Can Apple Track a Stolen iPhone?

By J.T. Barett

Apple Computer has a service it calls "Find My iPhone" that allows you to track a lost or stolen iPhone. Because the iPhone can locate itself via GPS information, you can use an Apple website to find your iPhone on a map. Once you have located it, you can carry out a variety of actions, including locking the phone to prevent its continued use. This feature works in the U.S. and most, though not all, other countries.

Location Services

The iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 4 models all have location services you can enable through the Settings app. When you turn this feature on, the iPhone actively determines its location through cell tower and Global Positioning Satellite signals. When you open the Maps app with Location Services turned on, the map finds your location immediately and updates it in real time. In addition, the iPhone can send this location information to other services, such as Find My iPhone, allowing you to locate it even if you do not have the phone in your possession.

Configuring iPhone

For the Find My iPhone service to work, you must first set up an Apple MobileMe account on your phone. You do this through the Settings app, adding the account using the selection for Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Once you have the account added to the iPhone, the phone will display a screen allowing you to turn the Find My iPhone feature on or off. Swipe the slide button "on" to enable the service.

Web Site and App

If your iPhone becomes lost or stolen, log into Apple's Web site. The Find My iPhone service on the site displays a map clearly indicating the location of the missing phone and gives you options for different actions to take. In addition to the site, Apple offers a free Find My iPhone app. If you, a friend or spouse has another Apple device that runs iOS 4.2 or later, such as an iPad or iPod touch, you can locate a missing iPhone with the app.


Once you have located the missing phone, the Find My iPhone service lets you play a sound on the phone to get someone's attention or display a message alerting a nearby person that the phone is missing and to contact you. You can send a signal to lock the phone, rendering it useless to anyone who does not know the unlock code. In extreme situations, you can also have the iPhone wipe all its memory. If you do not expect to get your phone back, this keeps your private data out of a thief's hands.