You Can Track Your iPhone Even After It’s Been Completely Wiped in iOS 15 (Plus There’s More)

Find My App on iPhone Credit: Tada Images / Shutterstock
Text Size
- +

Toggle Dark Mode

It looks like this year’s debut of the Find My network and AirTags was just the beginning, with Apple already poised to release some pretty significant improvements when iOS 15 arrives later this fall.

For instance, during its massive iOS 15 reveal yesterday, Apple mentioned in passing that you’ll soon be able to locate AirPods Pro and AirPods Max on the Find My network, including some form of Apple’s Precision Finding feature to help you to track them down to their specific location in a given room — even when they’re in their case.

Since there’s no evidence that the AirPods Max or AirPods Pro include a U1 chip, either Apple has hidden this really well, or it’s using some kind of advanced Bluetooth tracking, perhaps combined with capabilities baked into the H1 chip.

Still, it’s something that Apple glossed over pretty quickly to save time, and it clearly wasn’t the only thing, as there are several other really cool features that are coming to Find My in iOS 15.

Find My iPhone (No Matter What)

A look through Apple’s iOS 15 Preview page reveals several new Find My features, including many more ways to help reunite you with your lost iPhone.

Although Find My iPhone has been around for years, it has always required that your iPhone be on and operational for you to locate it. Plus, while you could remotely wipe your iPhone to protect your data from identity thieves, doing so would eliminate any possibility of tracking your iPhone once it had been wiped.

That is all about to change with iOS 15, however, which will introduce the ability to track your iPhone not only when it’s powered off, but even continue tracking it after it’s been completely erased and reset to factory settings.

Locate your devices using the Find My network even after they have been turned off. This can help you locate a missing device that was low on battery power or that may have been turned off by a thief.

Apple began laying the groundwork for this two years ago, with some very cool advanced encryption technology that would allow for this kind of location tracking with complete and total privacy and anonymity for all iPhone users involved. What wasn’t clear at the time, however, was that it also planned to extend this even to devices that have been factory reset.

The Find My network and Activation Lock can locate your device even after it has been erased. To help ensure that nobody is tricked into purchasing your device, the Hello screen will clearly show that your device is locked, locatable, and still yours.

This only works if you’ve enabled Activation Lock, since that’s what ties your iPhone to your Apple ID. However, we really don’t see why anybody wouldn’t want to use this extremely helpful device protection feature, and it’s generally enabled by default when you set up your iPhone anyway.

Apple also notes that starting in iOS 15, the “Hello” screen that comes up after the iPhone has been wiped will much more clearly indicate that the iPhone is locked — and locatable by its original owner.

Apple hopes this will discourage the sale of stolen iPhones.

Overcoming Separation Anxiety

When Apple announced Find My network support for its AirPods, it also briefly mentioned that you’ll now be able to get alerts if you happen to leave your AirPods behind.

The good news is that this cool feature isn’t just for the AirPods — it’s coming to all Find My network-enabled devices, from AirTags to VanMoof’s e-bikes.

Enable separation alerts, and if you leave a device, AirTag, or compatible third-party item behind, your iPhone will alert you with notifications and Find My will give you directions to your item.

Notify When Left Behind

iOS 15 now includes a new “Notify When Left Behind” switch in the details screen for each of your Find My items. As the name implies, toggling this on will present an alert on your iPhone when you move away from that particular item.

In addition, you’ll also be able to set “Trusted Locations” on a per-item basis to specify those places where you don’t want to receive these alerts — basically spots where you would normally leave items behind regularly, like going out for lunch at work without your bag in tow.

From what we can tell, it looks like the home address in your contact card will be automatically designated as a Trusted Location. This will help prevent too many alerts for devices you normally leave at home, but we’re hoping Apple provides a way to override this, since many folks would find it helpful to be reminded if they’re going out the door without important items like their keys or wallet.

Live Location Tracking

When Apple first introduced Find My Friends years ago, it was a great way to help friends and family stay in touch by keeping tabs on each other. However, as anybody who has ever used the app extensively knows, the tracking was never quite done in real-time.

For instance, you’d open the Find My Friends or Find My app and instantly get a blip showing you where your loved ones are, after which it would basically stall for at least two or three minutes before the next location update came in. This was tolerable most of the time, but could quickly get frustrating when trying to use it to help meet up with someone who is actively moving.

With iOS 15, however, Apple is now promising “live locations for family and friends,” noting that you’ll get “continuous streaming updates.”

See your family and friends’ locations with continuous streaming updates. This provides an immediate sense of direction, speed, and progress when viewing people’s locations.

While we’ve always believed that the less frequent update intervals were done to conserve power, since pinging somebody’s device for their location requires the GPS to fire up to provide an accurate fix, presumably Apple has either found some way to overcome these issues, or decided that it’s no longer a big problem with the excellent battery life that the iPhone now offers.

Social Sharing