It’s pretty hard to break into a locked iPhone without without knowing the passcode. But what if your iPhone is stolen while you’re using it? You can make a few changes to protect your iOS data from thieves, but most of those tricks won’t work if your phone is already unlocked. But if you own an Apple Watch, you can set up an automation that will help lock your iPhone as soon as you lose it.
Of course, while this automation is useful, it won’t bring back your stolen iPhone. You should treat it as a last resort to save your data. It works by setting up a Focus on your iPhone and activating it manually from your Apple Watch before your phone is out of Bluetooth range. The automation relies on being activated before thieves are too far away from you. Activating this takes a few taps on the watch, but once you do, it works reliably every single time. You should definitely test it a few times before relying on it in the moment.
First, you’re going to need to create a Focus on your iPhone. Go to Settings > Focus and tap the + button in the top-right corner. Create a custom Focus called Lock Screen. Next, open the Shortcuts app, go to the Automation tab, and tap Create Personal Automation.
Now scroll down and tap Lock Screen, followed by When Turning On, then tap Next. On the following page, select Add Action and use the search bar to find and add these actions:
- Lock Screen
- Aeroplane Mode (Set this to Turn Aeroplane Mode Off)
- Set Mobile Data (On)
- Set Bluetooth (On)
- Set Wi-Fi (On)
- Set Low Power Mode (On)
- Show Notification (add a custom message such as “This is a stolen iPhone. Please contact [email protected] to return it to the owner.”)
Hit Next, disable Ask Before Running, and tap Done.
You can add or remove some of these actions as you see fit. We’ve chosen these actions to ensure that your iPhone automatically connects to the internet, known wifi networks, and stays on for as long as possible.
How to quickly lock your iPhone using your Apple Watch if your phone is stolen
To run this automation, open Control Centre on your Apple Watch by swiping up from the bottom of the screen on (watchOS 9 and older) or by tapping the side button on watchOS 10. Tap the crescent moon icon and select Lock Screen, then tap On on the next page. This will immediately trigger the automation and will lock your iPhone. Your custom notification will also appear on screen.
From this point, the thief will have to find a way to get around Apple’s anti-theft features, such Find My and Activation Lock. It’ll be much harder for them to sell the device or to erase and use it for themselves.