Why does only tile see my phone?
September 3, 2017 5:54 AM   Subscribe

I lost my phone at IKEA yesterday. Find my iPhone says it's been offline since the moment I realized, but the tile app keeps saying it sees it every ~15 minutes. Huh? What could this mean? Is there any hope?

Basically what is says on the tin. It was lost (or stolen) and I'm struggling to put my finger on how/when since I'm positive I never took it out in the store so it must have fallen out of (or been plucked out of) the bag it was in literally anywhere in that cavernous place. I realized within an hour or two, went straight to the find my iPhone app, which said it was offline (which I took to mean there was a good chance it was stolen). I also don't get service in most of that store, though. The weird thing is that tile (that bluetooth tracker app) says it "sees" it and has a giant location circle that still encapsulates the IKEA store, even the next morning! Can anyone think of anything else I could do with that information? Does tile use different network info than find my iPhone would? Could that mean that it's still in the store somehow or something? Oh, also - when I call my phone it rings (but nobody answers).

Lost and found seems pretty on top of it and they already have my contact info so I assume it wasn't turned in there.

I entered the store with close to 100% battery (nearly-year-old iPhone 7) but I assume it's closing in on dead now...so anything I want to go back and look for should probably happen soon.
posted by mosst to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Tile app description says that it records the last known location, so that circle may just represent where the phone was when it was turned off. Sorry.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:58 AM on September 3, 2017

Response by poster: Sorry, to clarify- it shows Ikea and a current timestamp. I've lost plenty of tile-d things in the past and it always shows "10:55 yesterday" or whatever timestamp of last contact was but this vascillates between "6 (or whatever) minutes ago" and "currently connected", never exceeding 15 minutes ago or so. That may be a bug, though, as I've never tracked a phone through tile before.
posted by mosst at 6:58 AM on September 3, 2017

Response by poster: Update: wow, success! I walked around the store pressing on the tile on my keys repeatedly to see if it would connect with Bluetooth and, amazingly, by the beds it did. Looks like it got to the staff stand but never made it to the lost and found, so it had network by wifi but not my cell network. I'm very happy, and now more skeptical of lost my iPhone as a tool. Score one for tile!
posted by mosst at 7:13 AM on September 3, 2017 [36 favorites]

I think tile uses Bluetooth, and those check ins were when someone else with tile installed on their phone was near yours.
posted by advicepig at 7:29 AM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just bought a couple Tiles, and as I understand it, every time someone with a Tile gets within range (~100ft for the regular ones, 200ft with the new ones) of other Tiles it updates the location of every tile it "sees". I would assume Ikea has a high frequency of Tile users, hence the location was constantly being constantly updated. And as far as Tile is concerned, your phone is also a Tile once it's connected to the Tile network.

Glad you found your phone!!
posted by cgg at 7:37 AM on September 3, 2017

I use Android phones and don't know about tiles even if they have that for Android, but I cannot help but have the visual of your phone is like a little lost toddler animal in a children's book constantly asking anyone who walked by (all the other tiles), "Are you my mother? Are you my mother?" The phone finally found its "mom" and the book ends happily ever after with you plugging in the phone to recharge it and say goodnight.
posted by AugustWest at 8:44 AM on September 3, 2017 [15 favorites]

I would imagine that Find your iPhone might have problems with "captive," wifi networks, which might explain why it was reporting offline without cel reception. Glad you found it anyway :)
posted by Alensin at 9:38 AM on September 3, 2017

posted by Oyéah at 10:27 AM on September 3, 2017

Response by poster: So a follow-up question: find my iPhone still seems to register my iPhone as offline no matter what I do. Right now, for instance, my phone is 100% online and connected to both wifi and my cell network and still the PC version of find my iPhone says that it's "offline". Location services are on and find my iPhone has access "when using" (the only option other than "never" on that menu, there is no "always".) Yesterday when I checked that the arrow next to "while using" on the settings menu was purple (I think) though now it's grey. I know I used find my iPhone a month or two ago and it worked fine, and no settings have changed that I can think of. Huh?

(Also, when I open the app on my phone, it says "This iPhone, location not available". I don't know if that's standard. GPS/location seems to work perfectly normally for other things, like google maps.
posted by mosst at 7:54 AM on September 5, 2017

Can you disable Find My iPhone and then reenable it? I know I had to remove FMI when I sold my last phone, so there is a way to do it.
posted by soelo at 8:53 AM on September 5, 2017

Response by poster: Final update: thanks to also cracking my screen and so taking a fun little jaunt to the Apple store (I cannot be trusted with this phone, I'm aware) it turns out there is a super-not-obvious place where my find my iPhone access was turned off: Settings > Name > iCloud > Find my iPhone. If access is turned off there (I must've turned it off from a past service appointment) it isn't obvious from the other parts of settings (location services OR anything within the the Find my iPhone app) (except that the locating doesn't actually, y'know, work). So, for any who are stymied in the future, try that! Preferably before the phone gets lost.
posted by mosst at 12:49 PM on September 18, 2017

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