Q: I'm always misplacing my iPhone. Is there a quick and easy way to locate it without retracing my steps?
A: When Apple released the new iOS 4.2.1 on Monday, the press release buried another interesting item: the Find My iPhone service, which will also help you to find your iPad or iPod touch, is now free. It no longer requires a MobileMe subscription.
Apple used to charge for the service because it does a lot more than it sounds like it might. Using Find My iPhone, you can remotely wipe all of the data from your device so that, if it falls into the wrong hands, it won't be used for evil. Find My iPhone can also lock your device, display a unique message on the display, prompt the device to play a sound and more.
To use the service, you must have an iPhone 4, a fourth-generation iPod touch that is running iOS 4.2.1 or an iPad. If you have one of those, visit the App Store and download Find My iPhone. Once you've done that, set-up is pretty simple. Just follow these steps:
Tap the Settings icon on your device and select Mail, Contacts, Calendars. From there, coose Add Account and select MobileMe. If you're not a MobileMe subscriber, use the Apple ID and password that are linked to your iTunes Store account. If you are a MobileMe subscriber, enter your me.com or mac.com email address and password. If you don't use MobileMe or the iTunes Store, you can select Create Free Apple ID and follow those steps to register for a new account. Once you've added a MobileMe account, verify it by following the instructions in the email sent to you. Finally, return to the MobileMe screen and slide the Find My iPhone application to the On position.
Once you've signed up for an account and downloaded the application, you can sign in to me.com from any browser on any computer and see your iPhone -- or other registered device -- on a map. From this page, you can also lock the device or wipe all of your data.
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