Don't Stress Losing Your iPhone

After reading the title of this post ("Don't stress losing your iPhone"), you're probably beginning to wonder if I've gone crazy, right? I assure you, I am quite sane. However, I'm not sure I would be if my iPhone were ever lost or stolen. I use it constantly, and store a lot of personal (and business) information on it. Let's face it, we all rely on our smart devices heavily these days.

Unfortunately, these devices are lost or stolen all the time. And it's even more unfortunate that we generally don't start to think about what to do in times like this until it's too late. At least once a week, I am asked "I lost my iPhone. What can I do to recover it?" The answer is very simple (and even very practical), but it takes proactive thinking. So buckle up, because here we go!

The first thing we need to do is enable the free (and built-in) "Find My iPhone" service. To do this, go to Settings > iCloud on your iPhone. If you aren't already logged in to your iCloud account, do so. If you are, simply swipe down to the "Find My iPhone" option and turn it on. That's it! That's all you need to do. Really. Your settings will now look something like this:

With the service enabled, I always recommend testing it right away, just to make sure it's on and the network sees it. To do this, go to www.icloud.com and log in. From here, click on the "Find My iPhone" button. If this is your only device, it will default to this, otherwise, it will show you the location of all registered devices under this iCloud account (you can have as many devices registered under your account as you need). To filter down to just this one device, click on "Devices", then choose the device you want to view/test. It will looks something like this:

What to do when your device is lost or stolen
As you can see from the sample screenshot above, my device cannot be found. The real reason you want to enable this service is to try to recover the device if it were ever lost or stolen. In that very unfortunate event, all you need to do is log in to www.icloud.com to begin the discovery process. If your device is online, you will see where the device is located geographically. If it's offline (as mine is), you will be shown the approximate location of the last time the device checked in with iCloud. Either way, you will also have a choice of three recovery options:

Let's go through each one in a little detail.

Play Sound
When this option is used, a loud audible alarm is sounded on your device, even if the volume is turned down and/or the mute switch is engaged. I misplaced my iPhone once and used this feature to find it. Because of the volume level of the alarm, I was able to find it... under a pile of laundry! Needless to say, the feature worked perfectly and kept my sanity in check. If your device happens to be turned off when this feature is activated, it will continue to send the request to the device until it comes back online. At that point, the alarm will sound and you will even be notified (via email and iCloud notification) when this happens.

Lost Mode
Although I highly recommend that all iPhone/iPad users have and use a 4-digit PIN (in case your device is ever misplaced), I recognize that not all users do. That's ok. The "Lost Mode" feature can help with that. Activating this feature will allow you to send a remote signal to your device enabling a temporary 4-digit PIN. Simply click the button and assign your device a 4-digit PIN of your choice. You will also have the ability to enter a message for the finder to see as well as a phone number to call. This is great if the finder has a conscience and would return the device to its rightful owner if only they had the owner's contact info. As with "Play Sounds", you will also be emailed when your device is online again.

Erase Phone
I received a call from a client once who had just returned from a trip to China. He said he realized that he left his phone in a Chinese taxi when he got out at the airport to catch his flight. Unfortunately, he couldn't recover the device before he took off, and it clearly wasn't worth flying back to China to recover. I suggested that he consider it a loss and engage "Erase Phone". This feature allows you to remotely wipe your phone, and set it back to factory default settings. Sure, it means that the finder is now the owner of a cool new device, but it also means that any and all personal data stored on the device is completely gone.

If you have more than one iOS device (as many do these days), it may also be worth downloading the free "Find my iPhone" app. Although it doesn't have all the same functionality that you would find on iCloud.com, the app does give you location information about your registered devices. It's great for on-the-go information.

Posted on May 28, 2013 and filed under How To, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Mac.