The Find My iPhone service, which also works with the iPod touch and iPad, is now free to owners of an iPhone 4, iPad, or fourth-generation iPod touch, and also works for any other device they own that’s running iOS 4.2. The service uses GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell tower positioning to report the last-available location of a device to MobileMe. This information is limited to an account registered with the same account as the iOS device.
Previously, Apple required a paid MobileMe account to use Find My iPhone. Now, if you’re not a MobileMe subscriber, you use a free Apple ID account, which can be an existing one you use with the Apple Store or other Apple services, or one you create afresh. Apple has step-by-step instructions on how to set up Find My iPhone with an Apple ID.
We’ve written extensively about Find My iPhone, most recently in “Apple Adds Find My iPhone App and Updates Web App,” 18 June 2010. That revision of the Web app and release of an iOS app made the service enormously easier to use, especially from mobile devices. With GPS and a 3G cellular connection in an iPhone or 3G iPad, you can get a fairly exact fix quite rapidly so long as a thief hasn’t wiped the device or powered it down.
If you own any of the supported devices, after installing iOS 4.2 on any one of them, you may use Find My iPhone with all iOS hardware you own that has also been upgraded to iOS 4.2. People without a new iOS device will still need to pay for MobileMe to use the service.