Is your iPhone missing? Losing your phone can be a stressful experience, especially if it’s an expensive phone like an iPhone. There’s also the added risk of your personal information falling into the wrong hands. Luckily, there are a variety of ways you can track down your lost iPhone, including using tools developed by Apple and built into every iPhone. If you lose your iPhone or think it might be stolen, these steps might help you track & find iOS device and protect your private data.
How to Track a Lost Phone
Thankfully, Apple has a service called Find My iPhone that helps track your iPhone’s location. But what if you didn’t notice in time, and now the battery is dead? That’s what Send Last Location is for. Here’s how to track an iPhone and find a lost iPhone even if the battery has died.
Find My iPhone is free, easy to set up, and quite possibly the most valuable app on your iPhone. It also works on your iPad and Mac, so you can keep track of all your Apple devices. With Find My iPhone turned on, your iPhone connects to the internet and broadcasts its location. You can use another iOS device or iCloud.com to find it.
Like many of the advanced features in iOS 9, Find My iPhone uses iCloud to store and sync data, so you’ll need an iCloud account to use the service. The chances are you already have one, as Apple prompts you to create one when you first set up your iPhone or iPad. To check, go to Settings > iCloud and you should see your account name listed. If not, just follow the instructions on screen to set up an account. You just need to remember that Find My iPhone uses your Apple ID email address to associate devices with your account, so you’ll need to use the same one on all of them.
Turning on Find My iPhone itself is then very simple. In Settings choose iCloud and then scroll down to Find My iPhone. Tap it and then tap the switch so that it’s green – that means Find My iPhone is active. Underneath Find My iPhone you’ll also see another option entitled Send Last Location. This means that your iPhone will send location data to Apple just before it runs out of battery, as we explain in more detail later in this article. Slide the switch across to enable this feature.
One last thing to check is that Location Services have been enabled, as this allows your devices to be tracked by the Find My iPhone app. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services to make sure. You can turn off Location Services for individual apps if you’d prefer to keep your location private from certain applications.
Using Google Timeline to Find iPhone
This method only works if you have location reporting and location history enabled on your iPhone. You’re probably aware, that Apple and Google like to gather information about all sorts of things, including your location. Although this is an invasion of your privacy and some people intentionally disable location services on their devices, it can be very helpful when you lose phone.
Google’s Timeline (former Location History) maps out all location data that has been collection from your iPhone. Yes, Google doesn’t only store all that location data of yours, it also makes it accessible in a very good looking interface.
Basically, you can see where you’ve been on a map. Using this tool, you can see where your lost phone was located the last time it sent its location data to Google. In case your iPhone is still on and is connected to the web, it will continue sending its location so you can see exactly where it is and go get it back. Even if it the battery is dead, you can still see its last reported location.
To see your location history do the following:
- Visit google.com/maps/timeline
- Select today’s date in the top left side of the screen (or click the “Today” button).
- Look at the timeline on the left side and scroll to its end to find the last reported location of your iPhone. You can also check all recorded points in the map. Make sure to check the time stamps so that you don’t just know the last location but also when your phone was last connected to Google.
- Before you jump up to get it. Try to use the location data to figure out if your iPhone is simply lying somewhere waiting to be picked up, or if it’s moving. If it isn’t staying put, you should contact the authorities and get them to help you retrieve your (apparently) stolen device. I don’t recommend going after a thief alone. Who knows what kind of person took your phone.
If iPhone is off or offline?
If your missing device is off or offline, you can still put it in Lost Mode, lock it, or remotely erase it. The next time your device is online, these actions will take effect. If you remove the device from your account while it’s offline, any pending actions for the device will be cancelled.
Sign into either the app or the website with your Apple ID. On the iCloud website, click the Find My iPhone icon. The website will display all your devices on a map by default. Click the All Devices menu if you’d like to select a specific device. If your device is powered off or doesn’t have an Internet connection, you won’t be able to track its location — however, you can still send wipe or lock commands and iCloud will execute them the next time the device connects.
Click a device’s dot on the map and you’ll be able to issue it commands:
- Play Sound: The Play Sound button will play a two-minute sound on the device. This happens immediately — if the device is offline, the two-minute sound will start playing the next time it comes online. This is ideal if you’ve lost the device somewhere nearby — maybe you don’t know where you left it in your house or perhaps you dropped your iPhone somewhere.
- Lost Mode: Enable Lost Mode as soon as possible when your device is lost or stolen. Lost Mode allows you to set a new passcode to prevent the thief from using your device. You can also enter a custom message that will be displayed on the device’s lock screen — you could provide details of where you can be reached if someone finds the device. The message will persist even through factory resets on iOS 7. “Activation lock” will also prevent people from activating the device without your original iCloud ID and password, so thieves won’t be able to resell or keep using your device. Lost Mode also enables a location tracking history, so you can sign into the iCloud website and track the device’s movements over time. If the device is currently offline, Lost Mode will be activated the next time it connects.
- Erase: You can also remotely erase the device, removing any sensitive personal or business data. On iOS 7, you can set a phone number and message that will be displayed on the screen after the device is erased so someone can contact you if they find it. The Erase feature should be used as a last resort — in most cases, Lost Mode and Lock should allow you to secure your data and continue remotely tracking your device.
If Nothing Helps
If you didn’t turn on Find My iPhone before your device was lost or stolen, you can’t use it to locate your device. However, you can use these steps to help protect your data:
- Change your Apple ID password. By changing your Apple ID password you can prevent anyone from accessing your iCloud data or using other services (such as iMessage or iTunes) from your missing device.
- Change the passwords for other internet accounts on your device. This could include email accounts, Facebook, or Twitter.
- Report your lost or stolen device to local law enforcement. Law enforcement might request the serial number of your device.
- Report your lost or stolen device to your wireless carrier. Your carrier can disable the account, preventing phone calls, texts, and data use.
Find My iPhone is the only way that you can track or locate a lost or missing device. If Find My iPhone isn’t enabled on your device before it goes missing, there is no other Apple service that can find, track, or otherwise flag your device for you.