Can AT&T Trace a Lost Apple iPhone?
By Jason Cristiano Ramon
Losing your iPhone can be distressing and costly; you not only have to suspend your service and purchase a new mobile phone, but if your information isn't backed up, you lose important information, including phone numbers and business contacts. If AT&T is your carrier, the company offers two services that might help you trace your misplaced iPhone. In addition to AT&T tracking services, other third-party applications can help track down your iPhone. Any tracking software must be installed before the iPhone is lost.
AT&T's FamilyMap is most commonly used by parents who use the application to track their children's whereabouts. However, you can use FamilyMap to locate your lost or stolen iPhone. All AT&T iPhones are installed with Assisted GPS, which uses GPS satellites to locate cell phones. To activate FamilyMap's location services, you must register via AT&T and install the application. At the time of publication, FamilyMap costs about $10 a month to register up to two iPhones and about $15 to register up to five iPhones.
Each iPhone has a unique 15- or 17-digit identification code referred to as the International Mobile Equipment Number. You can look up your IMEI number through "Settings" on your iPhone. From "Settings," tap "General" and "About" and scroll down to see your IMEI code. Your phone bill and online billing account should also include your IMEI number). IMEIs can be used to report a misplaced iPhone as well as to track the iPhone's location. To do both, contact AT&T and tell the operator your IMEI number. The operator inputs the code into the Equipment Identity Register, which then traces whether your iPhone is registered to another account. The one caveat to using the IMEI to locate your iPhone is that AT&T cannot release the information to you due to privacy laws. However, if you file a report, the police can retrieve this information.
Find My iPhone
In addition to AT&T, Apple provides its own tracking service. Find My iPhone is an application available for download via Apple's iTunes. At the time of publication, Find My iPhone is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 and requires iOS 5.0 or higher. This free tracking service offered by Apple includes location services that track your iPhone on a map via iCloud. You can use the service to lock your lost or stolen device and erase any personal data on the iPhone remotely. For Find My iPhone to work, your phone must be powered on and connected to the Internet. You must also have activated your free iCloud account.
Other Third-Party Apps
Outside of AT&T services and Apple's Find My iPhone, several third-party apps help trace the location of your iPhone. GadgetTrak provides services to locate your phone and also snaps an image of the person who stole it. The app's programming makes it impossible to delete GadgetTrak from the stolen iPhone. IHound is another third-party app that remotely erases any important personal data and locks your iPhone. It also includes location-tracking services. At the time of publication, GadgetTrak costs $3.99 to subscribe. IHound is free to download but charges $3.99 for a three-month subscription fee and about $11 for yearlong subscription.
Jason Cristiano Ramon holds a doctorate in political science and a master's degree in philosophy. He has taught political science in China.