Apple recently announced the availability of its Find My iPhone service for those who upgrade to iOS 4.2 but do not have a MobileMe account. That’s right. No more $99 annual charge if you want to keep a close watch on your iPhone, iPod touch (4th generation), or iPad’s location. This feature has been particularly interesting to me since I was once mugged in San Francisco (surprisingly good timing considering the 3GS became available a month later). And, now that the Find My iPhone service is free from its MobileMe subscription-based clutches, I thought I’d walk you through the ins and outs of locating, locking, and wiping your iPhone from the comfort of your couch.
After upgrading my iPhone 4 to iOS 4.2, I followed Apple’s simple instructions to set up Find My iPhone. Two minutes later I was all set up and ready to start tracking my iPhone on a convenient Google Maps-based map.
If this is your first experience with MobileMe then the above map is what you see after signing in. After selecting your device you have the following options:
- display a message over your current task
- play a sound
- lock the device with a 4 digit code
- wipe (erase) everything on the phone
Below is an example of displaying a message that gets displayed on your iPhone’s display:
Once Apple has confirmed that the message was delivered, a confirmation email is sent to your MobileMe account’s email address. Note: The screenshot below is from a hot new email application named Sparrow.
If you’d rather take things one step further, you can lock your iPhone and prevent unauthorized access.
Remotely locking your iOS device is easy. Just tell Find My iPhone that you’d like to “Lock” your phone. After entering a pin code twice the device locks within seconds. A confirmation email also arrives similar to sending a message.
In addition to the Map view you can also choose Satellite and Hybrid views just like Google Maps.
So, there you have it. The above walkthrough should give you a good idea of what to expect when you fire up the Find My iPhone feature for the first time on your desktop or laptop computer. If you’ve been thinking about buying an iPhone for yourself, you’ll be happy to know that you now get all these phone-tracking features for free.
I presume Apple is trying a new strategy to persuade people to sign up for the full MobileMe service. Releasing the Find My iPhone feature for free should get new visitors to me.com and, in theory, more paying customers. As soon as you begin typing your username and password on me.com, a large set of icons appear for email, address book, calendar, photos, iDisk, and Find My iPhone. It feels like a tease. After signing in you only have one of those features. This will leave newcomers asking the question, “What are those other icons for?”
It also makes sense that Apple make this iPhone-tracking service free, as Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 handsets and select HTC-made Android phones offer similar services for free.
So, we want to know. Does the free Find My iPhone service make you more likely to pick up an iPhone this holiday shopping season? Sound off in the comments below!