Bradley Chambers recently had his iPhone repaired and got locked out of his Apple ID after realizing he didn’t have his recovery key:
I gave Apple a call, and I assumed this would be a quick fix. They’d unlock it, and I could then sign in. They quickly realized I was in a weird state of lockout. According to this support article, I should be able to get in. I remembered the password, and I had the device. The problem was I was still locked out. Apple can’t unlock it without the recovery key.
Thankfully, the account was mostly used for some old purchases. It is definitely a good reminder to make sure any recovery keys or backup codes are saved someplace safe.