Hands on with updated Find My Friends and Find My iPhone
As part of Apple’s release-day onslaught, its two location-based iOS apps have gotten updates—and what nice updates they are. Find My Friends gets geofencing capabilities, which allow users to receive notifications when a contact has entered or left a location, as well as friend suggestions. Find My iPhone gains a new Lost Mode for finding missing devices more easily, plus Forever Login, which keeps you logged in to Find My iPhone if your iCloud account is associated with your device.
Find My Friends gets fancy fences
Find My Friends, which debuted alongside iOS 5, lets you know where your relatives and pals are at any given moment, either perpetually or for a specifically delimited time period. The app’s new update builds upon that theme, offering location geofencing so that you can find out not only where your friends currently are but also when they leave or arrive at a certain place.
The new feature, Notify Me, lets you set up an alert for when your buddy arrives at or departs from a certain address. You can access it by tapping on an individual contact and then tapping the Notify Me button; from there, you choose whether the alert should fire when they enter or exit, and at what address. This function is surprisingly useful for timing meetups with friends: For instance, if you’re walking distance from a restaurant and your pals are driving, you can set a geofence at a stoplight several blocks away; when they go through it, you get a notification and can start walking. (It's also helpful, I’ve found, for timing carpool rides to work.) Note, though, that this feature works only on contacts who have upgraded their app to the latest version of Find My Friends and are running iOS 5 or later.
You can also flip this feature around and notify others of your location—either currently, or when you leave or arrive somewhere. Unlike with Notify Me, you can send your notifications out to anyone, whether they have Find My Friends installed or not. If your contact isn’t using Find My Friends, they’ll receive an email with your current location (or when you left or arrived); if they do have the app, they’ll get an alert from it.
You can also set up these notifications as repeating alerts; if you want your significant other to know when you leave work, for instance, you can set up a notification to ping them every time you do. (You get no specification beyond Repeat Every Time, unfortunately, so you can’t set up the alert at time intervals.)
Geofencing isn’t entirely one-sided: You can see when your friend has put a notification on you, though you can’t remove it. Head to the Me tab to see if you’ve been geofenced; if you have, the outline of the Location Services arrow appears next to the person's name. You can tap the name to see what the person is tracking, though currently the app appears to offer no way to get rid of the geofence without removing the person as a follower altogether. (You can hide your location from followers temporarily by enabling the switch in the Me tab, but that doesn’t wipe out the geofence—it action merely ignores the geofence while you’re hidden.)
As always, although the features are nifty for those people you trust with your location, you might not want to let every person you met at, say, a conference have permanent access; for those situations, we recommend using the app’s Temporary Event feature, which allows you to set geofences and track location for a limited amount of time.
Find My Friends’ last new perk in this update is Friend Suggestions: Now, when you tap the Add Friends button, a pop-up window will hover below the To field with the email addresses of iCloud contacts you haven't added to Find My Friends. (On the iPhone, it's a separate Friend Suggestions button.)
Little lost iPhone
These days, losing a device is almost as traumatic as losing your wallet. Thankfully, Find My iPhone can ease your panic and help you find your poor missing devices. You enable the feature itself on your devices via the Settings app; the Find My iPhone app exists to help you track any of those devices that you've lost. (If you have only one iOS device and you've lost it, you can head to iCloud.com.)
The latest update to Apple’s device-tracker app features a new, streamlined interface along with a new perk for missing iOS devices: Lost Mode. Enable Lost Mode on your gadget, and the device will lock itself and display a phone number and a message. Your lock-screen wallpaper is replaced with Apple’s gray-linen texture, and the message and number show up along with a big green Call button.
In case your device winds up in a dump truck and zooms around town, Lost Mode will make a map of its movements that you can view, using gray pins and an orange-dotted map. You can see your device’s current battery level, too. (The app will also send you email updates as the device moves, if you tell it to do so.)
Once your phone has been unlocked, or once you’ve disabled Lost Mode from the app or via iCloud.com, it returns to its normal state and stops tracking movement.