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How to Activate Your iPhone 4S

Instead of activating your iPhone 4S all alone in your own home, as original iPhone owners did, you’re now supposed to activate the iPhone where you bought the thing, just as you do with other cell phones. However, if you buy your iPhone from Apple’s online store, they'll ship it to you and you activate it through iTunes, just like the old days, or through iCloud. If you’re already a customer upgrading from an earlier iPhone or a different phone, you can convert your plan during the ordering process.

It’s not surprising why Apple, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and C Spire want you in their stores: After they get you in the door, they have the opportunity to sell you other stuff. And they can help crack down on techies who want to unlock, or “jailbreak,” the iPhone to defect to a rival carrier.

The two prerequisites for enjoying the iPhone that have been in place since the original release remain — at least for U.S. customers:

  • Unless you’re already in the fold, you need to become an AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or C Spire subscriber: You’ll have to ink that new two-year term.

  • Make sure you download the latest version of iTunes software onto your PC or Mac. Apple doesn’t supply the software in the box, so head to www.apple.com/itunes if you need to fetch a copy, or launch your current version of iTunes and then choose iTunes→Check for Updates (Mac) or Help→Check for Updates (Windows).

    iTunes is at the core of the iPhone because an iPod is built into the iPhone. You’ll employ iTunes to synchronize a bunch of stuff on your computer and iPhone, including apps, photos, podcasts, videos, ringtones, and (of course) music. That is, unless you choose to manage all this stuff through iCloud.

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and most recently C Spire have started selling versions of the iPhone. Sprint and C Spire offer unlimited data plans starting at around $70 per month. Verizon and AT&T used to offer unlimited data plans but now charge based on usage, though those of you who signed up for such a plan previously have been grandfathered in.

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