This article promises to guide you om how to track and find a lost or stolen iPhone or iPad using Find My iPhone, even if the battery has died and the iPhone is offline, or by pinging from an Apple Watch if you’ve just forgotten where you left it,
We also explain how you can still track the location of your iPhone even if the battery has died or it is no longer connecting to the internet. You can now find a lost iPhone that is turned off thanks to a new feature in iOS 13, more on that below.
Finally, for situations when your iPhone has been stolen and cannot be recovered, we explain how to lock the iPhone, wipe your data and make sure that services like Apple Pay can’t be used.
What not to do
What you should never do is attempt to retrieve your iPhone if you think it has fallen into the wrong hands. There have been cases of people attempting to recover stolen iPhones using Find My iPhone and being hurt, or worse.
There was even a case of a UK man tracking down and killing the person who stole his son’s iPhone. (He claimed he lashed out in self defence after being stabbed by the mugger, pleaded guilty to culpable homicide, and was jailed for six years.)
However, you might be able to use the information provided by Find My iPhone to help the police with their enquiries. There is a section below that explains how to do this.
1. Ping your iPhone
The simplest method to find an iPhone, if you’ve got a paired Apple Watch or an HomePod, is to tell those devices to ping the iPhone for you.
On your Apple Watch, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up the Control Centre. On the lefthand side you’ll see an icon of an iPhone with curved lines emanating from it: this is the ping button. Tap it.
At this point the iPhone which is paired with this Apple Watch, assuming it’s reachable, will ‘ding’ so you can hear where it is. Keep pinging the phone until you find it.
You’ll be able to use the same feature on a HomePod as long as you have installed the software update released on 17 September 2018. Just tell your HomePod “Hey Siri where’s my iPhone?” If the iPhone is close, in response Siri will hopefully say, “I found [name’s] iPhone near by, should I make it play a sound?”
2. Use Find My iPhone
Find My iPhone is a free service provided by Apple. It is easy to set up, and quite possibly the most valuable app on your iPhone (as of iOS 13 the app is called Find My, the app was previoiusly called Find iPhone). The Find My service also works for your iPad, Apple Watch and Mac, so you can keep track of all your Apple devices.
Assuming you’ve already set up Find My iPhone, your iPhone will be able to broadcast its location to you. So you can use another iOS device or just visit iCloud.com on a Mac or PC to find it.
Whether you’ve left your iPhone in the back of a cab, think you might have left it in the office, or, worst-case scenario, it’s been lifted from your pocket, you should be able to use Find My iPhone to track it down, as long as you set up Find My in the first place. Chances are you will have set it up when you first started using your iPhone so it’s worth checking whether you can use the service. We have a guide to setting up Find My iPhone at the end of the article.
Assuming you have Find My iPhone set up, here’s how to use the Find My app to find your iPhone.
What you will need to use Find My iPhone
- You will either need to ask a friend if you can borrow their iOS device, or use another iOS device you own. Alternatively, you can use a Mac or a PC to log on to the service.
- If the iPhone or iPad is running iOS 13, locate the Find My app. On earlier versions of the operating system the app is called Find iPhone.
- If you don’t have an iOS device avaialble, visit iCloud.com on a Mac or PC and log onto your iCloud account there.
- You will need to have registered your iPhone for the Find My service.
How to use Find My on your own iPhone or iPad
Here’s how to track your iPhone using the Find My app (iOS 13)
- If you’re using an iOS device, locate the Find My app. (Drag down from the top of the screen and type ‘Find:’ you should see Find My in the Applications section (ame icon as above).
- Click on that icon to open Find My. Now enter your Apple ID and Password – this will be the login you use whenever you buy anything from the App Store or iTunes, or when logging on to any other Apple services. You will have set up an Apple ID when you got your first Apple device. (Memory lapse? Here’s how to reset a forgotten Apple ID.)
- Tap on Devices (Find My now includes a section for finding People, which was previously the Find My Friend’s app).
- A map will appear showing your location and any device that are with you. You could look at your home or work addresses to see devices that are at those locations.
- Find the device you want to track in the list of devices you have registered for the service and tap on it.
- Now (if you are lucky) you will see the location of the lost device on a map, including a number of options: Play Sound, Directions, Notifications, Mark as Lost, and Erase This Device. Hopefully you will simply see that you left your iPhone at home, or in the office. You can then Play a Sound and find it under the car seat, or get directions to go and hunt for it in the park. (We don’t advise going to hunt for a stolen iPhone – don’t put yourself in any danger!)
- Altenatively you might have left it on a bus, in which case you might see the location of the iPhone but find that it is changing. In which case you should choose the Mark As Lost option.
- The Mark As Lost option is also the one to use if the iPhone or iPad isn’t at any location you know, or if it’s not showing any location. After chooseing Mark As Lost you will then get option to provide contact information for the person who finds your lost device, which should help them return it to you. You will need to enter a phone number that can be used to contact you on. You’ll also get the option to enter message, so that you can show a message on the device to the person who finds it. Apple suggests the words: “This iPhone has been lost. Please call me”. Once you have completed these steps tap on Activate.
- If you aren’t so lucky and your iPhone can’t be located, you will also see the option to Notify When Found as well as Erase This Device. Choose notify When Found if you still have a glimmer of hope that you will get your iPhone (or iPad) back.
- Or in a worst-case scenario, choose Erase your iPhone so your data can’t fall into the wrong hands
Here’s how to track your iPhone using the Find iPhone app (pre-iOS 13)
- If you’re using an iOS device, locate and open the Find iPhone app.
- Enter your Apple ID and Password.
- You will see a compass and the word Locating on the screen of the device as the iPhone tracks the location of your devices.
- You may see a few options, such as allowing Find My iPhone to know your location and turning on Send Last Location. We suggest you agree to both of these options. (More on the latter in the next section.)
- Next you will see a map indicating the locations of your various devices, below the map is a list of your devices.
- Either scroll Tap on the map to zoom in closer to the location of your ‘lost’ device, or find the device in the list below the map.
- Now that you’ve located the device, tap on it, and you will see you have a few options. You can play a sound, for instance: useful if you’ve lost your iPhone at home somewhere (and had the sound turned off so calling it wasn’t working).
- Depending on the age of the iPhone and the iOS version you can either switch your iPhone into Lost Mode, which will lock it down and transmit its location (more on Lost Mode below); or for older iPhones, Lock, which will lock the iPhone and notify you when it’s found.
- Or in a worst-case scenario, you can Erase your iPhone so your data can’t fall into the wrong hands.
- Once you’re done, sign out of Find My iPhone on your friend’s device.
How to use Find My on a friend’s iPhone or iPad
If you don’t have an iOS device handy to search for your iPhone using the Find My app, but you do have a friend with an iPhone, here’s what to do:
Note: In iOS 13 you will need to use iCloud to locate the lost iPhone from another person’s iPhone. Pre iOS 13 you could just log out of their account and log in to your account using their iPhone, in which case, you can follow the steps in the previous section.
- Open the Find My app on their device (if they are using iOS 13). If they aren’t using iOS 13 you can just log out of the app and log in as yourself).
- Tap in the Me section.
- Choose Help a Friend (this is a new addition in iOS 13.1 so if you aren’t seeing that, make sure the software is up to date).
- iCloud will open up – but you will have to sign in with your Apple ID. This could be problematic if you have to approve the log on using two factor authentication and don’t have another Apple device to do so with.
- Once in you will see a map with the location of your various devices on it. Tap on the device you have lost and choose from the options: Play Sound, Lost Mode and Erase iPhone.
Find my iPhone using iCloud.com
The same goes if you are attempting to track a lost iPhone using a Mac or PC. You can log onto iCloud and access the Find My service there.
- On a Mac or PC, visit iCloud.com.
- Log on using your Apple ID and Password. You may also have to use two factor identification to prove it’s you, which could prove tricky if you don’t have a device available that is registered to you to approve it on and receive the six digit code.
- Once you are in, click on Find iPhone. (This will actually find all your registered Apple devices.)
- Sign in again with your password and wait for your devices to be located.
- Located devices will be indicated by a green dot on the map.
- Click on the green dot, and then the (i) beside the device name. This will zoom into the location of your device and let you Play Sound, activate Lost Mode, or wipe your iPhone.
- You can also gauge how much battery life is left.
- You can add a number at which you can be reached as well as a message for the person who finds the iPhone. Hopefully as a result the iPhone will be returned to you.
- If you’re concerned that the iPhone has fallen into the wrong hands, you can either lock it, so that it can’t be used but will continue to transmit its location, or you can erase the iPhone.
As long as your iPhone was registered for Find My iPhone you will be able to use Lost Mode to lock down your device. This is an essential step if your iPhone has been stolen.
If you have Apple Pay set up on your device this will be disabled and any cards set up will be suspended. When (if) you retrieve the iPhone you will be able to reactivate your cards via iCloud. Read more about how to use Apple Pay on iPhone here.
Here’s how to turn on Lost Mode to lock your device:
- Sign into Find My iPhone as per the instructions above.
- Locate the device you wish to lock and tap on it.
- Tap Lost Mode on the pre iOS 13 app, in iOS 13 tap Mark as Lost.
- Follow the onscreen instructions.
- You will be asked to create a passcode if you don’t already have one on your lost iPhone.
You will be asked to enter a phone number that will appear on the device’s Lock Screen – this is so if a nice person finds the iPhone they can contact you.
- You can also add a message, so you could tell the person that the device is lost and ask them to contact you at the number given.
- Once Lost Mode is on tracking begins so you can see your device’s current location and see any movement on a map. This will work even if Location Service was turned off on the device (it will be temporarily turned back on).
- If your iPhone was turned off Lost Mode will start working as soon as it is turned on (as long as it is able to get online again).
If you get your iPhone back you should be able to unlock it using your passcode, but if there are any issues you should be able to get it unlocked at an authorised repair centre.
How to Find an iPhone that is turned off or offline
There’s a great reason to update to iOS 13 – now the Find My service is able to track iPhones and other Apple products using a Bluetooth signal that they produce.
This means that even if your iPhone is not connected to the web it will still be able to broadcast it’s location to you. Because hopefully the person who has your iPhone won’t have been able to use it without unlocking it, it is likely that it isn’t connected to the web, therefore this new Bluetooth method is a great way of tracking the lost device because it can be ‘seen’ by Bluetooth beacons (in shops and so on) regardless of whether it is connected to the web.
To make sure your iPhone can be found this way you make sure that Offline Mode is enabled, which it should be by default. Here’s how to check:
- Open Settings.
- Tap on the section at the top with your photo and name.
- Tap on Find My.
- Tap on Find My iPhone.
- Now make sure that Enable Offline Finding is on. This will enable the iPhone to be found when not connected to Wi-Fi or a mobile.
- Also make sure that Send Last Location is on. This will send the location details of the last known location of the iPhone (before it ran out of battery for example).
Send Last Location is also available as a feature for iPhones running iOS 12 or earlier.
The last known location of your iPhone will be stored for 24 hours after the battery runs out. This isn’t on by default but when you open Find My iPhone on your iPhone you will see an alert asking you to enable it.
If you have Send Last Location enabled you will be able to see where your iPhone was when it ran out of battery or was turned off. Which will at least indicate if it was in your office, in the pub you went to after work, or somewhere else entirely (which may indicate it was stolen, or that you left it in the back of a cab/on the train).
Here’s how to turn on Send Last Location in iOS 12 or earlier:
- Tap Settings > [Your name]
- Tap Find My iPhone.
- Ensure Find My iPhone is set to On.
- Set Send Last Location to On.
How to find a family member’s iPhone
If you have set up Family Sharing you will be able to locate a family members device using Find My iPhone.
You will need your family members Apple ID and password when you go through the steps to lock their device.
How to find a lost person with Find My iPhone
To locate a person using Find My iPhone you would need to know their Apple ID and password.
If it’s a member of your family and you have signed up for Family Sharing you will be able to see the location of the other person, as well as share their music, films, apps, photos, location and more. The only issue is that you will use a shared payment method – which means you might end up paying for their purchases. Find out how to use Family Sharing.
A better option might be to use Apple’s Find My Friends app, which lets you see where your friends and family are – as long as they approve.
How to find iPhone without Find My iPhone
If Find My iPhone isn’t turned on there’s not much you can do to retrieve your iPhone, but you can take some actions to protect your data.
- Text your iPhone in the hope that a kind person finds it and sees the message including how to contact you.
- Change your password associated with your Apple ID. (Here’s how to change your Apple ID and password.)
- Change the passwords for your email, FaceBook, Twitter and any other services you use.
- Let your mobile network provider know that your phone is lost or stolen so they can disable the account.
- If you have Apple Pay set up call your bank and ask if your card can be suspended. (While Apple Pay can’t be accessed without your fingerprint or Passcode, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry).
- Report the lost or stolen iPhone to the Police (see below).
Reporting a stolen iPhone
If you want to make a claim on the insurance for your stolen iPhone you will need a Police Crime Number, so you will have to report the iPhone as stolen.
When you report a lost or stolen iPhone to the police you may need to give them the serial number of your iPhone. You obviously don’t have the device itself to check but you may still be able to find it. Here’s how to find an iPhone’s serial number:
- If you have Find My iPhone set up you will be able to find the serial number by going to Settings > Your Name and tapping on the device in question. You will need to enter your Apple ID password and also answer two questions that you have previously provided questions to, but once you are in you will see the serial number for that device.
- If the iPhone is synced with iTunes you should be able to find the serial number in iTunes.
- If you have the device’s original packaging you should be able to see the serial number beside the barcode.
- If you have your receipt for the iPhone the serial number should be on it.
How the police can use Find My iPhone
Unfortunately, even if they can see that your iPhone is located somewhere on a particular street or housing estate the police are unlikely to go in search of it, because as good as Find My iPhone is, it’s not so good that they can be confident about turning up at the right address. The police can only enter an address if they have reason to believe the stolen property is definitely there.
It is feasible that the data you have obtained via Find My iPhone could be useful in their enquiries, though, so you should share it with the police.
As we said before, do not attempt to recover the iPhone yourself, even if the police are not prepared to go to the address Find My iPhone is suggesting the iPhone is located at.
It’s easy to say in hindsight, but prevention is the best cure. If you were lucky enough to get your iPhone back despite not having Find My iPhone turned on, make sure you set up Find My iPhone so that next time the process of locating it, and if necessary wiping it, is a lot easier.
If you haven’t already set up Find My iPhone this is how to do it in iOS 13:
- On your iPhone tap Settings.
- Click on your name at the top of the list to enter your iCloud settings.
- Scroll down and tap on Find My.
- Tap on Find My iPhone.
- On the next screen make sure the slider beside Find My iPhone is green. Also enable Offline Finding and Send Last Location.
And in iOS 12 or earlier:
- Open Settings
- Click on your name at the top of the list to enter iCloud (if your phone is running an older version of iOS click on Settings > iCloud.
- Tap on your iPhone (you’ll find it in a list of all your Apple gadgets).
- Tap on Find My iPhone.
- Turn on Find My iPhone and Send Last Location.
And here’s a few tips to avoid future theft of your iPhone, and ensure that if the worst does happen your data can’t be jeopardised.
- Set a screen lock with a pin longer than four digits
- Back up your iPhone so you don’t lose things like photos.
- Use Find my iPhone
- Don’t make yourself a target. Don’t get your iPhone out in public, or at least not when you are walking down a dark road in the dead of night – apart from anything it may mean you are less engaged with your surroundings (especially if you have headphones on)
- Most thefts are opportune thefts due to you leaving your iPhone behind so make sure that you keep all your belongings with you