One of the better features included on iPhones, iPads and Macs is Find My iPhone. The name should be updated at some point, but the premise is simple. If you have the feature enabled, you can login from any iOS device or Mac and locate another device, provided you have the corresponding credentials. That would enable you to track the device or lock it. We’ve seen a number of cases over the years where the free service has not only led to the safe return of iPhones, but has also led to the capture and prosecution of the the thieves responsible for such heinous crimes. With Find My iPhone in iOS 7, there are improvements, but they may have consequences when trying to troubleshoot your iPhone or iPad.
The one flaw with Find My iPhone was that it could be easily disabled if you didn’t have a passcode protecting access to your iPhone or iPad. Even with a passcode, individuals could power down the device and restore it using iTunes. Realizing the lack of any real obstacles, Apple announced that a device with iOS 7 could only be restored if a user disabled Find My iPhone.
Now turning off Find My iPhone or erasing your device requires your Apple ID and password.
The incentive for thieves to steal iPhones and iPads is greatly reduced if they cannot restore back to factory defaults. It basically renders the stolen goods useless. I’m not certain that it will directly affect change anytime soon. I don’t think individuals who steal are exactly up on the inner-workings of the latest versions of iOS. Still, there is a level of satisfaction that comes from knowing there is no real benefit or cash out for those behind stealing your property.
While this sounds good in practice, it raises some concerns. Let’s say that a user is experiencing problems with their iPhone continuously crashing. It’s certainly not unheard of and makes accessing settings difficult, if not all together impossible. In previous iterations of iOS, the recommendation would be to restore the iPhone to factory settings. The new anti-theft feature in iOS 7 could make the process difficult, if not impossible. If an iPhone is crashing, how does one access and disable Find My iPhone?
It will be interesting to see how this feature is implemented when iOS 7 hits the streets later this fall. Ideally, there will be a way to remotely disable Find My iPhone. If that doesn’t happen, this new feature could make it increasingly difficult to troubleshoot a crashing iPhone or iPad. The best option might be to erase the iPhone from iCloud and then proceed with a restore.