With the iOS 15 update, Apple is improving the Find My feature even further. This feature normally lets you find, locate, and erase lost Apple devices—but now, certain iPhones that are running iOS 15 will be trackable even after the iPhone is switched off (which is the first thing that a thief does). How does it work? And is it no longer possible to completely turn off the iPhone?
How does offline iPhone tracking work?
Apple will now use its low-power U1 chip to continue tracking the location of an iPhone even after it’s switched off. This feature is enabled by default once you install iOS 15 on a compatible iPhone (iPhone 11 and newer, including the latest iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro).
When the iPhone is turned off, Apple continues to run its Low Energy Bluetooth chip via a custom secure applet. The rest of the device is completely switched off (including the always-on processor that’s used for background tasks like “Hey Siri” requests).
The other part of the equation has to do with Apple’s Ultra Wide Band U1 chip. Just like with the AirTags, your iPhone will keep on sending cryptographically secure beacons out to other Apple devices. And when someone passes near your switched-off iPhone, it will pick up those beacons, and will relay that information securely using the Find My network.
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If you’re looking for a more technical explanation of what’s going on under the hood, check out this blog post by Naehrdine and this Twitter thread by Hector Martin.
How to completely power off your iPhone
Apple’s doing this offline iPhone tracking in a secure way, but you might object to the fact that your iPhone isn’t technically fully powered off. So if you want to completely power off your iPhone, you can do it in two ways. First, when you go to turn off the iPhone, tap the little “iPhone Findable After Power Off” button. From here, you can choose the “Temporarily Turn Off Finding” option to completely turn off the iPhone just this once.
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, you’ll need to disable the Find My Network feature, which generally isn’t recommended for obvious reasons. To do it, open the “Settings” app, and go to Apple ID> iCloud> Find My> Find My iPhone, and disable the “Find My Network” feature.