We all know the feeling too well: You leave school or the theater or church and halfway home you realize it’s gone! Five years ago you might have been a little upset if you left your phone somewhere. Today it’s the end of all things. Our smartphones have become such a part of our lives that we immediately panic the moment we realize it’s not in the correct pocket of our jeans. Too many times the phone in question has been residing in my jacket pocket or even possibly my other hand. The point remains: we love our smartphones and can’t imagine our lives without them.
So what can you do when you misplace it? How can you find it if it gets stolen? With iOS 5 on your iPhone or iPad, Apple offers a great way to track your device’s location and even send it messages, lock the phone, or play a sound (for those nerve racking times when it’s lost in the couch).
First, make sure you’re running iOS 5. We detailed that process here. Once you’re up and running, make sure you’ve created your iCloud account by heading to the Settings App. There you’ll see an iCloud tab. Tapping on the tab brings you to this screen:
Be sure Find My iPhone (or iPod, iPad) is turned on.
Now you have a couple of options for finding your lost device:
1) From any other Apple iDevice, you can use the Find My iPhone App to track your missing device. Just enter your iCloud sign in information and the app will show you the last know location of your device. For iPhones and 3G equipped iPads, this position will be updated in real time. Devices with only a wifi connection will only send it’s position when connected to wifi.
Now you can simply tap on the device to get a list of options. You can send the would be thief a message that displays on the lock screen or simply a message with your contact information in case an honest someone finds it.
You can also set a passcode from this app, as well. Most people have valuable information on their smartphone or device. With this feature you’ll be able to remotely assign it a passcode so that strangers can’t see your personal information.
If it really is a lost cause or you have really valuable information on your device, you can wipe the phone completely from this App as well.
Can’t find someone with an iDevice to help you? The same functionality is available through the iCloud website at http://www.iCloud.com. Simply login with your iCloud account email and password and you’ll be in the epicenter of your digital life. From the website you can modify your contacts, calendars, documents, and me.com mail.
As you can see, this website also has an icon for Find My iPhone. From the web you have the same options as from the App. You’ll notice from the screen shot below that this same tool is available on Mac laptops running OS X Lion, as well.
Now you might be thinking that this is a bit of overkill. After all, for most of us there is a magnetic attraction between our hand and our phone. It never leaves our side. The day it really is lost, however, you’ll wish you had enabled Find My iPhone. This service is great for the forgetful person and even better if you have a device stolen. There have now been dozens of cases of police tracking down and apprehending thief’s who have stolen iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macs. All using the Find My iPhone functionality. And these stories keep rolling in.