The Ultimate Guide to Transforming your Old iPhone into a Kid’s Dream iPod Touch


iPod Touch 2

Update:Exciting news! This post has proven so popular that I’ve refined, updated and improved upon it in the form of not only a PDF eBook but an accompanying collection of 8 videos that walks you through this entire process. Find out more by clicking here.

If you’re a parent and an iPhone owner you probably hear the same plea from little voices on the hour that I do:

“Dad can I play with your iPhone?

The iPod Touch was created with this audience in mind: wee folks who don’t need a cell phone, but would love an iOS device of their own to play Minecraft Mobile and FaceTime Grammy.

The problem: the iPod Touch starts at $199 and can’t easily be bought by the pennies your 5 year old found in the couch.

The solution: your old iPhone that you’re about to trade in for the new model.

With a few steps you can turn that iPhone into a iPod touch that will give you relief in countless situations from the Great Mac and Cheese Delay At CPK to the “How much longer to Grammy’s?” Onslaught of 2012, 2013, and 2014.

But listen, this is not just a simple article telling you how to turn an iPhone into a iPod Touch, this is an EPIC how-to on turning the iPhone into the ULTIMATE iPod Touch with features and apps to delight both you and your progeny, plus security so everyone is safe.

Update: There’s a lot here! Which is one of the reasons when I created the eBook version I included 8 videos that would allow you to watch over my shoulder during this process. Check it out by clicking here.

In this tutorial you’ll learn how to:

  1. Evaluate the best choice: hand down your iPhone or trade it in?
  2. Erase the contents from your old iPhone and restore it so it’ll be set up as a like-new iPod Touch.
  3. Set restrictions so the kids will be safe and your wallet untouched from in-app purchases.
  4. Create lock screen wallpapers and iCloud accounts to ensure that “set it and forget-it” backups are happening and if it’s lost it can be easily returned.
  5. Set up FaceTime so Grammy can read AND show the pictures for Skippy Jon Jones thousands of miles away.
  6. Set up iMessage to be able to check in with Dad while he’s out at the conference in Phoenix.
  7. Organize apps for maximum fun and minimum confusion.
  8. Discover great sources for quality apps for kids that go beyond movie-tie-ins and in-app vending machines.
  9. Find the right case for protection against the awesome power of a hyper seven year old.

It’s going to be awesome: your kid will be thrilled, you’ll be relieved, I’ll walk you through it all.

Note: This guide is all about saving money in repurposing something that’s aged into a glorious entertainment/educational machine so in most cases you won’t need to buy or sell anything at all. There are some services and products that you might use to go the extra mile and in those cases I’m using my own affiliate links (meaning I earn a small commission if you use my link.) My links are the same price as on the sites, so if you do use them, thank you!

Ready? Let’s go!

Step 1: Should it stay or should it go?

There’s a slight chance depending on the age of your phone and its condition that Gazelle will give you more money for your phone than it would cost to get a brand new iPod Touch.

In that rare case the choice is clear, trade in the phone and pick up the iPod after you receive your payment back from Gazelle.

But again that’s rare.

For example:

My wife’s iPhone 4s looked like this at the end of its days:


Hop over to Gazelle and click through their easy options (Verizon, 16GB, Broken/Cracked) and see this:

Gazelle $20 Trade In for iPhone 4S


Pretty easy decision for us.

Might be more nuanced for you.

Some resources to help you with this decision:

I recommend checking Gazelle because in my opinion, they’ll give you the quickest access to a quote at market value, but there are other quality options including Apple and Amazon.

And if you do decide to buy an iPod Touch rather than repurpose the old: buy it new from a trusted retailer. However, one possible savings option is Apple’s refurbished store which offers great quality and warrantees for a discounted price.

Step 2: Erasing, clearing and restoring…for the kids!

Alright, the kids are excited…they understand now that there’s something in it for them that momma is upgrading BUT momma, before we move into the next step make sure everything on your new phone is good to go.

New phone is: activated (phone and data service working), backed up (to iCloud), showing data like contacts and photos and everything looks peachy.

Good to go? Great! Now we’re going to bring the old iPhone back to when it was just a baby iPhone on a boat from China. Clean slate to start anew.

The best way to do this is to go old school style and plug the old iPhone into your Mac and through iTunes restore your device to factory settings. Just follow each step in this Apple support article.


  • In the “Before you restore” section they’ll have you making a backup to your computer. You probably won’t need it, because you already checked that your new phone is working above and that it’s backing up to iCloud, BUT go ahead and do it any way. Just a bit of added security for the first few days of this transition.
  • When you backup you may get a message that looks like this:

Bos Organization Backup Apps Screenshot

  • Most folks by this point no longer backup their apps to iTunes on their computers because apps are always available to re-download from the “purchased” section in the App Store. So you can in most cases, choose “Don’t Back Up Apps”, the only exception being a more geeky edge case in which you know you have an app that is no longer available on the store and it’s one that your kid has to have and didn’t make the transition to your new iPhone. That’s pretty rare, but if it applies go ahead and back up.
  • As you follow the instructions in the Apple support article above, you’ll see the Apple logo and the updating bars on the phone and then at the end on iTunes you’ll see 2 options: restore from backup or setup as a new iPhone. You want the latter, because remember: clean slate!

Step 3: Hello…Hola…Salut: Setting up

So one of the first steps I like to take in iTunes is to rename the iPhone so that: 1) there’s no confusion whose “iPod” this is later and 2)add some additional information in case it’s lost.

It’s easy just double-click on the name of the iPhone in the top left, it’ll turn blue, and then type the name of your kid(or kids, my boys share this device.) and “If lost please call: Your-phone-number.” It’ll look like this:

Bos Organization Renaming iPhone

Okay now, return to the phone: you’ll see the familiar Apple “Hello, Hola, etc” screen:

iPhone Hello Screen


So, then:

  1. Slide to start.
  2. Choose your Wi-fi network and connect.
  3. Enable location services
  4. The next screen is Apple ID, let’s stop a moment and talk about this:

Yes, if you’ve come this far it’s time for your little person to have their own Apple ID.

We want them to have an Apple ID not because we want them to use it to BUY stuff on iTunes or the App Store (we’ll set that to your account) BUT so that they can BACKUP the device’s data to iCloud with their own free 5GB.

Luckily, with iOS 8 arrived the feature to make accounts for folks 13 and under, but as you would hope it will be connected to your account. (The “adult” as you sometimes like to think of yourself.)

The set up screens will walk you through this, but there’s also this article in case you want to do it after the set-up. (But why put off till tomorrow what you can, Ben Franklin saying, Ben Franklin saying…)

I would take this opportunity to create an iCloud email account for them as well to use as their Apple ID login. It’s free and you should be the sole owner of the password unless they’re older and deemed responsible.

  1. Create a passcode: My boys are so used to Mom and Dad’s phones having a passcode they demanded to have one on their own. Proud parenting moment. I think it’s a good idea – agree on one together and add it here.
  2. Use Siri/Don’t Use Siri: Your call. My boys haven’t discovered this, but I can see teaching them dictation at one point. (Oh boy, that might backfire on me in a big way when I start seeing texts calling me “Poopy Poopy Daddy.”)
  3. Diagnostics and App Feedback: Again, totally up to you. I check these because as a former Apple Store employee I still believe (or drink the Kool Aid, depending on your own bias) that it’s totally anonymous and helps make better phones and apps. But your call, it won’t affect performance either way.
  4. Start using your new iPhone: I think they mean “iPod” but let’s do this, tap that and let’s go to…

Step 4: Internal Security, makin’ it safe for the kids and their parent’s wallets.

This is no longer a phone, but we have to be the one to break it to the device, otherwise it’ll show up to public events acting all like an iPhone even though it’s clear it’s had the iPod Touch procedure. Do that by going to Settings>Cellular>Cellular Data and turning it off.

Next, go to Settings>Auto-Lock and set it something longer than 1 minute or you’ll have to continually enter your passcode.

Next, go back to Settings>General>Restrictions Updateand type in a new passcode one that is different from the passcode you created when setting up the device. It’s important for only you (and other adults in the family) to know the Restrictions passcode and that it be unique because otherwise savvy or older kids could just disable these restrictions.  After you’ve created a unique code, tap “Enable Restrictions.”

You have a slew of different options here that I’ll mostly leave up to you to decide as the family tech leader. The ones I strongly recommend are:
* Turning off “In-App Purchases.”
* Setting “Require Password” to “Immediately” so there’s no purchases that are not parent sanctified.

My boys don’t use Safari on their iPods yet (even if they occasionally will use the Mac version for sites like PBS Kids), so I can turn it off all together. I also found this article from Be Web Smart helpful in exploring the option of leaving Safari on but limiting the sites it will reach.

I find the iOS restrictions enough for my family at this time but if you’re looking for even more control, I’d take a look at Bradley Chamber’s recommendation of Curbi. Bradley is a geek, a father, the Apple IT guy for an elementary school, and co-host of a podcast about using Apple tech in education so I trust his recommendation. Curbi allows you not only to set more restrictions, but also to manage the time spent on devices as well as observe (let’s face it, spy) on how they’re being used. Update: Bradley has recorded a screencast that gives you a tour of how Curbi works.

Next, go to Settings>iCloud and make sure it’s set to your child’s account. The two essential features to have turned on here in my opinion are: Backup and Find My iPhone. The others are up to you to make a decision as a family. Personally, I turned on Documents and Data to back up their games’ progress and Mail and Contacts for later when preserving their few contacts for FaceTiming with Grammy and Pop-Pop.

Second, I would go to Settings>iTunes & App Store and make sure the Apple ID is set to your Apple ID or whoever in the family has the purchasing account.

Note: with iOS 8 this is the old school way of doing this, because there is now Family Sharing. As of November 2014, I still find that this old school method the more direct and easy way to go, but if you want to read more about family sharing this collection of articles from iMore is helpful.

So how it works in our family: two parents, two boys aged 7 and 5. If one of the boys finds an app they’d like to download they bring the phone to us and we evaluate it and if we agree, parents enter the password for dad’s Apple ID. In our house, only mom and dad know the purchasing Apple ID password. (Although my 7 year old is working on it…)

Finally I recommend customizing a lock screen image that lets anybody who finds it know: A) this is a kid’s iPod be a good person and return it. B) my phone number so they can return it.

It looks like this:


I detail the process in another post of mine here. (Hint: it’s also a practice I use for my own phone and advocate for parents too.)

I found the kid’s image at this awesome wallpaper site Poolga and then used the same app Labelbox that I talk about in the post above to add their names and my phone number.

Double check that Find my iPhone is turned on and you know their Apple ID and password, and let’s move forward!

Step 5:FaceTime with Grammy means StoryTime With Grammy

When I interviewed to work at The Apple Store one of the things I talked about how the simplicity of FaceTime made my boys talking and SEEING my mother-in-law a sweet and very regular occurrence. It works so well in my family that I’m convinced the company could film it and make into a commercial. Ah, but that’s every father’s dream isn’t it – to exploit the sweetest moments of their family for financial gain?

Ahem. I digress.

It’s easy to setup. Go to Settings>FaceTime and turn it on. Then tap “Use your Apple ID forFaceTime” The next screen will have the kid’s Apple ID (not yours) and enter their password. Then the next screen should have “Your Phone Number” greyed out and a check mark next to your kid’s iCloud address (or the email address you used for their Apple ID.) It looks like this:


Then click next and it should be ready to go.

You can then go to Contacts and add a few of the contacts’ phone numbers or email addresses or both that they would call on FaceTime. Ours has: Grammy, Pop-Pop, Mom and Dad, and two Aunties. And I listed them under those exact name in contacts. Easy. That way he can just type Grammy into the FaceTime App and boom! instant connection.

Of course, if Grammy is more of a Skype lady there’s an app for that or if she’s Progressive Grammy, the Google Hangouts app.

Messages has a similar setup and will use the same set of contacts. My seven year old has experimented with this to send me texts that say “Hi” or “Hi Dad” but it’s mostly ignored by him.

If you don’t want any access here just go to Settings>Messages and turn off iMessages. Similarly, FaceTime can be turned off in Settings>General>Restrictions.

It can be quite rewarding and give you the warmest kind of Jetsons feeling to hear and see your mother-in-law lovingly reading each word of Skippy Jon Jones to your two boys even if your wife sometimes wishes she would read it a bit faster.

Let’s take a short Jetsons’ video-phone break before moving into the next section:

Step 6: Organizing the New Playroom

(This may be the furthest I’ve gone in a blog post without writing the words: “organizing”)

Let’s go back to the home screen.

So it’s factory settings so you’re going to see the standard screen like this:


Let’s make this more kid-friendly, unless your 5 year is super into stocks, in which case: enjoy your early retirement!

The first thing I do is put all the Apple default apps that my kids don’t care about into the default “Extras” folder, rename that folder to “Apple Default” and then move that folder to a back page. Looks like this:



I put almost all the Apple apps in here that I think the kids won’t care about or don’t need quick access to: Stocks, Reminders, Newsstand, Health, Passbook, Contacts, Tips, Phone (for sure no need for this one now), Mail, Calendar, iBooks, iTunes Store, Notes, and more. Your mileage may vary.

Basically, I’m going to build an organizational structure that looks like my phone: most used apps on the home page, folders of apps or secondary apps on the second page, the App Store and apps we’re trying out on the third page, and the Apple Default apps and rarely used apps on the fourth and final page.

Note: I show you this organization in action in one of the 8 videos in the Bos Guide version. It gives you a personal tour of my recommended organizational structure for apps. Click here to find out more.

But first we need to bring in some non-default apps and we can start without spending a cent of a iTunes Gift Card.

Step 7: Room is set up, let’s bring in the games! The educational games, of course, madam.

If your kids have already downloaded games onto your own iPhone and your ID is set-up as the App Store ID then it’s easy to re-download them (no additional charge) to this new rig. Go to App Store>Updates>Purchased. You’ll see a list of all the apps ever bought with that ID, to download one to this phone just tap on the cloud icon. Looks like this:



A similar process can be used to re-download any music, movies, or tv shows that were bought with your Apple ID. Go to iTunes>More>Purchased.

During this initial set up phase, you might want to go back to Settings>General>Restrictions and set Require Password back to 15 minutes to avoid typing it over and over again. Just make sure to put it back to “Immediately” immediately after this initial downloading frenzy.

So you’ve downloaded the family’s greatest hits and then you moved them into into an organizational pattern that makes it easy for kids and adults to navigate and avoid the apps that they don’t care about. Here’s a visual of how ours looks at this step:









And highlighting four of our family favorites:

  1. Toca Boo: it’s Halloween 2014 as I write the first version of this, so this is a current favorite. But really I don’t think you can go wrong with picking an app from the Toca Boca family of apps. Smart, witty, and gentle apps. There’s Toca Tailor, Toca Lab, Toca Builders, and much more Toca fun.
  2. Tiny Wings: already considered an iOS classic, it’s a seemingly simple game where you help a little bird “fly over” hills. Gorgeous animation, music and super fun to try to master for both kids and adults.
  3. Minecraft PE: there’s a reason every other kid I saw at my son’s Halloween parade had a MC block-head on, Minecraft is an amazing creative experience, like an endless Lego box for kids.
  4. Akinator the Genie: This is really fun game to play with the boys when we’re waiting a restaurant. The kids pick a character and then the app’s genie asks yes and no questions to try to figure it out. When our little dude was 4 we had to outlaw “Peter Pan” from the game when we caught him using it for the 4th time in a row, but otherwise a fun party game experience.

Bonus: Plants Vs Zombies 2: this is in some ways the kind of game, I want you to avoid – freemiumn with in-app purchases abounding BUT I include it because it is so fun and it’s very easy to play the full game without buying anything. (Which you turned off above anyway.)

Step 8: Resources for additional app purchases.

There are of course entire web sites devoted to reviewing apps for kids, but my cursory experiences with them is a lot of the time they are…well the technical word is: crappy.

However, here’s 2 that I like so far. If you have more suggestions, please let me know in the comments below:

Geeks with Juniors: 50 Best Apps for Kids in 2013: attractive site, complete list with links to individual reviews and the apps themselves.

Update: Geeks with Juniors: 50 Best Apps for Kids in 2014 and Top 60 Apps for Kids in 2015

Update 5/9/16: Jason Kottke wrote up a great list based on his experiences with his kids and his readers suggestions: A bunch of great educational-ish iPad apps for kids (iPad but a lot of the apps work on both devices)

Bonus: Motion Math Pizza, we downloaded this one after reading about it in the 2103 Geeks with Juniors list. You know “research.” And it was a huge hit with both me, my 7 year old and 5 year old (who needed help with some of the math.) You run your own virtual pizza parlor and it’s super charming, fun, and smart. Highly recommended.

Things We Love: Tinybop is an app company that makes beautiful and cool apps for kids ( be sure to look at their Human Body, Plants, and Homes), and they also have a blog that highlights apps outside of their company along with books, music, sites, and videos. Very cool resource.

There are two other lists of games that aren’t specifically built for kids (and a very small percentage that shouldn’t be downloaded for young kids – looking at you GTA:Chinatown), but overall these are choices for all-ages in the sharpest way.

21 Games That Should Be Installed on Every iPhone: The Verge

These are a few of our favorite games: 2013 by The Sweet Setup

Step 9: Wrapping it Up In Plastic

We’ve come a long way and it’s about time to hand over our newly remodeled iPhone BUT if you’ve ever seen a kid HAND-le an iPhone you know we’ll need a bit of insurance. It’s true for most adults, right?

One option is the Lifeforce:

LifeProof case for 4S: White/Grey: My in-laws started using these cases and I have to say they’re both solid and sleek. This 4S version is (Update 11/15: now only $19!), which isn’t a bad price for an insurance policy, but if you’re using a iPhone 5 (Update: now $42) or 5S(Update: $42) it’s going up.

In those cases, you might want to go the route I took and grab the classic brute case: The Otterbox. I went with the Otterbox Defender for 4S. It’s built like a tank with a plastic screen over the screen, not something I’d want for my own phone, but perfect for my rough and tumble boys.

These guys seem a bit intimidating to put together at first but luckily Youtube and Otterbox come to the rescue:

In the event there is an accident, I’d recommend taking a look at my friend Scotty Loveless’s article What to Do If You Break The Screen of Your iPhone or iPad.

Update 11/15: When I originally wrote this guide I endorsed iCracked as another repair option beyond Apple, because I had a number of successful experiences with one of their technicians. However, since they follow the Uber model of independent agents there’s no guarantee your tech will be up to snuff. Case in point: my family had one of their techs almost ruin our iPad 2 this summer and in the end the most iCracked could do was refund us the repair cost. Scotty’s post above is very sound advice: read it carefully and stick with Apple for your repair/replacement needs.

Everything is Awesome

If you follow this guide step by step, heck, if you just follow as much as it takes to build the ultimate game/movie watching/music listening machine for your kid out of a iPhone you were going to trade in for $20 I’ve done my job.

If there’s anything I can help with, please feel free to contact me. This is the most in-depth post yet on Bos Organization and hopefully a great example of my mission: “to help people relax, enjoy, and work smarter in their homes and on their Apple products.”

Want more help? Check out the update and improved version.

Update: Comments like the ones below inspired me to take all of this content and create the Bos Guide: iPhone to iPod: Transform Your Old iPhone into Your Kid’s Dream iPod Touch. It’s all of this content but updated, improved, and expanded on in a PDF eBook and 8 videos that will walk you through this rewarding process. Check it out by clicking here. 


  • AJP

    What a great and helpful article!

    I’m trying to set things up like this as well, even with just my wife’s and my phone. We’ve got small kids, so they hardly play on our devices right now, but I’m looking towards this, or using Apple Server accounts on computers and devices to manage profiles, settings, etc.

    If you had a setup for the adults that follows the separate iCloud account per device rule, how do share contacts, calendars, and find my iphone? My wife and I love sharing all our contacts with each other (even if it is a large library) just so we can use each other’s device if we’re in a pinch. Same goes for calendars, notes, and shared Photo Stream.


    • Thanks so much, AJ, glad to hear that!

      My advice as far as adults/spouses go is a similar model.

      My Apple ID is our family’s store account so that my wife can download any apps, music or movies that I download as well, but then she has her own Apple ID in the iCloud section primarily so that she can backup her phone to iCloud.

      As I mention in the article, the new Family Sharing options in iOS 8 give you some more options beyond this, but in my experience it’s still a muddled BUT it does offer a lot of what you’re looking for: shared photo streams, calendars, etc. Take a look at the iMore articles I link to in that section, they’re the best explanation I’ve seen so far.

      As an organizer, specifically with contacts I think the best solution is for each spouse to have their own set of contacts and then share the ones that need to be shared between them. (On iOs devices, there’s a “share this contact” field in every contact.) In my experience, it can get a little hairy otherwise. Mac Power Users did a show on contacts this past winter that explores all this and more:

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Jon Murphy

    Excellent article! I plan on helping my sister-in-law set up her old iPhone for her kids (my nephews). Your timing for this article was perfect!

    I have one difficult question that I have not been able to locate on answer. How do I keep the munchkins from dialing 911 on the iPhone? As best I can tell the 911 service can still be dialed even though the cell service has been terminated.

    Any help would be great!

    Thank you!

    • Ah, that’s great, Jon, glad to hear that it was helpful and just at the right time!

      And that’s a great question, one I have to confess I hadn’t considered. I poked around and found this Apple Support article (maybe you saw it too) that suggests it’s impossible in the States because of legal reasons: I’m inclined to believe that’s true.

      In that case, I would rely on the old fashioned solution and just talk to the kids about it. Again, as I say in the article bury the phone app in a back folder and then just explain if they get to the emergency call screen on the lock screen they should just tap the back arrow to get back to the pass code screen and their GAMES.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Rob Phillips

    Nice thoughtful article. I am setting up some desk drawer, i.e.. supplus phones for some our church members who are either in extended care facilities or home bound. Do you have any suggestions for that kind of situation?
    Like setting up apple ids to a generic “church” name?
    other things?

    • Thanks so much, Rob! Appreciate that.

      That’s excellent you’re doing that for your church members. One thought: that I did for my boys’ phone (I’m going to update the article to reflect this) is to increase the text size by going into Settings>General>Accessibility>Larger Text and then turning it on and adjusting the text size. This might be helpful to those folks in extended care facilities — heck, after doing this for my boy’s iPod Touch, I did for my own phone and I love it! There’s a host of options in Accessibility that might be useful to customize for individual users.

      As far as the Apple IDs go I think I would probably avoid using a generic church account over multiple devices because that’s going to put you into a long term management role and it would quickly become messy. My best advice would be to set them up with their own and in that instance they could use the same one for both the Store and iCloud accounts. (You should set up the automatic iCloud backup for them.) Depending on your budget, maybe you could give them a $15 iTunes card so they could have a Store account with that rather than a credit card.

      It’s an interesting topic…let me know how it goes, there may be another guide in there!

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  • Philipp

    Activating without a valid SIM card inserted doesn’t work. I think that is missing in this otherwise great article!

    • Thanks, Philipp, and good point. The phone I used as the model for this article was my wife’s old iPhone so the SIM card was already validated. (As I understand it.) I found the Apple support article on validating the SIM: — it was odd to me that the article was in “archived” status, but it seems like it’s relevant. I think I’d add a bit more on the SIM issue, if I can figure a clear way to articulate it.

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  • Missy Griffith

    Helpful article! I made it through everything except iMessage Activation. I just won’t do it. I keep getting an error message that it “could not sign in.” Any advice?

    • Missy Griffith

      Tried it again this morning. Stilling waiting on activation, BUT when I went to accounts and added in his gmail, it did let him start texting. So…problem not resolved with activation, but def resolved with texting.

      • Hey Missy, glad it was helpful! As far as iMessage activation, it’s tricky for me to tell with seeing it, but I would try signing in and out of it and seeing if it sticks. Glad it’s working with gmail. Is it signed in with his Apple ID under iMessages? I would check which addresses are listed under Settings>iMessages>”Send and Receive” too.

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  • Lori Britt

    Does downloading purchased music work the same as purchased apps from my Apple ID account? Mine are big music lovers so I want to put their favorites on their iPod/iPhone as well.

    • Yep, Lori, works exactly the same, any music that you bought from iTunes can be downloaded again on devices that share that Apple ID.

      • Lori Britt

        Awesome thanks! I’m gonna be messing with two iPhone 5 phones this weekend to get them ready for them. Can they iMessage or FaceTime from anywhere as long as they are on a Wifi connection? My hope is these will give them some entertainment when they’re waiting on me to bounce back and forth from activities with them and call or message me so I know they’re done and waiting on me…there’s wifi in both their locations 🙂

        • Exactly just need a wifi connection, since otherwise there’s no data connection because it’s not operating as a phone anymore.

          How did it go?

          • Lori Britt

            It’s working great but when she buys apps that ask my parents permission to buy, I’m not getting a text or email to approve it. Can you point me in the direction of where I find the requests?

          • Hmmm…this depends on how you set up the Store account. If you set it up with your account (how we do it currently) there’s no notifications other than your kid pulling on your pant leg to see if they can download the latest Talking Tom variation. Then you enter the password for them which as I explain above is how we run it in our family currently.

            However if you’re using Family Sharing than you want to look at this article about the Ask To Buy feature:

            I last tried Family Sharing in Fall 14 and it was a bit half-baked at that time, but I think some improvements have been made since and I want to try using it with Apple Music so I’ll report back at some point with my findings…

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  • Diana Brown

    WOW! Thank you so much for this! Just walked through this successfully to turn my old phone into my son’s 11th birthday gift. 🙂

    The only issue I’m having is similar to Missy’s below re: iMessage. Send & Receive is set to my son’s new iCloud email but it still says “Waitingg for activation’. The only thing I can think of is that when i turned iMessage it showed by the old phone number for this phone AND the new iCloud email address. The old phone # was slightly greyed out but did have a check mark next to it and I couldn’t uncheck it. Any ideas?

    Thank you so much!!

    • Diana Brown

      False alarm – all fixed! Thanks again for this detailed post. You’ve got a new fan and follower. Thank you!

      • My pleasure, Diana! So glad to hear it worked out and pleased it resulted in an awesome birthday gift!

  • Jill Krause of the popular blog Baby Rabies used this guide successfully and wrote up this great review with screenshots:

  • Amy Gramza Minehart

    Hi, I hope this doesn’t sound dumb… I am trying to use an old iphone4 that was given to me by my mom when she upgraded. It has been wiped clean at Verizon, and the folks there told my mom there was no such thing as a SIM card anymore. I am having the same issue with the “waiting for activation” message in the FaceTime settings and iMessage settings. I want my daughter to be able to text and FaceTime with family when she’s on our wifi. We have no phone or data plan, she is just using an iCloud email address and Apple ID. Sorry if you’ve already answered this.

    • Not a dumb question at all, Amy. We upgraded my boys from a 4S to a 5S since the article was written a year ago and I noticed the same “waiting for activation” message too, BUT they were also signed into Facetime and iMessage with their own Apple ID. So I tried message and FaceTiming and it worked fine, despite that misleading and pesky “waiting for activation” message. Curious to hear if it works for you as well with just the Apple ID?

      • Heidi Blair

        Mine is still saying “waiting for activation” after following these steps…any advice?

        • Heidi, have you tried texting and/or FaceTiming from it despite that message? As I explained below my boys’ device still displays the “waiting for activation” message too but both the iMessage and FaceTime work fine.

          • Heidi Blair

            Yes, even though it still says “waiting for activation” the iMessage finally went through. Thank you for such an easy to follow guide!!!!

          • Glad it’s working and love hearing the guide was helpful, Heidi! Thanks!

  • Jessica Leon Spicer Ibarguen

    sooooo, um .. . can we make it so that they can use cellular service? or do I really not want to do that. thinking I want them to be able to use it on trips in the car. Are there some games, etc that need continuous wifi service?
    Also, can you point me in the right direction for organizing kindle and iPhone/mac?? I’m transitioning to a macbook from a pc and feeling like a slowpoke recalibrating my brain. — no left click copy/paste, etc? and i don’t understand about apple id password/itunes password/icloud are they really all different? I use yahoo mail. it’s feeling cumbersome, esp with the addition of the kindle. I’m starting to feel like the time i decided to have only one kind of sippy cup so all the parts worked together. LOL. this is more crazy. I need to simplify. thank you!

    • You’re not going to be able to get your kids cellular data without adding a line to your cellular plan for them. If it’s just a matter of keeping them connected for gaming and messaging on a road trip, Why not turn on personal hotspot on YOUR phone, then connect the kids’ device to it over wifi?

    • Brent is right, when you’re using this guide you’re shutting down the cellular parts of the phone and making into a iPod Touch which has always just connected to wifi for data. For the car trips that means no Netflix but you can download movies and TV shows from iTunes you’ll just have to do it before you leave. And a lot of great games, don’t require continuous wifi service because the game is all downloaded in the app. Brent is also right in that you could turn the hotspot on your phone on and let the kids use that as a traveling wifi connection BUT with streaming video (like Netflix) that could eat a TON of data in a very short amount of time, so I would caution against it unless you have a huge data plan.

      Apple ID password and your iTunes passwords are the same thing. See the article above why I recommend having both your Apple ID and your kids on their device. (Theirs for backup and Facetime/Messages, yours for store purchases.)

      I have a lot of posts on learning the Mac just click on the tag “digital organizing” or scroll through the archives. Here’s an article about right clicking on a Mac:

      A good place to start for switching to Mac is right at Apple’s page:

  • Kimberly Dawn Eastwood

    I was gonna post to trade my grandson iPhone for an ipod till someone said just make it an ipod I wrote your instructions down and I’m getting the pictures off his phone to put on a cd now then gonna do this can’t wait thank u so much

  • Tracy Nelesen

    This was a fantastic step-by-step article. Thank you. I am having one issue that I hope you can help me with. When I go into the App Store app I can view and load any apps I have previously purchased or downloaded. The problem is that I can’t search or do anything else in the App Store app. When I go to the FEATURED section or the SEARCH section the screen is just blank. The store does not show up at all.

    • Thanks, glad it was helpful, Tracy!

      It’s tough to tell what’s happening with the App Store without seeing it, but it sounds like it may just be that it’s having trouble loading. Try force quitting the app (double click the home button and then push the app store card up”) and then restarting the App Store or try restarting the whole phone (press and hold the home and power button together till you see the Apple Logo.)

  • Michelle Fox

    This was truly helpful! Thank you for taking the time to share so many details. Being able to follow your directions will allow us more family time at Christmas.

  • Becky

    This is amazing!!! Thank you so much for putting all of this information together…my daughter has been wanting an iPod for a long time, and this is perfect! This seems like a silly question – I’ve almost got her new iPod set up, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to delete the U2 album that automatically came with iTunes. Can you help me? Thanks again!

    • Becky

      Nevermind, I figured it out. Thanks again!

      • Glad you were able to figure it out, Becky and VERY glad it was helpful to you and your daughter!

  • Wendy G-Art

    What the best messaging app that can text or call to non iPhone? I heard majic jack! Any others? Or opinions? Thanks. For putting this together! My 11yo is super happy.

    • Glad it helped you and your 11 year old out! Texting or calling to non-iPhones I don’t have much experience with — there’s Google Voice which would work for both of these tasks but is a bit clunky and doesn’t receive much updating from Google. For just messaging you could try something like WhatsApp or Google Hangouts, but of course the non-iPhone person you were trying to contact would have to use that platform as well. Skype too would fit into this category and would add video calling (also in Google HO).

  • Emma

    This is so very helpful – thank you. But I wonder if I did something wrong at the beginning as it still has all of my old iPhone content on things like Contacts and Notes. I set it up under my apple ID and then added child as a separate ID under the family ID. Also if I message from that phone it appears on the phone the message is sent to that I have sent it, rather than my child’s new iCloud address. Any tips? Thanks

    • Hey Emma, glad to hear it was helpful!

      Well, I suspect what’s happening is that under your iCloud account you have the Contacts and Notes syncing from your account. If you got to Settings>iCloud and then turn these off, it will then ask you if you want to delete those from this device (it will keep them in the cloud and your account just remove them from this device.)

      Really though you want the iCloud account on this device signed into your child’s account otherwise things are going to get really confusing and frustrating as far as backup and Find My iPhone goes. You can still use family sharing this way and you can still have the Store accounts signed into your account — if you go back to my section on this and read it through, I explain this in more detail. Hope this helps, let me know how it goes!

      • Emma

        Hi Deron – thank you very much for your speedy reply. I’ll have another go with the iCloud account settings. Thanks very much

  • Jen

    Great step by step article, thanks. I’m still having trouble setting up my iPhone 4 as an iPod touch for the kiddos in that they want to be able to text my husband and I using Messages but when I follow your instructions, it still says “waiting for activation” even after I’ve set up and directed the device to their iCloud account. Any suggestions?

  • Missy Griffith

    Once again I’m back to your very helpful article. ????????The kids traded around iPods and iPhones so the youngest of the bunch now has the old 4s to use as an iPod. We can text her even though she is still “waiting for activation” ????, but I can’t get her FaceTime to work.

    Also her contact shows up on my phone list, but I can’t add her to my favs (no option to do so on the contact). It doesn’t recognize a FaceTime option for her either from my phone

  • Missy Griffith

    So it all mysteriously started working. ???? Still love your article!

  • Shannon

    This may be a silly question, but once we turn my old 5c into an ipod for my daughter, can we go and turn it back into an iphone for my son–he is getting ready to start middle school and we are considering getting him a phone then but depending on promotions and such it may make sense to reactivate the old phone and add a line for him. Will we be able to do that?

    • Hey Shannon! Great question, not silly — you can totally go from iPod for the your daughter to iPhone for the boy, because nothing that you’re doing in the transformation is taking away the phone capabilities, you’re just making a few adjustments in the Settings app to let the phone know it doesn’t need access to the phone networks in its new life as an iPod. Once you’re ready to use it as phone again, you would just wipe the “iPod” and it would return to its factory defaults, ready to be used as a phone again. (You will need to let your phone provider like Verizon know of course that you’re adding a new line.)

      Maybe the bigger question is will your young lady want to give up the iPod to her brother after the thrill of owning her own iPod?! A good option might be to buy one of them a used iPhone at Gazelle.

  • Findlay

    My status bar still shows Verizon next to the signal strength. I noticed your pictures do not have a carrier’s name. How do i get that off?

    • Great question, but those screenshots are misleading — I’m not sure why but they’ve edited out the carrier’s name even though on the phones I’ve converted the carrier’s name always stays. In fact, the screenshots I have in the eBook guide and videos (more current) show the carrier’s name.

      • Findlay


  • Daniel

    Will this work with an IPhone 3? My dad gave it to me and later I got a new phone but still want to use the 3.

    • Hey Daniel,

      Yes, it will work on iPhone 3G but the problem you’ll run into is that a 3G can only run iOS 4.2.1 at the most, even a 3GS can only run iOS 6.1.6.

      This means the phone will be slow and a lot of the current apps won’t be able to run on it.

      That being said my boys have an iPod Touch they use as an occasional backup device and that can only run iOS 3.1.1 and they’ve still found enough games for that to use it as a sometimes device.

  • Lynne Whelden

    If someone can answer this question, I will be eternally grateful….can I convert a new, never-used Straight Talk-issued iphone 5S into an ipod device? Do I have to first “activate” it using their prepaid 30-day card (and SIM, I guess) and, after 30 days, continue using it as an ipod? Can I use an unused SIM from ebay if I don’t want to buy ST’s card? Or…as I suspect, has ST hijacked the phone to prevent ANY of this from happening?

    • Hey Lynne,

      Interesting question…I don’t have any experience with Straight-Talk so I can’t give a definitive answer but with other carrier’s phones it hasn’t been an issue for us because in this transformation process you’re not using any of the phone features (in fact, you’re turning those off.) Usually with other carriers the only reason you would need to “activate” it is to use the phone features, otherwise you can use it as iPod.

      If you already have the ST iPhone, I think it would be worth trying, I can’t see any downside other than if you were looking to resell it instead of pass it on to someone as iPod. Hope that helps.

      • Lynne Whelden

        Here’s what I found out in the meantime. Yes, a ST-issued iphone can be used as a wifi device (ie, IPOD) only. However, I still had to first call ST customer service, give them the MEID number taped on the bottom of the box and finally have them register/activate the phone in their system for it to work. They didn’t have any problem with my using the phone that way. I still had to put their SIM card in the slot.
        Of course they reminded me that if I ever wanted to use their calling plan, just call them back. ha ha, fat chance!

  • Camille Castillo

    This may very well be a sill question but I don’t quite understand how this works. I am considering doing this with my Iphone 5 and upgrading my device. I still think my daughter, who is 10, is too young for a phone but it has gotten to the point, I think she needs to be able to contact me or her father at any time. My question is, if I covert the Iphone5 to a IPod touch, will she still be able to call and text other Iphone users? If so, will that be the only way she can call or text off this device?

    • Not a silly question, Camille, thanks for asking. The short answer is that if you want your 10 year old daughter to be able to contact you or her father at ANYTIME on the phone then you’ll need to leave it as a phone and continue to pay for its data/phone plan through your carrier. (Verizon, AT&T, etc.)

      That’s because when you’re doing this conversion, it’s becoming a wifi only device so she could continue to text through iMessage or another messaging service BUT she would have to be connected to wifi. She could make calls but it would have to be Facetime or Skype and again she would have to be connected to wifi. So she might be able to text you when she’s over at her friend’s house (and they’ve given her access to their wifi connection) but not at a park or the hundreds of other spots where there isn’t an easily accessible and open wifi connection.

      Hope that makes it clear!

  • Angela Yeh

    Deron, Thank you so much for such a thorough explanation and tutorial of this process. I’ve been searching forever on how to do this and so glad I found your site!

    A question. My 3 year old son loves certain shows, songs and movies. It’s easiest to find these on YouTube that we can’t find oniTunes and we’ve created a playlist for him in my youtube account but then we still can’t prevent my son from sliding into watching mindless youtube videos.

    Is there a way to only watch certain shows and/or limit the amount of time he can watch YouTube?

    • Hi Angela,

      So glad to hear the guide has been helpful for you in setting up your son’s device.

      1 app that I recommend in my eBook version of this guide is the YouTube Kids app — I’m not sure it will give you exactly what you want as far as limiting him to just a single playlist, but it does have much more parental controls than the regular YouTube app including the ability to disable search (probably not an issue yet at his age) and I believe set a timer for viewing time. It’s free and Google made, check it out if you haven’t yet:

      As far as limiting what music he can see inside the Music app there should be a way to just download certain playlists to that device depending on you set the Music app up. You could buy his music though his own iCloud account and then join those accounts together through Family Sharing, but I don’t think you’ll need to do that just yet for this purpose.

      Hope that gives you a place to start!

  • Jo Anna Berry

    Please help. I bought a brand new iphone 5S on a Black Friday deal. 1. Can I do this with a new phone, she is too young for a phone service but I would love for her to have the ipod capability. 2. I have a chrome book and do not have a mac computer, is this still possible?

    • Hi Jo Anna,

      Yep, it should be fine with a new phone, same concept as you’re just using it as a wii-fi device since you didn’t buy it with a data contract. And you don’t need the Chromebook or Mac in this instance because it’s starting as a new phone and there’s nothing to erase/reset with the help of a Mac. (Which is an optional step anyway, you can also reset the phone with just the phone as I describe above.) Hope that helps!

  • Abbey North

    I have an old iPhone 5 from one of my friends and am trying to activate it as a wifi-only device. I’ve been using an iPhone 4 for the same purpose, but it has developed glitches as the software is updated, so I want to switch over to the 5. The phone has been wiped, however, I can’t activate it because I don’t have a SIM card for it. I’m wondering if I can use my friend’s SIM card from the same carrier to activate the phone and then give them back the SIM card. Will this work? Before I try I just want to be sure that I won’t end up with their phone number or cellular plan being switched to my phone.

    • Hey Abbey,

      The SIM question is always a little tricky for me to give a definitive answer on because it varies on different carriers — but my best guess is that yes, IF you NEED to activate in order to get any further in this process (and I’m not convinced that it’s necessary for using it as a wif-fi only device) but if you find that you do then your friend’s SIM card should work to do that or really any other SIM card. (It used to be carriers would provide SIM cards fairly easily, dunno if that’s still true.) If you look at this comment thread: you’ll see one of my commentors experience with SIM cards on a Straight Talk iPhone. Hope that helps and let us know how it goes!

  • Kristen

    Love this write up, Well done! However I am having a slight issue with messaging. I continuously get “an error occurred during activation” message when turning on imessage. Any thoughts on how to activate iMessage on wifi only?

  • John

    So now that my iPhone 4s is clean and set up as an iPad. how many songs (albums) will it hold.

    • It depends on the storage size of the 4S and how much space the other apps and data are taking up. Go to Settings>General>Storage & iCloud Usage for this information.

  • Reamon Joseph

    I’ve set up my iPhone 6 for my daughter to use. I’ve noticed it drains the battery very quickly! I came to this site looking for an idea as to why… I’m planning to just start from the beginning and follow your tutorial all the way through unless you have a suggestion that’s simpler to end my short battery life woes. Thanks!

  • Eugene Hilsheimer

    I can purchase a no-contract Simple Media iPhone SE from Walmart or Best Buy for $159.99. Would I be able to set it up as an iPod without ever having to worry about using it as a phone at all?

  • Shaharyar Khan

    i have a sim activation issue in iphone 4 , with iso 7.1.2 n it demands the sim activation for phone , how can i convert this into ipod ??

  • LeAnne Hochevar Dennis

    Help! I dont know what I did wrong but itunes keeps telling me my phone cannot b backed up or restored because it cannot be found??? Any solutions ?

  • Douglas Moore

    This didn’t work for my iPhone 5 conversion. Still doing the same thing it did when I found this guide, namely, saying “Activation Required” and “Dismiss” and then requiring me to enter my Apple ID and password EVERY SINGLE DAY!