How To Find Your Stolen iPhone or iPad Free

Up until recently, locating your lost iOS device was a feature only paid MobileMe subscribers enjoyed. However, with the most recent software update Apple decided to toss in this service free of charge for all devices (how very un-Apple!).

This process is pretty straightforward and is even laid out pretty well on Apple’s site, but for all those who missed it or have been avoiding the task, you’ll want to check out this quick tutorial. The entire setup only takes a few minutes and you’ll definitely be glad you did it!

The Heads Up

I remember hearing something about this service switching over to free but I really didn’t give it much thought until iTunes gave me the message below encouraging me to set it up on my iPad.

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The friendly iTunes reminder

This little screen obviously did its work effectively. I’ve never been a MobileMe subscriber so the promise of getting one of its best features free immediately snagged me. After going through the process entirely I can honestly say that this isn’t a gimmick. There’s no lengthy sales pitch or limited trial, just a free service that you should be using just in case the worst-case scenario ever comes true and you find yourself without your precious Apple device.

Still skeptical? Let’s check out how to set up the service and look at the features so you can see exactly what you’ll be signing up for. We’ll be walking through an iPad setup but the iPhone version is basically the same.

Some commenters have pointed out that this free service is only available on the iPhone 4 and not any older iPhones, unfortunately leaving tons of iPhone owners out. Sorry guys!

Adding A MobileMe Account

The first thing you want to do on your iOS device is go to Settings and tap on Mail, Contacts and Calendars. From here you want to Add a MobileMe account. Don’t worry if you’re not signed up for MobileMe, as long as you have an iTunes account you should be fine.

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Tap Add Account then select MobileMe

Once you’ve selected a MobileMe account, you’ll be asked to sign in. This part is the most confusing and had me scratching my head for a minute to figure out what was going on. The easy part is typing in your ID and password. This is simply the email address you use for iTunes along with the password you use when downloading apps.

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Enter your iTunes info

Now, once you’ve signed in, you may or may not receive a message saying that the MobileMe terms have changed (I did). If you do, simply read the 32 page agreement (yeah right) and hit “accept” at the bottom. Once you do this, the Settings app quits. It just goes away! I thought it was crashing but it turns out I needed to verify my new MobileMe account. As it turns out, the Find My iPhone service is still very much a part of MobileMe, so this process signs you up for the free portion of the service.

Eventually, I figured out that the next step is to check your email. Here you’ll find a verification message like the one below. Simply click the “Verify Now” link

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The verification email

This will take you to Apple’s website where you can verify your account. Here you once again just type in your iTunes credentials.

Start Over

Once you’ve verified your account, go into Settings on your iPhone/iPad and see if the MobileMe account has appeared. If not, tap Add Account once more, select MobileMe and log in with your iTunes account. If you think this all sounds terribly redundant, you’re right, it is.

The good news is that from here the headache is over. This time adding a MobileMe account should give you the option to turn on “Find My iPad.” Flip the switch and hit “Allow” to activate the service.

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Turn on Find My iPad

That’s it! Now you’re signed up and your device will begin tracking its own location.

Now What?

So now that you’ve got the service all up and ready, where do you go to see it? It turns out there are two options. The first is through any web browser. Stop by Me.com and sign in with the same info you just used forty-two times above.

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Me.com

Once you’ve signed in, you should see a simple Google Map showing the location of your device. Tapping on your device will bring up three options: Display Message or Sound, Lock and Wipe.

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The map

If you’re like me, you’ve got plenty of personal information floating around in apps like Evernote so it’s really nice to be able to lock or wipe the device remotely. Obviously, at this point you would call the police and kindly ask them to go beat the crap out of the dirty thief who took your iPad.

The App

The second option for viewing this data is the free iPhone app from Apple, Find My iPhone. From here you can track multiple devices (obviously, if one is stolen, you’ll have to use another) and perform the same actions as we saw on MobileMe: send message, wipe or lock.

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Find My iPhone app

It’s interesting to note that the sound will go off even if your device is on silent. This alarm will sound for two minutes and is sure to freak out the abductor. From here you can continue to berate him/her with scary messages.

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Sending a message

Conclusion

To sum up, a once premium service is now provided to you free of charge from the good folks at Apple inc. Though you’d like to think that your iOS device will never be lost or stolen, the simple truth is that it happens all the time. Take the time to make sure that if it ever does happen, you’ll be prepared and protected.

Leave a comment below and let us know whether you’ve signed up yet or not. Do you think it’s great of Apple to provide this for free or is it just some underhanded tactic to try to hook you on MobileMe? Weigh in below!