November 28, 2013 at 4:08 p.m. PST
If you have lost your iPhone, iPad, or Mac (or had it stolen), there’s good news. You can use Find My iPhone to locate your missing Apple products. This how-to article covers setting up the service, as well as locating a missing iPhone.
How to Setup Find My iPhone
Follow these steps to set up Find My iPhone. These instructions also work with the iPad or iPod Touch.
Upgrade to iOS 7
iOS 7 introduces new features, making it harder for thieves to steal your iPhone. If your iPhone is stolen, it can be locked or wiped remotely. If a thief tries to reset the device, it cannot be activated without your Apple ID.
This is one of the best reasons to upgrade to iOS 7. Some people are worried that iOS 7 is not stable. I have been using the new OS since it was released. It has some minor issues, but overall it’s quite stable and usable. I actually like it! Apple has released a few patches that fix most of the high priority bugs. It’s worth upgrading your iPhone, just for the anti-theft features alone. Follow these instructions to upgrade your iPhone. This upgrade process will prevent loss of personal data.
Once you upgrade to iOS 7, you will be instructed to turn on iCloud. If you skipped this step, it can be completed now. Go to Settings > iCloud. You will be asked to enter your Apple ID and password. If you don’t have one, tap Get a Free Apple ID and follow the on-screen instructions. Once you have activated iCloud, go to Settings > iCloud and turn on Find My iPhone.
Turn on Location Services
Location Services are on by default. If you have disabled Location Services out of privacy concerns, this may make it more difficult to find your iPhone. It is possible to use Find My iPhone to turn on location services remotely, using Lost Mode. If your device is lost and runs out of power or is turned off, you’re out of luck. Find My iPhone won’t even be able to provide your iPhone’s last location.
You can turn on Location Services and turn off individual items, leaving only Find My iPhone enabled. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Service to enable Find My iPhone. Enabling this setting will provide your iPhone’s last location, even if it has been turned off.
That’s it! You will now be able to locate your iPhone anywhere in the world. It’s also handy if you misplace it in your home. Now let’s take a look at how to find your lost iPhone.
How to Find Your iPhone
Now that your iPhone has been configured to use the Find My iPhone service, let’s take a look at how to find your device, and other features. You can even lock your device or erase it remotely, if it falls into the wrong hands.
Find Your iPhone With Another iOS Device
If you have another iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you can easily locate any device that has Find My iPhone turned on. If you don’t have the Find My iPhone app, launch the App Store, search for the app, and install it. The app is free.
Next, launch the app and sign in with your Apple ID. A screen will appear with a map at the top and your Apple devices listed below. As your devices are found, a green dot will appear next to each device.
Tap on the device you wish to find. Your device’s location will appear on the map, if Location Services are activated. You can turn on Location Services remotely by tapping Lost Mode. This will turn on Location Services and lock your iPhone with the passcode you provide.
I strongly encourage you to activate Location Services on your iPhone. If your device is turned off or has run out of battery charge, you cannot turn on Location Services using Lost Mode. If you enable Lost Mode, your device will not enable Location services when it is powered back on. I tried this, and it didn’t work. At best, you can keep checking for your device to come online and then activate Lost Mode. If it ran out of battery power and is lost somewhere, it will probably never come back online. It’s much easier to just turn on Location Services so you won’t have to hold a vigil for your lost iPhone.
Lost Mode will also display a message of your choosing. You can enter a message, and it will display on the screen. This is a great way to tell whoever has your iPhone how to contact you. Of course, you probably don’t want to leave your address, if your device was stolen.
If you lost your iPhone around the house, tap Play Sound. This will play a high-pitched tone for two minutes, which can help you locate the device. The sound will play even if you have muted your phone.
You can also remotely erase your iPhone if it has critical information. If you do keep critical information on your iPhone, make sure to do regular, encrypted back-ups on iTunes. That way, if your iPhone is lost and needs to be erased, you can restore it later. You can also set your iPhone to erase its contents if someone tries to bypass the lock screen. After 10 failed attempts, your iPhone will erase its contents. Be careful with this setting. A malicious user could easily wipe out your iPhone. Of course, if you back it up regularly, this is not a problem. You can enable this setting by going to Settings > General > Passcode Lock and turn on Erase Data.
Find Your iPhone With Any Computer
If you don’t have another iOS device, don’t worry. You can find your iPhone with any computer using Apple’s iCloud site. The site is quite useful, and enables access to all of the iCloud applications from any computer. You can use it to access Reminders, Calendar, Notes, or any of the iCloud apps. It’s compatible with any computer — Mac, Windows, and even Linux. It even comes with free web-based versions of iWorks.
Open a browser on any computer and go to the iCloud website. You will be asked to enter your Apple ID and password. After you are authenticated, you are presented with a collection of icons, each representing an iCloud app. Click on Find My iPhone. A map will appear with a green dot indicating your iPhone’s location. Click on the My Devices link at the top to view all of your Apple devices. You can access the Play Sound, Lost Mode, and Erase iPhone features by clicking on your Apple device. It even displays how much power you have left on each device.
What If My iPhone is Turned Off?
Find My iPhone will display the last known location of your iPhone, if it has been turned off. When it is turned back on, the map will update its location. If your iPhone has been stolen, eventually the thief will need to power it back on. If you lost your device and it runs out of power, Find My iPhone should still work. The only caveat is that if you disabled Location Services, you might be out of luck. Make sure you have location services turned on (Settings > Privacy > Location Services > ON — make sure Find My iPhone is also turned on here).
My iPhone Was Stolen, What Should I Do?
iPhone thefts are quite common, especially in major cities. In New York city, iPhone thefts account for 14% of all crimes. It’s so common, stealing iPhones is called “Apple picking”. These thefts are often part of larger criminal organizations. You don’t want to confront these people yourself.
If your iPhone was stolen or you were mugged, use Find My iPhone to locate your device. Do not take the law into your own hands. Contact the police and have them take action. Confronting the thief is never a good idea.
If your iPhone has a passcode, the thief will probably need to reset the device and reinstall the operating system. With iOS 7, which is the only iOS version available, the user must enter your Apple ID to use the device. This won’t completely thwart a thief. It’s possible to install a jailbroken version of iOS, however, this lowers the resale value. Indeed, it may make the device unappealing to black market consumers.
Apple has made it very difficult for thieves to profit. The rest of the smartphone industry is playing catch-up with Apple. After all, it’s not in their best interest to prevent theft. If you lose a smartphone, you will buy another one, perhaps the same brand. Fortunately, non-Apple users have a lot less to worry about. Thieves want to steal iPhones more than any other brand. They have the highest resale value.
Apple’s theft prevention isn’t profitable in the short-term, but it builds brand loyalty. It may also prevent you from being mugged and physically injured. As thieves learn that they can’t make money from a stolen iPhone, they will be less inclined to steal them. It remains to be seen if Apple’s efforts have resulted in less theft. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman urges iPhone users to upgrade to iOS 7 to prevent theft. Apple’s theft prevention scheme is getting a lot of solid support. It’s all the more reason you should upgrade to iOS 7.