iCloud 101: Find My Friends app gets iOS 6 update

There have been several sensational stories about how people have been able to recover lost or stolen devices using the iCloud-based “Find My iPhone” service on their Apple(s AAPL) devices. This same iCloud service using an app with a slightly different name, “Find My Friends,” can also be used to keep track of where your family and friends are located.  In reality, you are just tracking the Apple device they are carrying with them.  Apple recently recently released iOS 6; here is a look at how those updates have improved the Find My Friends app.

Invite friends

The first thing you need to do is to set up each device’s Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac service via an iCloud account on the device. If you’re not sure how to do that, we have outlined the steps in a previous post. After you follow those steps, it is simply a matter of sending and accepting invitations from your friends:

  • Download Apple’s Find My Friends app (Universal Free) from the App Store.
  • Launch the app and log into your iCloud account.
  • From the Requests tab, tap on the Add Friends button to invite your iCloud friends.

Inviting FriendsOnce your friends accept the invitations, they will have a chance to reciprocate the invitation and ask if they can in turn follow you.  When you finally have your list of friends established, each time you launch the app, it will retrieve their latest location from iCloud and pinpoint their location on the map.

Track friends temporarily

Sometimes you may want to know where someone is located, but you do not want to follow them all of the time — and you certainly do not what them to follow you all of the time.  In such cases, you can set up a temporary arrangement.  The steps are similar to setting up a permanent follower:

  • Launch the app and log into your iCloud account.
  • From the Temporary tab, tap on the Invite Friends button to invite your iCloud friends.
  • Set the date and time that you want this temporary arrangement to end.

Temporary Friends

This will allow you to keep track of your friends when you plan a particular event together, or when you need to pick them up from the airport, as an example.  They will be located along side your list of permanent friends.  If your followed friends list gets to be too long, you can edit the list and set up your favorites, which will always display at the top of the list.

Geofence friends

As great as this service is, constantly checking the app to see how close one of your friends is to a particular location can become a tedious and repetitive task.  With the iOS 6 update, you can now be notified when your friend arrives at or leaves a particular location.  To set up this notification, do the following:

  • Launch the app and log into your iCloud account.
  • From the Friends tab, tap on the friend for whom  you want to set up a notification.
  • In the top right corner of the screen, tap on the Notify Me button.
  • Choose either leaving or arriving, and set the address of the location.

Geofencing Friends

Hide from your friends

You may notice that you cannot locate your friends all of the time with the app.  This is because they don’t have an internet connection, they could not establish a location, or they have turned off the service and decided to “hide” from all of their friends.  You too can turn off this ability and hide from your friends and prevent them from tracking you by performing the following steps:

  • Launch the app and log into your iCloud account.
  • From the Me tab, switch on/off the “Hide from Followers” setting.

Account Settings You don’t have to think of this as a covert  setting. It may be that you keep track of your business partners during the day on a company-owned device, and in the off hours you don’t need to know where they are located for privacy reasons.  You can also use the account settings located on the Me tab to establish which of your iOS devices is currently publishing your location information to your friends. You may set up your iPad to publish your location information during the day when you are at work, and your iPhone to do the same at night when you are home. One of the other convenient features that Apple has added with the iOS 6 update is the ability to forgo the iCloud password when you have a passcode established on your device.  This allows for much faster access to your friends’ location information.  Overall, the enhanced features offered with the iOS 6 upgrade has turned what was once a novelty feature on the iPhone into a useful tool across a wide range of Apple devices.