How to use ‘Find My iPhone’ and ‘Find My Friends’

Find My iPhone and Find My Friends have been a part of the Apple ‘own-brand’ app portfolio since 2010 and 2011 respectively, and have, up until September 2019, existed separately as individual apps.

However, the launch of iOS 13 brought with it many new software updates across the entire range of compatible Apple devices, one of them being that Find My iPhone and Find My Friends were merged into one app, now named ‘Find My’. Most of the functionality of the app has remained the same, except for the fact that functionality is now all in a single application and can be found at the press of a single button.

Below we discuss how Find My iPhone and Find My Friends can be useful, as well as how to navigate the latest changes within the new ‘Find My’ app.

Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone is a feature that allows users to find an Apple device, simply by signing in to iCloud. Almost all Apple products are compatible, including Macs, iPhones, AirPods, Apple Watches and iPads. As long as you’re signed on to iCloud and have the Find My feature enabled, you will be able to locate any lost devices through the app.

Immediately on entering the Find My app you’ll see three tabs, ‘People’ on the left, ‘Devices’ in the middle, and ‘Me’ on the right.

Clicking on the ‘Devices’ tab in the middle will make your Apple gadgets appear on a map with icons representing each one. Tapping on a device icon you have lost will give you multiple handy options to help you locate it. These include getting directions to the device, playing a sound to help locate the device in close proximity, marking the device as lost, and, in more extreme cases, completely erasing the device and restoring it back to factory settings.

Marking your device as lost sets in motion comprehensive safety measures – the device will completely lock, Apple Pay will be disabled, and you’ll be given the option to display contact information on the screen to help anyone who finds your device to return it safely back to you.

If this doesn’t work, or you are convinced that your phone, tablet or laptop has fallen into the wrong hands, Apple will allow you to erase the device completely and destroy any data it stores by implementing the ‘Activation Lock’. This makes the device unable to activate without the correct Apple ID and password, meaning it is far more difficult for a thief to use or sell.

One major update that iOS 13 brought to ‘Find My’ was the ability to locate devices even when they aren’t connected to WiFi or an LTE network. Apple has designed an innovative system that instead leverages Bluetooth and allows nearby Apple devices to talk to your lost device and send back details of its location. This does require that the device is switched on with Bluetooth enabled, but essentially, this update means your devices are more traceable than ever.

At the time of launch this caused concerns around potential breaches of privacy, which Apple responded to by ensuring the feature has a secure encryption system that prevents people from abusing it by, say, tracking your location without consent. Offline tracking requires at least two Apple devices, each emitting a constantly changing public key that nearby devices pick up, encrypt, and then upload. To decrypt this data, you’ll need a device logged in to your Apple ID and protected with two-factor authentication. Apple has ensured that not even they themselves are able to intercept and leverage the geolocation data. For further peace of mind, there is also the option to disable ‘offline finding’ in the settings app.

Find My Friends

If you click on the far left ‘People’ tab, you’ll find a tool that is almost identical to what used to be ‘Find my Friends’. Here, a map with icons representing each of the people who have chosen to share their location with you will appear, along with a list of their names, distance from you, and how long ago they were at the displayed location.

You’re also able share your own location by pressing the ‘Share My Location’ button, which allows you to keep your selected people up to date on where you are, even if they haven’t shared their own location with you. What’s more, if you only need to share your location for a short amount of time, you are given the options of sharing for an hour, for the rest of the day, or indefinitely.

If you see a ‘No location available’ label for friends, this could mean a number of things –  their device could be off or disconnected from cellular or WiFi, they might have turned on ‘Hide My Location’ or turned off ‘Share My Location’, or that they need to correct the date on their device.

However, if they are active, tapping on a person’s name in the list below the map gives you the option of bringing up their contact card to send a message, or, like in the ‘Devices’ tab, getting Apple Map directions to their location.

Another tool useful for keeping track of time, or checking for a safe arrival, is the ability to turn on notifications that let you know when someone has left or arrived at a particular place. And for the sake of privacy protection, the app will notify the other person that you have created the alert.

Let us know in the comments how you feel about the new combined app, and any other iOS 13 features that you’ve enjoyed.

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