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I found an iPhone, can I use it?

What UK law says about lost devices

You're walking along the street, minding your own business, when all of sudden glinting in the sunlight you spy an iPhone lying in the gutter. A quick look around reveals there's no-one to be seen, so can you keep it? It's a question that's crossed all of our minds at some point. After all, 'finders, keepers, losers, weepers' as the old saying goes.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that. Under UK law, if you find lost property, whether it's a smartphone, cash or even a piece of clothing, you must take "reasonable steps" to track down the original owner. For example, if you find a wallet, looking through it for some form of identification belonging to the owner, such as a driver's licence, would be considered a "reasonable step". Likewise, with an iPhone, if you can access the contacts, look for an entry labelled Home or ICE (In case of emergency) and then try calling the number.

Chances are however, if the owner is tech-savvy they may use the Find my iPhone function to discover the iPhone's location and then send messages to the handset asking for it to be returned. If you're concerned about your own iPhone, here's how to set-up and later locate your handset using Find my iPhone.

If you still don't manage to locate the handset's owner, then the next step is to take the device to a local police station and wait for the owner to claim it. If the owner has not returned within six weeks, then, and only, you're entitled to keep the device under UK law.

It's very likely that the iPhone's owner will have contacted their network with the IMEI number of the handset. The network will have put a block on the device making it unusable or 'bricked'. Furthermore, if the owner has been using the Find my iPhone service, they'll probably have also used the remote wipe function to remove all the data, apps and contacts from the device. When you turn the smartphone on, it'll probably say 'iPhone is disabled' in red at the top of the screen and you'll be unable to access any features or function, even if you connect it to a PC.

So what should you do you have now? You could sell the device on eBay labelled as not working for a fraction of the cost of a new device. However, it is possible to restore the handset with the help of a PC and a USB cable. You'll also need a SIM card to be able to make calls and send text messages, as the original one will have been blocked by the mobile network as soon as the device was reported lost or stolen. Here's how to restore a bricked iPhone.

Step one
Start by launching iTunes on your PC.

Step two
Next, turn the iPhone off completely using the power button.

Step three
When it's switched off, hold the Home button down while inserting a USB to proprietary iPhone connector that's attached to your PC.

Step four
An Apple logo will appear followed by an image of a USB connector and the iTunes logo. Now you can release the Home button.

Step five
iTunes will alert you the fact it has detected an iPhone in recovery mode. From the main screen on iTunes click Restore and you'll be asked to confirm you want to restore and update and iPhone. The restoration process will begin.

Step six
When the restoration is completed, the iPhone will automatically switch off and then switch on again. Now you'll need to insert a SIM card to activate the device.

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