Imagine, if you will, a train journey from London to Avignon, earlier this week. I was on holiday (yes, it was great, thanks for asking). All had gone swimmingly, from the Eurostar which whisked me from St Pancras International to Lille in just over 90 minutes, a pleasant lunch in Lille and then the Train Grand Vitesse from Lille to Avignon.
I know, I thought, after watching a movie on my iPad Air, audio track shared with companion’s AirPods, I’ll test out the Find My app. When I get off the train, I’ll squirrel the iPad between the seats so nobody can see it, and see what happens.
No, of course I didn’t. I accidentally left the tablet under my seat so deeply buried that my hasty disembarkation hid it from me.
Cut to two days later, literally the first time I needed my iPad again, and a frantic search of my luggage led me to the conclusion I’d lost it.
I launched the Find My app and put the iPad in Lost mode so anyone coming across it would see an onscreen message asking them to call me. Within minutes, I had an email saying the iPad and its Magic Keyboard had been found.
Not, you understand by some kind passer-by, but by the miracle of Find My. You’ll know this, but just in case: Find My works in a very clever way. When a device such as an iPhone, iPad or AirTag is in Lost mode, it pings passing Apple devices (silently and secretly), politely asking them to send a message to its owner that this is its location, so they can come and rescue them, and soon, please. This message is calmer and less pitiable than I made it sound, and the owners of the other devices know nothing about the message-passing. This is machine-to-machine only; the Internet of Things at its purest.
Find My had pinpointed the location of my missing device as being at Marseilles, the final destination of the train I’d been on. I looked at the map and it appeared to be in the station, though it was hard to know if it was at the Lost Property office (oh, please), in a railway siding or the private home of some nefarious person who’d picked it up.
Let’s remember that this was a full two days after I’d depleted the battery (Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is a longish movie and can take its toll), but there was my iPad, pluckily reaching out to any nearby Apple gizmo.
I checked in on it several more times during the day but as Marseille was 60 miles away, I could only send good thoughts and hope the battery would hold out.
Actually, Apple, here’s a feature request: how about the facility to send a message to a lost device, along the lines of “Stay calm, buddy, I’m coming to get you.”
The next day, the battery was too weak to update the location but I boarded the TGV to Marseille and 36 minutes later was at the Objets Trouvee office. Looking at my screen grab, that office is, I would say, within 10 feet of the location the iPad was reporting.
I described the tablet in broken schoolboy French: “Je pense que mon iPad est ici parce que mon app…” before the gentleman behind the counter lost interest and wandered off to the back room. He returned, saying, “Bleu?”. “Mais oui,” I jubilantly replied, “avec un, er, keyboard blanche.”
A few moments, a sharing of a passport, signing of a document and payment (10 euros, cash preferred) and we were reunited. By this time, the battery was down to 4%, so not enough to share its location, but enough to turn it on in case I needed to prove it was mine.
Of course, the real hero here was the person who handed the iPad in instead of pocketing the $1,200-value device, including the Magic Keyboard. Thank you, whoever you were.
But the Find My system is great: it gave me considerable peace of mind seeing the iPad stayed in one place, knowing its place on the map indicated it was probably okay.
A happy ending, then. Apple’s Find My system worked perfectly, and is still slightly mind-blowing in its seamless, effortless performance.