lost iPhones (and other iDevices)

So a recent issue at work caused us to check out the ‘oh crap I lost my phone’ features that iCloud gives us, and the functionality is pretty cool. This feature applies to any Apple device on which you’ve configured the ‘Find My . . .’ service. On Mac OS X this can be found in the System Preferences under iCloud, while on the iPhone or iPad it is the settings app, also under iCloud. Just enable the Find My iPad or Find my iPhone toggle.

Once this is configured you can go to iCloud.com, log in, and see where your devices are. iCloud will show you a nice big, green dot on a map to show where the device is, but that is not all.

From here you can have your device play a sound, which is the same annoying ring for each device, although it’s worth noting that for a MacBook the ring will not sound if the lid is closed and the machine is suspended. As a matter of fact, little will work, although the iCloud interface can alert you when the device is found. This will create a popup prompt on all your other devices when your missing devices is back online and able to report its location. When the device is ‘found’ you’ll also receive an email stating the location where it was found and the time.

In the case of the ‘play a sound’ feature, by the way, iCloud will also shoot you an email saying that it played a sound on the device.

What may be even handier in the event of a lost device is your ability to lock the device remotely for laptops, or even enter ‘Lost Mode’ for iPhones and iPads. In this mode the lock screen on the device will display a phone number (which you tell iCloud) and a brief message. This message stays in place until the device is unlocked.

Finally, iCloud has the ability to erase any of these devices remotely. This process seems kind of scary, but clicking on the ‘Erase iPhone’ button kicks of a series of confirmation steps which require you to enter your iCloud account password, and then a phone number and brief message that will be displayed once the erase is complete. It gets to work immediately, by the way. For an iPod Touch it took less than five seconds to start, and perhaps three minutes to complete.

So now you know what your options are with your iDevices. The cynical side of all of us can assume that each of these features is likely to make your movements (and perhaps your data) accessible to the NSA, but if you’re not a tinfoil hat wearer I think you should take comfort in having this many options in the event you lost one of your devices.

iCloud screenshot

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