Losing one’s phone is a common nightmare scenario, and no matter how careful you are, something can always go wrong. That’s why it’s advantageous to have something in place to get your phone back if the worst happens. Fortunately, Apple provides the Find My Phone feature to do just that. Here’s our guide.
I am paranoid about keeping track of my devices, and with writing about tech, I carry around a lot of devices. Only just week, I visited a country pub, left to buy some food, and it wasn’t until I was waiting for my bus home that I realised my iPhone wasn’t with me. Fortunately, I was given my phone back after running back into the pub, some honest patrons had handed it into an honest land lord. Had things not worked out that way, I’d have needed to use iCloud to find where my phone had gotten to.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
The first thing to do is go into the Settings app, then into your iCloud settings and simply flip the switch for Find My Phone. This will activate your iPhone’s or iPad’s system to report its location and accept remote commands from your iCloud account.
The next step is to install the Find My iPhone app (direct iTunes link) on your other iOS devices so that you can track it down with your other iOS devices. The Find My iPhone app shows all of your registered devices, and their location on a map. The interface is similar to the iCloud desktop client that you can run from your browser. So as we move forward, the instructions will apply to both the Find My iPhone app and the iCloud.com website.
To track and command your iPhone from a desktop or laptop, you need to have the iCloud suite installed. It’s available on OS X and on Windows. In the latter case, the iCloud control panel should have been added along with a recent iTunes update.
Assuming that you turned on the Find My iPhone feature (hint: If you didn’t, do it now) and that the iPhone has maintained a connection to the Internet, you should be able to see its position on a map. If you cannot locate the phone at this point, there’s little you can do but wait until it reconnects to the Internet.
Ping my iPhone!
Before we continue, you may have even misplaced your iPhone in the same building, or even in your own home! If that’s the case, then Find my iPhone can still help by means of the “Play Sound” option. This will cause your iPhone to play a high-pitched ringtone. You’re probably thinking you could simply call your phone without resorting to iCloud. However, what if you, or practical joker, had put the phone on silent? Fortunately, the iCloud Play Sound command overrides the silent setting on your iPhone, so it’s worth going through this measure.
You’ll also get an email from Apple confirming that the sound was played too. This is useful if you are in a different area to where the phone is, and you want to make the phone grab someone’s attention to pick it up. Having the email confirmation lets you know the sound worked.
One of the great risks of losing your phone is not so much losing the device itself but letting the information stored on it fall into the wrong hands. Your first step at defending against this is to lock your device.
iCloud (or the Find My iPhone app) will ask you to input a four digit code that will be needed to unlock your device. Following that it will ask you to supply a phone number on which you can be contacted. The iPhone will display its lock screen with a pop-up box displaying a message asking whoever is reading to call the number you provided. Anyone attempting to use the phone will be challenged for the code you sent via the Find My iPhone service.
The nuclear option
If all else fails and there’s no hope of retrieving your phone, all that’s left is to make sure nobody accesses your personal data. This is done via the “Erase iPhone” option. When you click this, a confirmation screen will appear whether you seriously want to do this.
Note that once the phone is erased, you will no longer be able to send any commands to it because your iCloud account will be removed along with all of the other data on the phone. This really is the final option.
If you are at the point where you have to write off the phone, you should also contact your network provider and have them cancel the SIM card in the iPhone too. You will not be getting that back either, and someone could use it in another phone.
Thankfully, iOS 7 comes with new security features such as Activation Lock, which should make it even more fool proof.