iOS 13: Everything You Need to Know About Apple's Find My App

Apple in iOS 13 and iPadOS merged the Find My Friends and the Find My iPhone apps into one app that's just called "Find My," because, well, it's used for finding whatever you need to find.

Find My works similarly to the Find My iPhone and Find My Friends apps that were previously available, but it has a nifty new feature that's designed to let you find your lost devices even when you don't have a WiFi or LTE connection.

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Note that this guide is designed to walk through all of the Find My features on iPhone and iPad, but it also applies to the Mac, which also has a new Find My app in macOS Catalina.


Locating Lost Devices


The Find My app is organized into three sections, accessible by tapping the tabs at the bottom. On the left, you can find people, in the middle, you can find your own devices, and on the right, there's a "Me" tab introduced during the beta testing process.

As with the prior Find My iPhone app, all of your Apple products are listed. Devices where you're signed into iCloud and have the Find My feature enabled are locatable through the Find My app.


All of your devices are displayed on a map, and you can zoom in or out to get a better picture of their location. Tapping on a single device provides you with options to get directions to its location in Apple Maps, Play a Sound for locating a nearby lost device, or get a notification when it's found if it's offline.


There's an option to mark a device as lost, which locks the lost device, disables Apple Pay, and allows contact information to be put right on the lock screen, and as a last resort, there's a tool for deleting all of your data.

Find My Compatible Devices


Almost all Apple products are Find My compatible, including iPhone, iPad, Macs, Apple Watch, and AirPods.

Family Sharing


If you have Family Sharing enabled, all of your family's devices are listed in Find My right alongside your own, so you can also find devices from your partner or children through the Find My app.

Locating Friends


The Find My app allows you to locate friends and family members that have shared their location with you. You can view their location using the "People" tab within the Find My app.

The Find My app lists people who have shared their location with you and, if you haven't shared your own location, offers up an option to do so.

Sharing Location


If you press the "Share My Location" button, you can share your own location with any of your contacts even if they haven't shared a location with you. Tapping on a person's name in the list provides an option to bring up their Contacts card for sending a message or an option to get directions to their location.

You'll also find tools for removing friends and turning off your own location sharing with the person if it's a mutual location sharing contact. You can opt to share your own location permanently, for an hour, or until the end of the day.

Notifications


For any person who's sharing a location with you, you can turn on notifications to get notifications when they leave or arrive at a specific location. There's also an option to notify your friend when you leave or arrive at a specific notification.

Me Tab


The "Me" tab in the Find My app displays your current location and includes toggles for sharing location, allowing friend requests, choosing who to receive location updates from, and naming a specific place.


Locating Devices Without a Connection


One of the headline features of iOS 13 is a new Find My option that lets your lost devices be located even when not connected to WiFi or LTE by leveraging Bluetooth and proximity to other nearby Apple devices.

When your lost device is offline but close to another device, it's able to connect to that other device over Bluetooth and relay its location. That means that your devices are more trackable than ever, and there's a better chance you can find a device that's been lost.

The iPad Pro and MacBook in this screenshot are locatable without a connection. The iPad Pro has WiFi turned off while the MacBook was closed.

Tracking a device in this way requires Bluetooth to be enabled because location is shared with another device using Bluetooth. Turning off Bluetooth or power makes your device untrackable, but if it's on, has Bluetooth, and is near another Apple device, it can be tracked even if it can't connect to WiFi or LTE.

You're not going to notice a difference in the Find My app when tracking a device over Bluetooth rather than a cellular or WiFi connection -- it simply shows up in the list of devices like any other device that does have a standard connection. Offline devices do have their distance from you listed in gray instead of blue, and you can tell when the location data was last updated by the time listed.

In testing, setting an iPad into Airplane mode and enabling Bluetooth continued to allow the iPad to be tracked thanks to another nearby iPhone, but turning off Bluetooth prevented it from being found even from a device to device connection.

Enabling/Disabling Offline Mode


Offline Finding is enabled on your devices by default, but you can disable it in the Settings app. Open up Settings, tap on "Find My," select "Find My iPhone" and then choose the "Enable Offline Finding" option.


How It Works


Implementing the device to device location feature while preserving privacy was quite a feat and the technical details of how it works are quite complicated, but Apple has given a high level overview of how it functions.

Basically, it's been designed with an encryption system that prevents people from abusing the feature for doing things like tracking you. That encryption system makes your personal location unavailable to people aiming to intercept your device's Bluetooth signal and from Apple itself.

Find My requires Apple users to have at least two devices. Each of your devices emits a constantly changing public key that nearby Apple devices pick up, encrypt, and upload with your geolocation data.

To decrypt that location signal, you need a second Apple device logged in with your Apple ID credentials and protected with two-factor authentication. Essentially, only your own devices can decrypt the encrypted location signal that's being sent from a lost device, no one, not even Apple, can intercept it and locate you or your devices.

As an example scenario, if you were on an airplane, had your iPhone in Airplane Mode with Bluetooth on, and then left it behind on the plane accidentally, it would potentially still be trackable.

In this situation, a flight attendant or an airport worker with an iPhone might come across it. The flight attendant's own iPhone would connect to your lost iPhone over Bluetooth by picking up your public key.

The flight attendant's iPhone would then upload your device's encrypted location and a hash of your public key (for identification purposes) to Apple's servers, where one of your own devices can receive the encrypted info and decrypt it to make the offline device able to be tracked.

Privacy


Because the entire Find My system is end-to-end encrypted, other people can't get the location of your devices using Bluetooth, nor can Apple. Lost devices are trackable only by you.

Device Impact


According to Apple, Find My's background Bluetooth location tracking feature uses just tiny bits of data piggybacked on existing network traffic so there's no impact on device battery life, data usage, or privacy.

Help a Friend Find a Lost Device


To help a friend find a lost device, you can tap on the "Help a Friend" option under the "Me" tab. This opens up iCloud.com on the web, where a friend can sign into their account using iCloud. There is no option to sign out of Find My to let another person sign in like you could with Find My iPhone.


Find My Rumors


Apple is working to expand Find My's functionality through the introduction of a new hardware product that's similar to the Tile Bluetooth item tracker.

Apple is designing a small physical Apple Tag that can be attached to any item, allowing it to be tracked through the Find My app. Users will be able to get a notification when an item gets too far from a tag, and there will be other useful capabilities as well.


Through a "Safe Locations" feature (such as home or work), users can set areas where notifications won't be received, and when an item is lost in an unsafe location, it can be put into Lost Mode. In Lost Mode, the Apple Tag will take advantage of the new crowd-sourced tracking features in Find My.


When a person comes across an Apple Tag item that's been put into Lost Mode, they will be able to see contact information for the item's owner, and the owner of the item will receive an alert. There will be an augmented reality component to the Apple Tag, perhaps allowing users to see where an item is indoors through an AR interface, and there will be an option to have an Apple Tag emit an audible chime.


Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that the upcoming tags will feature ultra-wideband or "UWB" technology. Ultra-wideband is a short-range low-power radio technology able to provide more accurate indoor positioning than Bluetooth LE or Wi-Fi. With UWB, Apple's tags may be able to more precisely pinpoint the location of lost items.


It's not known when Apple plans to launch Apple Tags, but details about the feature have been found in iOS 13, so presumably we won't be waiting too long for them to debut.

Guide Feedback


Have questions about Find My, know of a feature we left out, or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.

Related Roundups: iOS 13, iPadOS

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