How to track and locate a lost or stolen Apple iPad or iPhone

Misplaced your Apple iPad or iPhone? Losing one of these pricey devices is painful but it may not be entirely hopeless. Apple has included some useful tracking and remote control functions which can help recover your hardware, or at least make sure a thief can’t get hold of the data.

We’ve previously looked at tracking and controlling lost Android tablets and smartphones, so here’s how to do the same for Apple.

iCloud and Find My

Apple’s tracking features are called Find My iPhone - or Find my iPad if you have an iPad - and are part of iCloud. You will need to set up iCloud before it can be used.

'Find My' offers the ability to view the location of a device on Apple Maps, remotely lock or wipe the device and play a sound.

To access the controls navigate to Settings > iCloud. Tap Find My iPad/iPhone to toggle the tracking on or off. For added security you’ll be prompted to enter your AppleID password when disabling tracking. You can also choose to have the device automatically transmit its location when the battery is running low.

Note that you will need to have Location Services enabled to use Find My. The toggle for this is found in Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

Using Find My

In the event that your device goes missing you’ve got a couple of options for accessing Find My in order to track and control it.

If you have multiple Apple mobile devices, and assuming you’ve not lost everything, you can use any of them to control the others so long as they’re registered under the same account. iPhones and iPads both include a Find My iPhone app which when activated will call up the location tracking map.

Otherwise, you’ll need to get on a web browser and head over to www.icloud.com. Login with your Apple account and click Find iPhone (it will be called Find iPhone even if you’ve got an iPad). To select a specific iPhone or iPad click All Devices.

Assuming the lost device is powered on and has a signal either of these methods will call up the location and display it on a map. You’ve also then got three options for remotely controlling the lost device which can help locate it and protect your data.

Play Sound

This will cause a sound to play on your device so you can find it in the nearby vicinity.

Lost Mode

Locks the device using your regular device passcode. You can also choose to display a phone number and message.

Erase

If it comes to it you can choose to completely erase the lost device. This will totally remove all data, preventing a thief from accessing private info, but as it also prevents further tracking or remote control you should only do this as a last resort. If you later recover your iPhone or iPad you can restore data which was backed up to iCloud, otherwise it is gone forever.

Thieves beware

The above options are helpful for recovering an iPhone or iPad, but if you suspect it has been stolen think carefully before using either Play Sound or Lost Mode. Doing so will alert the new owner to the fact that you are aware it has gone missing and that you have the ability to control it remotely, and they may immediately switch it off to prevent further access.

For the same reason you might wish to disable the Location Services status bar icon option in Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services. When this is active an icon will be displayed whenever the location feature is used, so a savvy thief might realise the device is being tracked even if you don’t use any of the remote control features.

In some cases it may simply be better to use Erase right away rather than risk your data falling into the wrong hands.