in recovery mode. I had already done that before chatting with them to which iTunes gave me the message "There is a problem with the iPhone that requires it to be updated or restored." Those were the only two options iTunes gave me, but if there are any other possible solutions, I am desperately in need. I would very much not like to update my phone as some of the new aspects I do not like, such as the Music library layout, but I also am very used to iOS 9 and I appreciate it. Support said it could be an incompatibility with my carrier (which is one of the big ones in the US) but it's not not possible to know. I don't really understand why it happened so out of the blue though. Anyways, if anyone has run into this issue or a similar issue or has any knowledge on the issue, a response would be appreciated. And of course if someone has a solution that isn't to update or restore, please share. Thanks.


macrumors 65816
Apr 8, 2015
Apple is no longer allowing iOS 9 activations for the iPhone 6s.

Either update to iOS 12 (latest) or put the device in a drawer. You can't have 9.x anymore on the 6s.
Same thing happened today to my 9.7 iPad Pro on iOS 9.3.4. I was using it - reading a newspaper in safari - and it resprung. iOS 9 had a respring bug that happened a few times before, so I was not worried, but now it is saying the same thing as the OP. Do you know if I can do anything other than DFU to iOS 12? I already tried disabling iCloud just in case and connecting to a different Wi-Fi network, hard resetting it, nothing works. I don't want to lose iOS 9.
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