If you’ve lost your iPhone or iPad, how can you find your device? If you had the foresight to activate Find My iPhone, you should be able to find your smartphone easily. However, upon logging in, you notice a problem: Find My iPhone is offline.
What does “Offline” mean on Find My iPhone? How can you still locate your device? And if it’s been stolen, how do you stop others from accessing your personal data? We’ll walk you through it.
How to Activate Find My iPhone
So what exactly is Find My iPhone? As you might have inferred, it’s a feature that helps you find your device if it goes missing. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve lost it while out and about, or if you still think it’s somewhere at home. Activating Find My iPhone means you can log into your Apple ID on a PC or tablet and locate your device on a map. (Find My iPhone is part of the Find My app starting with iOS 13.)
You can also use Find My iPhone to remotely lock your phone, erase all content (in case you think it’s irretrievable), or play a sound to lead you to it.
All you need to do is open Settings, then tap on your name at the top. Next, go to iCloud > Find My iPhone. (We’ll come back to why this screen holds extra significance if your phone reads Offline.)
You need to make sure this setting is turned on. It’s not possible to enable it remotely, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s a wise idea to prepare for the worst but hope you never need it.
What Does “Offline” Mean on Find My iPhone?
To location your smartphone with Find My iPhone, you need to sign into your iCloud account using a different device. There are numerous iterations of the Find My app, including Find My iPad and Find My Apple Watch. All of these use iCloud.
If it’s working properly, you should see an icon on a map to show where your missing device is. In some cases, however, it reads “Offline”. It may also say “No location available” or “Location Services Off”.
There are a few reasons for this, but they all have the same meaning: your iPhone cannot check in to Find My iPhone. It doesn’t have access to Wi-Fi or cellular data.
Why is your iPhone offline? The most likely reason is that the battery has died. You could also have left it turned off. Either way, if your phone has no power, Find My iPhone won’t give you its whereabouts.
The app will only work if your device is connected to iCloud, of course, and signed into your Apple ID. To activate the feature in the first place, you’ll have already signed into these. However, it’s possible to switch both off, severing the connection to Find My iPhone.
Your device may also have Airplane Mode switched on. We’ve explained how Airplane Mode works on your iPhone if you’re not sure. Essentially, it cuts off all wireless signals like Wi-Fi and cellular data.
If your smartphone has been stolen, the thief may have taken out its SIM card. This disconnects it from mobile internet, making it more difficult—but not impossible—to track.
There’s also the small possibility that your iPhone has been lost in a country without Find My iPhone. This is because the feature needs to access maps and Apple simply doesn’t have that capability in some regions.
How to Find an iPhone That Is Offline
When you open Find My iPhone, you’ll see three options. While it may seem futile, click on Play Sound first. It’s unlikely this will work, especially when your iPhone shows as Offline. However, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you do find your smartphone this way. (We’ll return to the other two options on this screen. You need to look into other methods before using those two.)
The main way to locate your device is, again, by preparing ahead of time. When setting up your device, you need to navigate to Settings, select your name, then go to iCloud > Find My iPhone > Send Last Location. This sends the location data of your device to Apple when the battery is critically low.
This is your best chance of retrieving your device, but won’t help if someone moved it to another located, or if the function is switched off.
If you use Google Maps on your phone, you may be able to track its location via the Maps Timeline. You can see which apps access your geographical data via Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
It’s also worth contacting your mobile service provider. If you have the serial number or International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, your carrier may be able to trace its position.
You can revisit where you’ve been recently and hope you find your smartphone without the need of further technology. Otherwise, you need to wait and keep your fingers crossed that someone finds and charges it. Keep signing into Find My iPhone in case this does happen.
How to Protect Your Data If Your iPhone Is Offline
Let’s suppose that you still can’t find your device. You fear that someone has stolen it, or that whoever locates it could access your private information. What can you do to stop this from happening?
Even when Find My iPhone says “Offline”, you can still use some of its functions. Most notably, Activation Lock comes standard when using Find My iPhone. This means that nobody can turn off Find My iPhone or erase your phone’s data without your Apple ID.
Two further options are useful:
- Lost Mode: This lets you remotely lock your device and present a custom message on the screen. You should include a means of contacting you to return the smartphone. As an extra layer of security, this disables Apple Pay. Plus, notifications won’t show up, so no one can snoop on your activities. Once you get your device back, you can unlock it by simply using your passcode.
- Erase iPhone: This should only be used in dire situations—it erases all data on your phone. It’s a final measure, not to be taken lightly. Try everything you can think of to find it again. If you do take this path, you’ll need to restore your iPhone from a backup or will unfortunately lose all your information.
These modes only activate once your iPhone switches on and connects to the internet again.
Should You Choose to Erase Your iPhone?
Hopefully, these tips helped you find your iPhone, even if it says it’s offline. However, you may have to consider erasing your device if you really can’t find it.
Taking this option means you’ve entirely given up hope. In most cases, we think it’s better to use Lost Mode. It doesn’t matter if you lost your phone 24 hours ago or six months ago. If someone finds it and turns it on, they will be able to see your message and hopefully return it to you. You may consider offering a reward too.
The main advice for anyone who has lost their phone is simply not to panic. With today’s always-on world, someone will hopefully find it and get it back online. Speaking of which, make sure you know what to do if you find a lost iPhone.