How Accurate is Apple's Find My iPhone?

How Accurate is Apple's Find My iPhone?
Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

How Accurate is Apple's Find My iPhone?

S.E. Slack
December 18, 2022

If you’re an iPhone owner, you might be wondering: How accurate is Find my for iPhone? Can you really rely on it if you’re lost in the mountains somewhere or trying to track down your phone from a thief?

How accurate the Find My for iPhone app is depends on a variety of factors, some of which you can control and some of which you can’t. Everything from battery life and phone settings to blocked signals because of poor weather or tall buildings can impact location accuracy.

What is Find My for iPhone?

The Find My app was released in June 2010 as part of a subscription-based online collection of services and software with Apple called MobileMe. It was later folded into Apple’s free iCloud service to assist in remotely locating iOS devices, including iPhones, and other Apple products.

The app’s goal is to help people keep track of their Apple devices, plus locate friends and even non-Apple items that have AirTags attached. Different features have improved the app since its release; in some cases, users can now even find devices that have been turned off using the Find My app.

How does Find My for iPhone work?

Find My for iPhone uses a combination of GPS satellites, cell towers, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to pinpoint locations. This combination can vary based on a number of factors, such as how clear your line of sight is to a GPS satellite, whether or not you have a Wi-Fi signal or even the cell phone network you’re using. The Bluetooth feature can even help you find an offline iPhone.

You need to have Location Services turned on in your iPhone to ensure the Find My app can take advantage of the GPS feature. GPS is the most accurate signal because it can track signals to within about a five-foot radius. Keep in mind this is under optimal conditions; GPS signals can be blocked or reduced when blocked in some ways, such as within a tunnel or in a snowstorm. This signal is also frequently tough to receive when devices are indoors or underground.

In cases where GPS isn’t available, Wi-Fi signals can offer accuracy to within about five to eight feet. That’s just about as good as GPS.

When looking for information, the Find My app also can track an iPhone’s signals between different cell towers to find the phone’s general location. This process is generally accurate to an area about three-fourths of an acre in size. This isn’t really pinpoint accuracy but it narrows things down considerably for users.

If your iPhone is turned off, the app will attempt to use Bluetooth in conjunction with near-field communication to determine the phone’s location in relation to other Apple devices. Those devices don’t need to be ones that you own; they can be anyone’s. This option has the lowest amount of accuracy. While it might ping back a location within a yard or so of a device indoors, it’s not considered to be a terribly accurate approach to location because it can easily be impacted by the environment it’s in. Outdoors, Bluetooth accuracy is typically calculated to be within 100 yards (roughly the length of a football field).

Related: Can You Freeze Your Location on Find My iPhone?

How can I make Find My more accurate?

The Find My app is a really useful tool. To be sure it’s working at its best, there are four things you should do right now. Each should take you just a few minutes to complete.

Enable location services

To turn on location services, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Privacy & Security.

  3. Tap Location Services.

  4. Toggle the switch to On.

Ensure Time Zone, Time and Date are set up automatically

Check that your time zone, time and date settings are all set to automatically update by following these steps:

1. Tap Settings.

  1. Tap General.

  2. Tap Date & Time.

Check that the time zone plus the current date and time are accurate. Adjust if needed to confirm your phone is reflecting your current location.

Related: How to Make Your Phone Impossible to Track

Update to latest software version

Update your iPhone’s software to take advantage of the latest security options and new features, which can sometimes include updates for location services or the Find My app. To update your iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Be sure your phone is properly backed up.
  2. Connect your iPhone to the internet with Wi-Fi.
  3. Tap Settings.

  4. Tap General.

  5. Tap Software Update.

Follow prompts from there depending upon the current iOS you have installed and whether or not you want to use automatic updates.

Enable Wi-Fi

You can connect your iPhone to Wi-Fi with a few quick steps:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Go to Wi-Fi.
  3. Toggle the switch to On.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is iPhone location always accurate?

Because iPhones use a variety of location options (GPS, Wi-Fi, cell towers, and Bluetooth) it’s generally pretty accurate with locations. It can be as accurate as within five to eight feet when using GPS, but because GPS signals can vary, so can location accuracy.

How accurate is the blue circle on Find My iPhone?

The blue circle on Find My iPhone means that the location has been pinpointed to an exact location. The item or location you’re seeking is shown as closely as possible to that blue dot.

What does it mean when there is a large green circle around location?

A large green circle around a location on an iPhone means the location is approximate but not exact. The item or place you’re looking for could be located within 100 yards or so of the green circle.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.