The iPhone has reinvented the way we use technology more than once. Today, the most compelling reason to invest in the Apple ecosystem is the Find My network. It helps you find lost items like phones, tablets, wireless earbuds, e-bikes, and more and enables you to keep track of friends and family. Read on to find out how.
The Find My network transforms the nearly one billion Apple devices worldwide into an enormous tracking grid. Using each device’s Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ultra-wideband, and internet connection, every iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and Mac become a node in a network that’s constantly scanning for other nearby devices. This produces a staggeringly comprehensive database of the location of all the Apple devices on the planet.
In 2019, Apple retired the Find My iPhone and Find My Friends apps and combined them into an app named “Find My.” It’s pre-installed on every device running the latest version of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. The app is how you access the Find My network, and it’s very intuitive to use. Just launch the app, and you’ll see a map showing the location of all the people, devices, and items associated with your iCloud account.
The interface of the Find My app has two sections: the map showing object locations and a list of the things you can track using the app. Along the bottom of the iPhone’s Find My app interface, you get four tabs: People, Devices, Items, and Me.
Every iPhone user can share their location with other specific iPhone users. The users who have chosen to share their location with you will appear in the People tab. Keep in mind that this is technically the location of the device they’ve decided to share, like an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. But, unless they’re trying to throw you off, it’s probably the iPhone they have in their back pocket.
Find My is a valuable tool to keep track of the whereabouts of your family, friends, and co-workers. Whether it be to make sure your kids get to school on time, keeping tabs on employees out in the field, or making sure your friends don’t get lost in the town you’re visiting on vacation.
The Devices tab is where you’ll find all the Apple devices associated with your iCloud account. Find My works with the following devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, Mac, and AirPods. The map shows the last known location of all your Apple products and gives you real-time updates as they come in.
It’s worth noting that Apple TV set-top boxes are not discoverable on the Find My app. It seems like an odd omission, considering they can be stolen like anything else.
You can also track non-Apple items on the Find My network. The best way to do that is with AirTags. These quarter-sized devices are great to keep tabs on things like backpacks, car keys, jackets, wallets, and anything else that gets away from you often. They’re even occasionally beneficial for pets. Once an AirTag is attached to an item, you can track its location in the Items tab of the Find My app.
Apple recently opened up its Find My network to third-party product manufacturers. That new capability is excellent because it means that more and more products will come with the ability to locate them on the Find My network baked in. Early products on the service include Belkin’s True Wireless Earbuds, Chipolo ONE Spot, and the VanMoof X3 and S3 electric bikes.
The Me tab is where you’ll find the option to share or stop sharing your location. Just toggle the Share My Location button if you want to disappear from everyone else’s maps. If you want to share your whereabouts with specific individuals, open their card in your Contacts app, scroll to the bottom and select Share My Location. You have the option to share indefinitely, until the end of the day, or for one hour.
If you can’t find an item you’ve linked to your Find My app, you have a few options. They range from playing chimes to finding an item nearby to locking and erasing your lost devices.
The first thing you should do is use your iPhone to make the item play a sound. If it’s just under a couch cushion or behind a curtain, you won’t spend several minutes tearing the room apart before you find it. This works great for AirTags and Apple Watches because they come with built-in speakers. But it’s not so great for AirPods since their speakers are meant to produce softer sounds inside someone’s ear. Nevertheless, you can play a very loud sound in the AirPods; just make sure they’re not in somebody’s ears first.
If you’ve searched everywhere and still can’t find your device or AirTag, bring up its card in the Find My app, scroll down to Lost Mode and tap Activate. The Find My network will notify you the next time it detects your wayward device. It also allows you to leave instructions for anyone who happens to find your item. Keep in mind that when you activate Lost Mode completely locks down the device in question.
If you’re confident that a device is lost or stolen, you should probably consider erasing its hard drive. Doing so will prevent bad guys from stealing your identity, invading your privacy, or stealing your intellectual property. The great thing is that you can do it remotely with just a few taps in the Find My app. But you should be absolutely sure that you’re not getting it back because once you wipe it, you can’t track it anymore.
If your iPhone goes missing, don’t worry. Find My has apps on the iPad and Mac too. And if you don’t have those, you can always log in through a web browser on the iCloud website. As long as you remember your Apple ID and password, you’ll be able to find your stuff.
The Find My network is one of Apple’s greatest accomplishments, and there’s some stiff competition. Samsung and Google offer similar services on Android devices and have even been ahead of Apple in the ultra-wideband technology race. But the two companies can’t compete with the comprehensive nature of Find My. It will take years to catch up.
When you consider the scope of what it is, what it does, and how it utilizes the combined power of hundreds of millions of devices, it’s easy to be dumbfounded. And at the beating heart of it all is the iPhone in your pocket. Find My is easily one of the primary selling points of any Apple product, and even non-Apple products, from here on out.