How to Track a Lost iPhone

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How to Track a Lost iPhone

It happens to the best of us: misplacing a cellphone somewhere in the house, leaving it in a coffee shop, or having it drop out of a pocket on a subway train. For most, trying to find a lost phone is a lost cause, dependent upon the mercy of whoever finds it. However, for iPhone users with devices running iOS 5 and later, Find My iPhone and iCloud can prove indispensable in recovering lost devices quickly. This feature not only works with the iPhone, but also with iPads and MacBooks as well.

By following the steps below, users can enable their iPhones to be easily located.


Turning On Find My iPhone

It’s important to note that users must have the Find My iPhone feature turned on prior to losing their device for this feature to work. To enable Find My iPhone, go to Settings > iCloud on your iPhone. Locate the toggle for “Find My iPhone,” and switch it on.


Options in iCloud and Find My iPhone

Upon losing a Find My iPhone-enabled device, users have a few options for accessing and manipulating their smartphones remotely. To access these options, users must either sign into, or install and run the Find My iPhone app on another iOS device. Once logged in, users can access the drop-down on the top of the screen to select the phone they’re looking for. The iPhone in question can now be manipulated in the follow ways:

  1. Lock Your Screen - enables locking of your iPhone remotely with a 4-digit passcode
  2. Display a Message/Play Sound - allows users to display a message on the screen of a lost iPhone (e.g., “This iPhone belongs to John Doe. Please call me back at 0417 XXX XXX”), or play a sound to help discover its location
  3. Wipe/Remote Erase - remotely deletes the phone’s contents


Lost Mode

In iOS 6 and later, a feature called Lost Mode is available that locks the device, displays a custom message, and turns on location tracking. Location tracking allows a user to view the location of the iPhone on a map. If the iPhone continues to stay online, email location alerts will be sent to the email address associated with the device’s Apple ID.

With iOS7, Find My iPhone includes an activation lock feature, which essentially disables the phone from unauthorized use when Find My iPhone is turned on. Activation lock requires entering the Apple ID and password to turn off Find My iPhone, erase the data, or reactivate and use the device.


When Find My iPhone Will Not Work

Several prerequisites must be met before Find My iPhone will function in lost iPhones. First and foremost, iCloud and Find My iPhone must be enabled on the device. The phone must be turned on and have enough charge in the battery to remain powered for location updates – an added incentive for installing a battery extender case. An Internet connection via 3G or Wi-Fi must also be available in order for the device to report its location. Finally, in pre-iOS 7 versions of Find My iPhone, devices will lack the activation lock feature that prevents erasure of the device. An individual is in possession of a pre-iOS 7 iPhone may be able to wipe the device, removing the Find My iPhone functionality.

In short, if you’re afraid your iPhone is hopelessly lost, before you begin pricing a replacement on eBay, you should first try using the Find My iPhone feature to try and recover your device. You may find your problem solved in record time.

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