Anyone who has ever accidentally left behind their iPhone or iPad in a public place like a coffee shop will know the sinking feeling in your stomach the moment you realize you’ve done it. Even if you rush back just one or two minutes later, you know there’s a high chance that the device will be gone.
If the worst happens, and you have another device with you, Find My iPhone lets you track the stolen device – except thieves tend to know this, and all they have to do to prevent it is to power-down their ill-gotten gains. This can be done while the device is locked, with no Touch ID or passcode access needed …
What I’d like to see is a simple iOS change that replaces the current ‘slide to power off’ dialog with a ‘Use Touch ID or enter passcode to power off.’ In that way, a thief would be unable to power-down the device and you’d be able to track its location. (You’d also need to disable access to Control Center from the lock screen to prevent a thief switching it into Airplane mode, but that’s something I consider advisable anyway.)
The protection this would offer wouldn’t be perfect. If a thief has their wits about them, they’ll remove the SIM, which would also prevent tracking. But it would at least remain trackable if it’s connected to Wi-Fi – as it may well be if they haven’t yet gotten very far with it – and not all thieves will think of removing the SIM or have a removal tool on them. It would at least tilt the odds somewhat in favor of the owner.
In theory, Activation Lock means there’s no point stealing an iPhone or iPad any more, as the thief or anyone buying it from them wouldn’t be able to use it. But while some thieves have gotten the message, others haven’t. A stolen iPhone can also be stripped for parts even if it can’t be reactivated.
There’s one possible downside to my idea: if you drop your iPhone in water, you’re going to want to power it down immediately to reduce the likelihood of a short. Adding in the need for Touch ID or passcode confirmation would marginally slow you down. But given that the iPhone 6s/Plus seem to be remarkably waterproof, that’s unlikely to be an issue at least with the latest devices.
Added for clarity: a reboot would still be permitted, the phone starting up again, just not allowing shutdown.
Would this be a worthwhile additional layer of protection? Take our poll, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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There is a popular jailbreak tweak that offers this exact functionality. I used to run it, worked great.
How about using Touch ID to access/view Safari Private Browser? I’d love that.
what happens when the battery dies?
That will usually take many hours – whereas thieves power down devices within seconds of stealing them.
Another thing. Why does Find My iPhone only keep the last known location in iCloud for 24 hours? Sometimes you don’t notice something is missing for a day or two (primarily for an iPod or iPad).
I think the problem with this otherwise great idea is you still need to be able to hard power off the device when it freezes/locks up (the old “hold Home and Lock together” trick).
You could still allow reboots, as the device would be powered-on when it restarts.
If you’re holding Home and Sleep for a reboot, you’d already have your fingerprint on the home bottom. Unless you use your knuckle to do reboots, I guess. This is an absolutely genius idea that is so blatantly obvious after you hear it, that you wonder why it wasn’t already in place. Well done.
Except then all you need to do is instruct a power off before the OS loads and prevents it (sure this would be possible)
You still wouldn’t be able to trace the phone since you need to enter your sim-cards PIN to be able to get online access and trace it.
That isn’t a “hard power off”, it’s a hard reset.
Exactly. If you press and hold both buttons and let go immediately after the device shuts off, it will not turn back on. (If you continue holding them, it will)
That’s a reboot. Doesn’t directly power off the device (I believe). It would reboot and reconnect to the network still allowing “Find My iPhone.” What’d be cool is if the thief tried that, the TouchID sensor would keep a record of their thumbprint for use by the authorities.
It does power off the device. Continuing to hold the buttons after the screen goes black is what makes it turn back on. If you let go immediately as the screen goes black, it will not turn back on.
I would also add requiring TouchID to go into Airplane mode or disabling WiFi while the phone is locked.
I would add an option for that in security settings.
Gee… BRILLIANT!! Or you could just *disable the control center for the lock screen*??! (like I have) Duh.
Great idea, unless you force shutdown your iOS device in order to hard reset. If your device in not responding in the first place, then a passcode to hard reset wouldn’t help.
You’d still be able to force-reboot, just not force-shutdown.
And how would the phone know the difference.
Hold down Home button and Power button together until the screen goes dark but release before the Apple logo appears. The phone will not restart.
But adding the suggestion that a force shutdown automatically restarts the device afterwards, so it is a force reboot rather than force shutdown, would work well.
What Happened if your iPhone is not responding…you should to turn it off but if is not responding…how are you gonna put the passcode?
A rebooted iPhone (assuming the device has a passcode set up) will not be able to connect to WiFi until it is unlocked. The contents of the disk remain fully encrypted until then. So the thief would still be able to simply reboot the phone and pop out the sim card in order to go dark.
Useless because they can just run out the battery.
Only hours later.
Few weaknesses to your post
1: Touch ID wouldn’t prevent the phone from going dead
2: removing the sim doesn’t disable GPS which is used on the hardware side using the devices IMEI or serial number I’m not sure which
A better option is if a phone is stolen have the carrier place a block on the IMEI – something that these days can actually also be undone by the carrier or manufacturer if the phone is then returned – and of course always have an insurance on your expensive mobile gadgets to replace in event of lost/stolen devices
1. That would be hours later, as above.
2. Removing the SIM means the device can no longer transmit its position once it leaves WiFi.
I have tracked a phone with no cellular signal previously – especially handy since GPS works independently. All wifi/cellular does is makes the location info more accurate (up to 10 feet instead of 50 for example)
The next iPhones are rumored to (finally!) have universal SIMs *built in*. So: flaws debunked.
i think its amazing that this is not supported!
to enable find my iPhone but enable power down is incredibly backwards in my opinion!
also regarding simcard… simcards will be gone before long ;)
Well, it would be useless:
1- One thing you CAN’T get rid of is hard-reset (power+home for a few seconds), and that would make the device untraceable.
2- Taking the sim-card out would do the trick.
You would still allow reboot, just not shutdown.
Hard reset leaves the device traceable once it finishes reboot.
.If you let go immediately as the screen goes black, it will not turn back on.
What about the SIM trail?
The hard reset is going to restart the phone, it does power it off and leave it off.
To take this one step further, when the phone is put in lost mode, it could automatically activate a Super Low Power Mode, that disables everything except the Find My iPhone features. That would keep the battery working work much longer. So, not only could not power it off, but the battery could last 2 or 3 days in super low power mode, instead of just a few hours.
This could totally work.
Too bad it’s totally boneheaded, since you’d still need ALL the features powered that even make Find My iPhone POSSIBLE, which at the same time are the ones that use the most power BY FAR! Duuuh. So, yay… maybe 20 mins. longer, if even. Bravo.
You could have a DIFFERENT low power mode just for this… broadcasting position but keeping chips, display etc running low.
Find My iPhone still works in the existing low battery mode. It would be somewhat helpful to just enable to existing low battery mode to stretch the battery.
what about customized buttons in control center? I’d love it.
For everyone thinking about removing the SIM, it won’t matter with iPhone 7 and later (hopefully). If Apple removes the SIM card, which they can and should (especially for waterproofing), then it won’t be possible to remove the SIM because there wouldn’t be one in the first place.
Regarding you battery folks, the battery won’t just die, there isn’t a way to drain the battery in a matter of seconds or minutes.
Regarding those who suggest force shutdown, have Apple change it to a force reboot, so the phone force shutdowns then restarts, without a way to stop that.
Dang! If this feature came to iOS I would not pull out my iPhone screwdriver and pop the battery connection off.
Activation Lock is a much more useful tool. The problem is that too many “regular”/mainstream users need to be educated about it and activating it. You will never build the perfect deterrent. You will also never please everyone and I think adding this feature will enrage so many customers who wont understand the purpose. It’s the same as when you advise someone to buy a case for their phone. What is the first thing they say? “I never drop my phone”. So how come everywhere I go I see a phone with a shattered screen?
Let’s say this is implimented but the person has access to control center enabled well the thief just puts the phone into airplane mode. You may think well I advised not to have that accessible. Well the same people who have it accessible are probably the same people who don’t have activation lock setup and are the majority. Building a more theft proof device just builds a better thief. You can buy a faraday bag on ebay for $30.
If they disable the feature for ” not letting power down the iPhone when screen is locked”, it will solve the problem.
This would help deter casual thievery, but a simple workaround is a Faraday cage. Slide an iPhone into a $10 DIY Faraday cage pouch and it’ll drain itself trying to find a signal. I’d be surprised if professional pickpockets weren’t already doing this.
The NYPD estimates that there are currently 50 professional pickpockets in New York City. These are people who go out every day and do this. The police know them because everyone gets caught from time to time. They work the subway system and in fact wouldn’t have had to worry about this issue until the Subways starting getting LTE service. Those pros may have faraday bags, but they are so few they don’t move the needle. Far more numerous are the snatch and run crowd of kids. Those aren’t pros, they just supplement their income from time to time with a bit of crime. They won’t know about faraday bags and they probably won’t know how to do a hard reboot. But I bet they know to power down a phone.
Smart ones do, but must thieves are by definition stupid (they typically earn less than minimum wage on an hourly basis for something that can get them jailed).
Nice one, Ben! I like the idea a lot, despite the fact that, personally, I am (or I think I am) aware in 99.9% of the time of my phone’s “presence” or whatever. But that would be so useful to those 1 billion Apple users, of which I guess there are 6-800 iPhone users. :)
On the other hand (and this is more like sci-fi, so don’t judge me too harsh haha), what happens if some “pro” thieves carry with themselves some iPhone-size box which is isolating the phone from Wi-Fi etc, that way they can just wait the battery to die. But yeah, now when I read it I am like (you)… okay, that will never happen. :D
Booster bags do exist, but as Jon notes, they are used by a vanishingly small percentage of thieves.
This is a great idea. My cousin had 3 iPhones and a Nintendo device stolen out of his car last week. All are powered off and he hasn’t been able to find them. This probably would have solved that problem. Not sure why he had so many devices in his car…
Much more importantly, iOS should requires a fingerprint to use a saved password in Safari!!!
Such a great idea. Nice going, Ben.
How to power down if home button stalled?
Control center is useful on the lock screen. I’d just remove/disable the flight mode switch when the phone is locked.
The flaw with this is that the phone will let you force power off by holding the power key down for 10 seconds or longer. Apparently most people don’t realise that feature exists. It’s there for a reason – if your phone locks up and you can’t power it down, since you can’t remove the battery anymore, there has to be a way to do a physical reboot.
No matter what, you still need to have the functionality to force power down the device by holding home + power buttons. During a panic the device might not be able to display the passcode screen or read touch ID.
So no one here know thief could disable it with aluminum foil?
If I use aluminum foil as a signal blocker, your phone would even spend more battery to search the signal.
Thieves don’t even need to invest in anything. They have it already. It’s call booster bag and they use it to steal other things
The iPhone should also have a “virtual lock down” mode so that, when activated, when your phone is placed face down and is stationary for a while it will request authorization when it is picked up and moved. Should this not be given it will first emit a tone and then go into an alarm mode.
Almost everyone’s iPhone shows the quick settings panel without a password or touch ID, so it’s really easy to put it into airport mode.
How is it 2016 and this stupid idea is still coming up? The iPhone needs to be able to be put in DFU mode which means there will always be a way to reset the phone into a mode where it’s not trackable. Stop with the stupidity.
I voted no due to the whole “need to hard restart” the phone at times with the understanding that the phone currently turns off when this process is done. If the change included making the hard reset a reboot so that the phone turned back on as part of the process, I’m all for it.
You CAN do a hard power off, I don’t know why everyone is saying it’s only a hard reset. If you hold power+home and release as soon as the screen goes black, it will NOT power back on. I just confirmed this on my iPhone 6s Plus on 9.0.2.
http://www.apple.com/feedback. Send in the idea and maybe they’ll implement it.
Whatever.. Most ppl know home + power.
Or, better idea, learn to keep up with your stuff. There will always be thieves, and there will always be ways around tracking. Adding a feature just because a subset of end users can’t keep up with their property is not Apple’s problem. Two-factor shutdown is unnecessary.
What about a hard reset? You can’t require Touch ID or passcode then…many times the phone will be completely unresponsive and frozen.
This would make perfect sense, especially as an option to turn on.
After all, what is the point of being able to track your phone IF thieves could just power down or turn off wifi…
There should also be a way to choose what appears in the control centre – personally i only use that to turn on bluetooth or music controls… my wifi is always on… most other things i actually unlock my phone and go to systems to change things.
Sorry, but government regulations require the ability to shut off a device, unhindered.
Touch ID for power off is pointless. The idea of find my iPhone is to deter theives. Nothing will be foolproof. I would never recommend someone go after their stolen phone. Police reports are the best thing you can do. Apple is on your side. They will only deactivate find my iPhone in store if you bring your receipt from purchase. This is really one of the only black and white issues where Genius Bar is concerned.
Letting go of both buttons immediately after a hard reset will keep the device off. You already have the ability to list the last location before power off when you look at your FMiP settings.
The biggest issue is that people buy ANYTHING on Craigslist. That’s where stolen device locked under FMiP are usually sold. And apple will not unlock a device sold on Craigslist.
What if your phone froze and you needed a hard restart!
fantastic idea. can’t believe it would be a difficult thing to implement
This solution doesn’t stop a thief from simply holding down the home and power button to power off, a feature that Apple coundn’t possibly require touch ID for as its very necessary to be able to use this at all times.
This is not possible since you just need to reboot the phone with the power + home button combination to take the phone offline. Or you could just turn on airplane mode.
Rebooting doesn’t take the phone offline – only shutting down does. See the piece re: Airplane mode.
I like the idea a lot I say add in where they cannot turn off wifi or turn on airplane mode with out unlocking first. Now the trick is if you hold the home button and the lock button once the screen goes off if you release it it will not reboot or on reboot if you hold the home button you can put it in restore mode or actually you can put it in dfu (device firmware update) mode. Now I’m not putting down the idea I like it it would be a extra step for security but it wouldn’t be full proof
iPhone thieves are much like car thieves now, just take the phone apart selling for parts. Com’on, you have to start thinking like thieves, not a gentleman.
A very very good idea.
It is a decent idea, however. It is very easily defeated.
Hold down the Sleep/Wake button and the home button. Keep holding it past the black screen and the logo. When the logo turns off, the iPhone is no longer powered.
You guys are all overthinking this whole thing. It’s a great idea and I’d love to see it implemented but you have to remember that someone can always just remove the sim card. And also with no sim, a hard reset would render this unless since iOS requires the user to unlock the phone to re authenticate a wifi connection. Therefore; a connectionless iOS device now becomes untraceable.
If a thief wants the iPhone they are going to get it. All this is going to do is eliminate the worlds dumbest criminals. Like you said if the thief is smart enough they’ll just take the SIM out which they don’t need to power down to do anyway. So the next step is a special tool to unscrew the sim tray, or a chip to track the iPhone even when the SIM is removed. It’s a game that can go on forever because when something is implimented a way is developed to get around it. I mean faraday bags can easily be bought on Ebay. If this is implimented guess what all the mainstream users, who tend to be the loudest, will all complain about the extra work they have to do now to turn of their phones. Besides if the theif is smart they will just hold the power and home button unless that will require a fingerprint. It just goes down a rabbit hole the more you think about it. Activation Lock means the device is useless unless they have the password. If people stopped using simple @$$ 4 digit passcodes then thiefs wouldn’t be able to brute force into the phone. Once it’s missing the person should call the carrier and get it put on the blacklist and then it’s IMEI would be blocked. People just need to made more aware. At the end of the day sure you can sell it for parts but that is going to always be an option no matter what is implimented short of like putting C4 inside that requires the person’s fingerprint when it’s powered on hmmmmm LOL.
Awesome idea actually. I like SIM cards, but this made a good point. Would it be better to have integrated SIMs or not? Or the phone will keep the current SIM configurations even when the SIM card is removed. Once the phone restarts it could clear the SIM configuration, which would obviously need the passcode to do. Even better, Apple could add another feature to Find My iPhone to reduce battery usage. When you add the phone as lost in Find My iPhone, drop the iPhone into a super low powered battery saving mode where the screen won’t power on, and it will ONLY send periodic pings about it’s location until the device is recovered.
Top ad to the Control Center thing, why not require the device to be unlocked before allowing access to toggle Control Center, like iOS 10 requires the phone to be unlocked before you can see Activity data on the lock screenshot. To clarify, in iOS 10, you can unlock with Touch ID or passcode before you press the home button to get to the home screen so you can see time, notifications, etc.
So, any news about Apple adding this to their next update? The fact that it hasn’t already been added makes me wonder if there is not some sinister idea behind it. Lose your iphone/have it stolen and you have to buy a new one. Conspiracy theories annoy me mostly but there is no reason for it not having been added in previous updates. With regards to the 1-second-hold not initiating a reboot, perhaps that function should just be removed. It doesn’t necessarily have a function, does it? Hold down the home and power button and only after 3 seconds does it reboot. Nothing happens before then.
Hi Ben any news on this feature yet? Brilliant post, I have been pointing out this flaw for some time now, it is a huge security loop hole, yet so simple to mitigate.