Last weekend while I was taking a walk, I found an iPhone in the public restroom at our local park. As I’m sure many have done before, and many will do again, it was left sitting atop the toilet paper holder. Because I’m so attached to my gadgets, my first thought was about the panic that was or would soon be racing through this poor person after they realized that their phone was gone. Then, being the good citizen that I am, my next thought was, how can I get this thing back to said panicked person? I have to admit, it kind of felt like a fun little mission to spice up my Sunday afternoon!
Spoiler alert: Even though the phone I found did have a passcode enabled, I was able to successfully return it to its owner using the tips I’ve outlined below, and she was incredibly grateful!
But after all was said and done, it got me thinking about whether the average person would know what to do with a lost phone if they found it. So I figured, why not type up a few tips that you can use if you ever find yourself in this situation. Keep in mind that these tips are specifically for a lost iPhone, although some of them could be used for a lost Android phone as well. And you might even pick up some tips to make sure YOUR phone is easily returnable if you ever lose it!
No Password, No Problem!
The best scenario is if the phone you find isn’t locked with a password. I don’t know how many of you DO NOT use a password (or Touch ID or Face ID), but I imagine it’s a pretty small number. Especially since the introduction of Touch ID and Face ID, which took the tediousness out of unlocking your phone. My Mom is usually my benchmark when it comes to judging how tech-illiterate someone is, and even SHE uses a password on her phone. However, if you happen to find the phone of a unicorn and it ISN’T locked, then you have a few pretty easy options:
- Go to the Phone icon/app > Contacts > and look at the very top for the “My Card” section. This should be the owner of the phone and include information like email addresses, phone #s, and physical addresses. The caveat here is that what you find listed will depend on what the phone’s owner offered up, (or what Siri can pull — more on that later) so this may not include anything/everything you need to locate him/her.
- You can also go to the Phone icon/app > and either the person’s “Favorites”, “Recents” (call one of the last few numbers), or search their Contacts for entries like “Home”, “Work” or “Mom” — you get the idea.
If the phone you find is locked, fear not, there ARE some things you can do to try to figure out who the owner is and how to contact them. Keep reading!
Siri Isn’t Always Useless
Yes, Siri can be a huge pain in the you-know-what. But she actually CAN come in handy in this situation! I didn’t realize this for a long time (mostly because I never request her assistance, but also because we have Amazon Echo and Google Home devices blanketing our entire house), but you can activate Siri even if your phone is locked*. All you have to do is either say “Hey Siri” (this will only work if the person has actually enabled this feature), OR hold down the on/off button and that will also activate Siri. Once she asks “What can I help you with?” you can say something like:
- “Call Home”, “Call Mom” or…
- “Who does this phone belong to?” and she’ll pull up who (she thinks) owns the phone and you can potentially access their email addresses or emergency contacts that way.
*If this doesn’t work from YOUR phone, the setting to allow Siri access when the phone is locked is likely TURNED OFF. To turn it on, go to Settings > Face ID (or Touch ID) & Passcode > Enter your passcode > scroll down to the section titled “Allow Access When Locked” > and slide Siri to green.
Medical ID Card
This is a newer feature of iOS (it arrived when the Health app was introduced) and I don’t think a lot of people utilize it and/or even know about it. It will display information like your name, allergies, blood type, medications, and emergency contacts. PSA: if you haven’t filled yours out — do it now! Go to Settings > Emergency SOS > Edit Emergency Contacts in Health and get to typing. To access it on a locked phone, go to the screen where it asks you for the passcode > tap on “Emergency” in the lower left-hand corner > tap on “*Medical ID” in the lower left-hand corner. If the phone’s owner has emergency contacts listed here, you can tap on them to call. Worst case, if they don’t have that information listed you can at least get their name and try to use this in combination with one of the other tips I’ve mentioned.
“Find My iPhone” Messages
The “Find My iPhone” feature that is available to any iPhone user has something called “Lost Mode” that might also be helpful in this situation. This mode locks the lost iPhone, enables low power mode, and disables Apple Pay. It also gives the owner the option to leave a message and a contact # on the lost phone’s home screen (pretty cool!). So don’t forget to periodically check the phone’s home screen for a Find My iPhone message.
When All Else Fails
If all of the above fails (or you’re just feeling lazy), you can always just wait for the owner to call their own phone — or for someone to call the phone that you can relay a message to that you’ve found the phone and are trying to get it back to its owner. More than likely, once the person finds out that it’s missing, they’ll immediately go this route. So keep it charged, keep the ringer on, keep it close to you, and make sure to answer any incoming calls!
One last note about YOUR safety. I’m making an assumption that the person that lost the phone you found isn’t a jerk or a serial killer. But it’s 2018 and Twitter has shown me that literally anything (no matter how crazy or bizarre) is possible. So if/when you DO track down the phone’s owner, make sure to arrange to give it back to them during the day in a public, well-populated location. Better yet, bring someone (strong and intimidating) with you. Good deeds should beget good karma, but you just never know.
And finally, what if you’re the person that LOST your phone? There IS always the handy aforementioned Find My iPhone option — and it’s incredibly accurate. And I definitely recommend enabling the Lost Mode that I mentioned above as well. However, if I ever lose my phone you won’t catch me using the Find My iPhone map to actively go FIND my phone. You never know who may have found your lost phone (or stolen it for that matter), or if they have any intention of returning it. So it’s probably best not to walk into that confrontation without some assistance. I’d love to hear some stories from people who HAVE used Find My iPhone to actually recover a lost or stolen phone, and how that all went down. So please feel free to share! But in general, I think you’re better off hoping that a good citizen is the one that picks up your phone.