When the iPhone 3.0 software was announced earlier this year I was excited to hear about the Find My iPhone feature. I've been a MobileMe subscriber since it launched alongside the original iPhone and the prospect of finding my iPhone if it were lost was intriguing.
In order to use the feature you first turn enable it on your iPhone, which must be running iPhone software version 3.0. To do this, go to the Settings screen and tap Mail, Contacts, and Calendars. Ensure Fetch New Data is set to Push. Next, access your MobileMe account in the same settings screen and make sure Find My iPhone is turned on.
With all the settings activated let's assume I lost my iPhone earlier today. In order to figure out where it is I need to log-in to MobileMe at me.com. Once logged in I click on the Account icon located at the top left of MobileMe. To access my account settings I have to enter my username and password in order to confirm my identity. Once confirmed the account screen loads and a Find My iPhone button displays in the left-hand navigation. Clicking the button loads the Find My iPhone tools and immediately instructs them to locate my iPhone.
After a minute or two of pinging my phones GPS its location is shown on a map. The accuracy of the results (how big or small the circle is) depend on the location of the iPhone. If it's indoors the circle might only identify a block or neighborhood. If it's outside the circle might represent a few feet.
Looking at the map I realize I left my iPhone at the doctors office. I'll immediately go back and get it but I'd like to notify anyone who might've picked it up that I know it's missing. To do this I click the Display a Message button and type whatever I want.
As long as my iPhone's battery has a charge and whomever found it hasn't turned it off the message will be displayed immediately. Here's what it looks like if the phone is locked with a passcode (highly recommended).
If a passcode isn't configured on an iPhone or the user has typed in the appropriate sequence of numbers the message will still show up.
And finally, the Find My iPhone service will send an e-mail to my MobileMe account letting me know exactly when the message was displayed on my iPhone. This is useful if the phone was turned off at the time the message was created and is later turned back on.
In this example scenario I displayed a message indicating I knew where the phone was and I was on my way to get it. You could also send a phone number or e-mail address to the device and hope the person who found it (or stole it) is kind enough to contact you. If all else fails you can refresh the map by clicking Update Location and see if your iPhone is moving from place to place.
I'm pretty happy with the Find My iPhone feature since it works pretty much like you'd think. There are definitely ways things can go south, like your phone getting stolen with a low battery or someone just turning it off. But, if your phone ever comes back online you'll have a good chance of updating its location and tracking it down. If you want to read a real story about someone who lost their iPhone and tracked it down, click here.