How Does the iPhone Locator App Work?


Losing your iPhone can be a traumatic experience not only due to the stress of trying to find it or the possibility that someone has it and can access your personal information but also because of the cost involved in replacing the device. Apple has created a service called Find My iPhone, which uses cellular and Wi-Fi networks to locate your lost or stolen device and display its location on a map to help you recover it.


  • Find My iPhone is a service from Apple that allows iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Mac users to locate and recover lost or stolen devices. The service comes in two forms; one is an app for the mobile devices available as a free download from the App Store, and the other is part of Apple’s free Web-based iCloud service. Find My iPhone allows the user to locate any device that is connected to his Apple ID provided he activated the service on the device before it was lost or stolen.


  • Find My iPhone uses Wi-Fi and cellular networks to give an estimate of the device’s location. Wi-Fi devices are located through a list of registered Wi-Fi networks, while iPhones and iPads with cellular technology use the cellular network and the device’s internal GPS to give a location. The devices must be running iOS 5 or higher for the service to work. When the device is located, the user has the option to play a sound or send a message to be displayed on the device. If the device is running iOS 6 or better, the user can also lock the device with a 4-digit code or delete the contents of the iPhone, after which it can no longer be traced.


  • Find My iPhone only works if the device is powered on and not in sleep mode, is registered under your Apple ID and is accessible from the Internet via a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Find my iPhone does not work if your device is connected to the Internet with an Ethernet cable. Reporting your phone lost or stolen may result in the disconnection of service to that device. When service is deactivated, the device is no longer detectable. Apple does not offer Find My iPhone in all countries it serves due to either technical issues or local laws. In these countries, you are not able to locate your device with the service.


  • While Find My iPhone may be a useful feature for someone who has lost his iPhone or had it stolen, its use has sparked privacy concerns. After technology journalist David Pogue had his iPhone stolen in October 2012, his moves to broadcast the location data of the suspected thief via social networks led some to criticize his methods. While the thief was wrong to steal the phone, his rights to privacy and due process may have been violated, and the information should have been shared solely with the police. “Is this a slippery slope into a world where the Internet's citizens become digital vigilantes?” Pogue asked in an October 2012 article for Scientific American.

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