The Find My app allows Apple users to track the friends they share location data with, as well as locate their devices, whether they are online or offline.
How does the Find My app track Apple devices offline?
While Find My iPhone allows you to track any device connected to your Apple ID - whether that be an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac or AirPods - you will only be able to see the location of a device if it is online.
Apple's Find My app offers offline location support though. This explains how it works and what you will need.
Each Apple device emits a key that constantly changes. This key can be picked up by other nearby Apple devices on request and then used to upload your missing device's encrypted location, subsequently allowing you to track it.
Apple explains: "[You can] locate a missing device even if it's not connected to Wi‑Fi or cellular using crowd‑sourced location. When you mark your device as missing and another Apple user's device is nearby, it can detect your device's Bluetooth signal and report its location to you. It's completely anonymous and encrypted end‑to‑end, so everyone's privacy is protected."
In order to decrypt the location and track your lost device though, you will need to own secondary Apple device.
How to use the Find My app to track or locate an Apple device
Follow the steps below to use iOS 13's Find My app to track or locate a missing or lost Apple device:
- Open the Find My app on an Apple device (iOS 13 or macOS Catalina required)
- Click on the 'Devices' tab at the bottom of your screen
- Search for your device within the list (a device will need to be linked to your Apple ID to appear)
- Once you have found the device you want to locate, tap on it
- You'll then get three options: Erase, Mark as Lost or Play a Sound
How to use Find My iPhone to track or locate an Apple device
As mentioned, the Find My iPhone app (what you will have if you are not on iOS 13) still allows you to track or locate an Apple device, but they will need to be online for you to locate them.
If a device is offline, it will still appear in your list of devices and there are several options. You can get the Find My iPhone app to Notify When Found, Play a Sound, enter Lost Mode/Lock (device dependant) or Erase. All the options will happen when the lost device connects to the internet.
If a device is online, you will be able to tap on it in your device list and see it on the map. To track or locate an Apple device using the Find My iPhone app:
- Open the Find My iPhone app
- Sign into your Apple ID
- You devices will appear in a list below a map
- Scroll down to the device you want to track or locate and tap on it
- If online, look at the location on the map
- If offline, select Play Sound, Lock/Mark as Lost or Erase.
If you use Apple's Family Sharing feature, you will also be able to see any family member's devices in your devices list.
What's other future features are expected to come to the Find My app?
Apple is rumoured to be launching its own Tile-like device that users will be able to link to items like keys to keep track of in the Find My app under an 'Items' section.
According to reports, iPhone users will get a notification when they are separated from the Apple tracker and the item it's attached to. It's claimed users will also be able to activate an alarm or noise from the device to help them find it if it gets lost.
Rumours also say users will be able to set safe locations for items so you don't get an alert every time you move away from the item and those locations will be able to be shared with friends and family.
If an item attached to the rumoured Apple tracker is lost, users will supposedly be able to activate a dedicated lost mode, so that if another iPhone user finds the item they'll be able to see contact information for the owner, allowing them to call/message the owner.