WOW: Apple tracks your iPhone when turned off…YES, REALLY.

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Apple Enables Tracking of iPhones That Are FULLY Turned OFF

 

That’s right folks. If you turn off your iPhone 11 or 12 then you can still find it. Yes, really. The more suspicious amongst you (including me this time!) have a sense of Big Brother is Watching about this one and we might wonder who else can find you.

Background

So you can use Apple’s Find My network to locate and partially track people, devices (like your iPhone) and items (like AirTag and EarPods)

The next full release of iOS 15 will see Find My functionality increased.

Apple’s Find My Network was also recently expanded to enable support for devices that support precision finding via an Ultra Wide Band – UWB – on AirTags; the latest iPhone models; and the Apple Watch 6 (not SE). In addition to this, the entire Find My network was opened up to 3rd parties but only those exclusively signing up to the Find My network, even then only Bluetooth finding is supported by 3rd parties…as evidenced by the Chipolo One Spot finder tag.

Find My is going places…

To Clarify

In August 2021, your iPhone 11 or 12 (Pro, Pro Max or Mini) will be effectively forcibly upgraded to iOS 15. That’s what I’m using right now in beta on my new iPhone 11. When you are on iOS15 you have a new feature and can enable your iPhone to be tracked by Friends & Family through Bluetooth. Settings> Privacy>Location Services>Share my Location>Find My iPhone>Find My network>On

Here’s a screenshot of my settings on iOS15. On iOS14 or iPhone 10 (and earlier models), you should see different text underneath the phrase Find My network and the find when off feature won’t work for you.

With this feature enabled, when you turn off the iPhone the RESERVE BATTERY is still active and powers Bluetooth finding via the Find My network…ie this means that you can mark your phone as lost and other people’s phones will detect it when lost using their Bluetooth. This is what you see when you turn off the iPhone 11, different messages appear on different iPhone models.

You can also find your lost phone with this method even if your friend is not on your Find My network. I’m not sure if this was available previously on iOS 14??? Anyway, you can log into your account via a friends phone/account to find your lost phone even when your friend is not already able to see your location. Ping me if you want to know more about that and I’ll dig out the details.

More Interesting Find My Features

I’ve been playing a bit with the wider Find My feature set.

Apple seems to have introduced a new (to me) concept of ‘when you leave your current location and where that current location can also be your home. the logic Apple consider must be more complex than a simple change in GPS position and will likely also leverage positional info via WiFi, Bluetooth and GNSS/GPS.

So you can use the new Focus Modes to trigger conditionally based on changes to your location eg when you finish in the gym you turn off the Fitness Focus. Along a similar vein, a Find My event can be triggered as soon as you leave the gym if you LEAVE your Apple Watch in your gym locker. Indeed you can also add an exception not to trigger such a notification if the item/device is left at your home/work address.

Cool stuff.

I’ve not looked into this but I think you can link these events to IFTTT features and then you can trigger all sorts of weird and wonderful depending on your imagination and how much connected stuff you have that can be autoamted.

Take Out

I don’t normally comment on iPhone tech developments or issues. This is an exception that will probably eventually replicate itself on the Watch 6 or Apple Watch 7 (September 2021).

The feature appears sensible

  • Your child is kidnapped. The kidnapper turns off the phone so that they can call you later and get your child to prove they are alive. In this scenario, if the kidnapper goes near another iPhone all should work out.
  • You are having an affair. You craftily turn off your phone. Your partner finds out. You shouldn’t be having an affair!
  • Police/Government appear not to be able to track/find you unless they can coerce someone else who is on your Find My network…and there’s the problem.

 

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5 thoughts on “WOW: Apple tracks your iPhone when turned off…YES, REALLY.

  1. Sounds a little like gopro having bluetooth beaconing active when the device is ‘turned off’.
    Will this be active for x hours, or until the battery is dead? I wonder if there is a way for a secondary device that sees the BT to turn the phone on and enable ringing etc? Or does it just report ‘its around here somewhere’? I’m thinking on the in-home scenario where my phone has slipped down the sofa cushion – just knowing its in the house isn’t much use!

    1. it’s the emergency reserve battery.
      in the case of an emergency battery i dont think uwb would work tho it might. that would help you find it directly
      i assuem the bluetooth audio ping wont ping
      so
      yes…”its around here somewhere” is probably what you get.

  2. This toggle”feature” has been on Android powered phones via Google services, for years now. A little extreme in that headline for a user function.

    I thought some White Hat hacker found some nefarious function in Apple’s code showing they have been tracking customers without their consent.

    1. it would be a rich White Hat hacker i guess (discovery fee). It’s new to iPhone but is on other products of course. Peple who want a mass market but trusted secure device would proabbyl choose iphone over android, no?

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