Enabling the Find My iPhone feature is one of the first things you should do when acquiring a new iOS device. If you’re anything like me, when you can’t find your iPhone a mini heart attack ensues. Instantly going back to think of all the events of the day in hopes of being able to remember where it may have been left. Another time it comes in really useful is when it can’t be found just before leaving before work because it’s slipped down into some deep crevices in the couch.

Even though the feature is called “Find My iPhone” it works for all iOS devices, even your Mac.


Download and Features

what does find my iphone do

Find My iPhone

If you haven’t already setup Find My iPhone on your iOS device you really should enable it right away… you know… before it gets lost or gets stolen. It’s a free app made by Apple, here’s a link: Find My iPhone.

You don’t actually need to download the app to use “Find My iPhone”. Under Settings -> iCloud -> Find My iPhone you can simply enable the feature. On a Mac go to System Preferences -> iCloud -> Find My Mac.

You can’t access Find My iPhone on the iCloud website with an iOS device (only on a computer) so if you want to locate a missing device with another device then you need the app. Using a computer just go to the iCloud website to access these features.

Every device, including your Mac has to have Find My iPhone (Find my Mac) enabled in order for it to work on it.

In order for any of these methods to work the device has to have an active internet connection, be that by Wi-Fi or cellular. All actions are queued; this means that if it doesn’t have an active internet connection when you try to use one of the features it will try again as soon as it does connect to the internet.

So for example, say you want to enable lost mode on a lost iPod but that iPod is not currently connected to the internet. Just log into your iCloud account or use the Find my iPhone app on one of your other devices and set the iPod the lost mode. When the iPod gets connected to the internet it will automatically activate lost mode.

It’s also more than just a simple way of finding lost devices. There are 3 different actions you can choose from once your device is found. You can have it play a sound, enable lost mode or have it completely erase the contents.


Play Sound

locate lost iphone ipad ipod

Find My iPhone features

Having the Find My iPhone app play a sound is one of the most useful ways of finding a misplaced iOS device when it’s nearby. Even if you have the device set to vibrate mode it will overrule that and play the location sound on the loudest possible setting.

Quick heads up: if you want to test it out on your device make sure take you headphones out. I was listening to Pandora on My Mac when I tried it, I think I may have blown out my left eardrum. No, but seriously, it uses the loudest volume, which is actually a good thing.

To remotely play a sound, log into your iCloud account -> click the “Find My iPhone” button -> select the missing device and finally click the “Play Sound” button.


Lost Mode

find my lost iPhone app

Lost Mode

The Find My iPhones lost mode has quite a few really useful tools. Your able to track its location, allowing you to get an idea of where you might have left it. Also if someone has stolen it you can track their live movements. There is also an option to turn on a passcode so even if someone finds it they can not access any of your personal info.

I think one of the most useful features is the ability to have a phone number displayed on the lost iOS device. If someone picks up your iPhone a phone number will be displayed on the homescreen for them to call. You can also have a message displayed on the homescreen.

To activate and use lost mode, log into your iCloud account and click the “Find My iPhone” button. The first step will ask you to create a passcode to protect the lost or stolen device (if you don’t already have one setup).

Next, it will ask you to enter a phone number that will show up on the homescreen of the device. This number can be used by the finder / thief to call you.

And finally, you’ll be asked to enter a message. This message will also be shown on the homescreen. If you’ve misplaced your device somewhere, a great way to get it back is to offer a reward. People love rewards and it’s better to pay someone $20 – $50 to return it than to spend hundreds on a new device.


Completely erase lost iPhone, iPod or iPad

Completely erasing the contents of your device… completely erases everything. This includes the apps, the OS, your configuration settings, and all that other good stuff. The only thing that won’t be wiped is the SIM card.

When you erase your device, it pretty much no longer your device. Whoever has it now pretty much owns it. This is because it will act as a brand new device, acting no different from being freshly purchased from a store.

The upcoming release of iOS 7 changes this however. In iOS 7 there is a new feature called “Activation Lock”. Activation Lock prevents a stolen device that had Find My iPhone enabled from being re-activated without having the original owners Apple ID and password.

This new feature is some sweet justice because whoever stole it can not re-activate it. And even after it is wiped with iOS 7 you can still have a message and phone number displayed on the lock screen.