Find My has come a long way…and there may be features to it, you are not familiar with
It’s all change for Find My
Find My was first launched in 2019, but since those early days, Apple has been hard at work on improving it, and integrating it further in to their ecosystem.
This year saw Apple merge the Find My Friends and Find My iPhone in to a single app for both iPhone and iPad. With plenty of extra features such as locating an iPhone even when powered off, or when it has no connection.
It’s worth taking a few moments to catch-up on what is going on now, with Find My.
Locating a lost device
The Find My App is a native part of iOS, so it will be on your iPhone, or iPad somewhere. Almost all Apple products are Find My compatible, even the MagSafe Wallet.
When you open the Find My app, you’ll notice it is arranged in to sections, via the four tabs at the bottom of the screen.
The first, ‘People’ tab, will let you find friends. Next is the tab to help you locate your devices. The ‘Items’ tab will let you see what Find My Bluetooth enabled items are near to you (such as AirTags). The ‘Me’ tab is where you’ll find the app’s settings.
All your enabled devices, that are signed in to your iCloud account, will show up under the Devices tab. Each listed device will be displayed on a map. That map can be pinched so that you can zoom right in to that exact location.
By single tapping any of your devices, it will populate a page giving you some simple options such as playing a sound on the device, or giving you directions to that device. If you chose ‘Mark As Lost’, it will immediately disable Apple Pay. You can even erase all data remotely as well, should you wish.
OK – hands up who finds this feature deeply annoying. At times, I have walked downstairs to the bathroom from my studio, only to be notified that I’ve left behind my iPhone…grrrrr!!!
As much as this feature has all the right intentions, daily, it can be highly irritating. There may be certain devices that you want to leave Separation Alerts enabled for, but the good news is, you can elect to disbale individual items.
Select the device from the list, and then select notifications. There you’ll find the simple-to-follow choices for what level of notifications you want, per device.
As much as Separation Alerts can be annoying, there is a really handy feature under devices, particularly if you have young children.
With Family Sharing switched on, all their devices will also show up under yours.
This is one of the original features, that can be handy. I used it recently, when trying to find someone I was to interview for my podcast.
As long as they have shared their location with you, you’ll be able to use Find My. The app will show you who has shared their location with you, and offers you the chance to share your location back.
It is simple to do – press the plus sign next to the heading People. Tapping it will bring up a list of your contacts with whom you can share your location. You’ll then be offered choices of how long you want to share your location information. It ranges from an hour, until the end of the day, or even permanently.
You can turn on notifications for any person who is sharing their location with you. That way, you’ll know when they arrive or leave that location.
Pretty obviously, this will show your current location, and it is where you decide how, and with whom to share your data with, or from.
Lost devices (with no connection)
This is truly where the power of the Apple ecosystem comes in to its own. By using the Find My Network, it’ll allow you to find lost devices that are not on Wi-Fi or LTE, by using Bluetooth and proximity to any other, nearby Apple devices.
So, say you lose a device, and it is either switched off, or the battery is dead, now, using the Find My Network, it can connect to another device over Bluetooth, which will act as a location beacon. It will even work if you’ve inadvertently left Airplane mode switched on.
Offline Finding is switched on by default on your devices, and it is probably best to leave it that way. But, should you wish to disable it, you can. Head to Settings > ID > Find My iPhone. That is where you’ll find the toggle switch.
Apple, for obvious reasons, has not given us all the details of how this works, but it took an awful lot of engineering to make this feature secure, and safe for all users. Whilst it’s great that it has never been easier to track lost devices, privacy was obviously still paramount to Apple.
Due to encryption, it prevents people from tacking you. Find My will require you to have at least two devices. Those devices emit a constantly changing public key that nearby Apple devices pick up, encrypt, and upload with your geolocation data.
To decrypt that data, you’ll need that second device logged in to your Apple ID, and with two-factor authentication switched on. Only your device can locate a mislaid item – not even Apple know where it is.
The other great point to make is, that Find My has virtually no impact on battery life. The tracking data uses tiny bits of data piggybacked on existing network traffic, there by using hardly any battery energy.
No power – no problem
If your device is switched off nefariously, or simple runs out of charge, Find My will still work.
Initially, when launched in iOS 13, Find My enabled Apple devices to be located even without a Wi-Fi or cell connection by leveraging other nearby Apple devices.
Now, however, using the U1 chip, Bluetooth, or NFC, Find My continues to track and work even when your device is off or out of battery. Just note, though, that the battery option, will only last for around five hours or so.
If your phone is stolen, and then wiped, it will remain trackable.
The function is tied to an Activation Lock, which requires both your Apple ID, and password. So long as that Activation Lock remains on, that lost, or stolen device will show up on your Find My devices list.
Even better, the Hello screen on a newly erased iPhone emphasises that the device is locked, locatable using Find My, and the property of someone else. It basically renders a stolen iPhone useless.
Friends for life
Find My will even let you help a friend who is searching for a lost device.
Under the ‘Me’ tab, right at the bottom, you’ll find an option to ‘Help A Friend’. That will take you to icloud.com, and the Find My devices page. The friend can then sign in to their iCloud account, and their Find My.
AirTags can be tracked through the ‘Items’ tab and have all the tracking features available to Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads. The tab was implemented specifically for AirTags, and other products which work with the Find My Network. Bluetooth items that have Find My integration can be tracked using this Items tab, as can AirTags.
AirTags have a Lost Mode, and also take advantage of the Find My network that allows them to be tracked by billions of iPhones, iPads, and Macs when they’re out of range of your devices.
The Find My app has a feature that lets you know if there’s a Bluetooth item near you.
You’ll receive a notification when an unknown item is found and moving with you, so you can make sure no one slips an AirTag or other Find My enabled Bluetooth device into your things to track you.
Returning a lost device
If you find a device with an AirTag, all you’ll need to do, is scan the AirTag with your iPhone, which will help you send notifications to the owner.
The Find My app is not one of the sexiest apps going, I’ll grant you.
But, should you ever be in the unfortunate position of losing an Apple device, it is one you’ll wish you spent some time getting to know.
It is so comprehensive, and powerful, with seemingly every scenario having been thought of. Privacy is always front and centre with Apple, and that is certainly the case with Find My.
But, thanks to the Find My app, it has never been easier to trace, track and find stolen, mislaid, or lost devices.
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