A lot of people have probably heard the news stories about criminals caught red-handed with stolen iPads and iPhones. Here’s one, and here’s another. But it amazes me that so many people still aren’t using it, and don’t know how. It’s really easy, and if more people use it, maybe criminals will start realizing its a bad idea to try stealing iDevices.
Its really easy to set up, but you’ll need an iCloud account. At this point a lot of people roll their eyes, but iCloud is good, really! Its not like Apple’s previous attempts at an online service. Many of you may say you have no need for another mail account, calendar syncing, file syncing, you use Exchange, or DropBox. Thats fine- iCloud is free. Even if you only use it for Find My iPhone and nothing else, it’s still worth it, I think.
So if you haven’t already, go to icloud.com and set up an account. Okay, now, moving on.
Click on the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, then the iCloud setting, and log in. Once you’re logged in, turn on whatever services you want, or not, but make sure you turn on Find My iPhone.
That’s it! Now, lets see how to track your device if it gets lost. To do this on another iDevice, download the free Find My iPhone app, or on any Mac or PC desktop, go to icloud.com and log in. Log in with your iCloud account, and it will show you all of your registered devices on a map.
You can also display a message on screen (reward if found!), play a sound, even if your phone is on silent, and you can even remote lock or wipe, like Bluetooth devices. If your device can’t be found, it will keep trying indefinitely, and send you an email when it IS found.
Starting with Lion, Macs can be tracked now, as well. Just log into the iCloud system preference, and turn on Find My Mac. You can track, lock, and wipe, same as your iDevice.
Some people have told me they use Find My iPhone to track their kids or spouses, whether with their consent or not. Obviously, Find My iPhone could present privacy issues, but if you’re worried about being tracked, don’t give people your iCloud password!. Or set up your kids under your iCloud account, so they can’t turn it off. “You can have an iPhone for your birthday, but only if you allow us to keep tabs on you.”
What if you WANT to be tracked, but you don’t want to give out your account? What if you’re meeting up with someone for dinner and you don’t know where they are? Check out the Find My Friends app, also free. This is more like an opt-in version of Find My iPhone, where you can invite friends and they can allow themselves to be tracked by you, permanently, or they can turn it off later. You can even set up events that will auto-expire.