I've owned an iPhone of one kind or another since roughly 2008 — and yet I'm only now realizing that I've barely been scratching the surface in terms of how I've been using it. I have the recent release of iOS9 to thank for spurring my interest in all these tips and tricks I have hitherto left untapped, largely because it has so many new and/or improved features. Case in point: Find My Friends. Exactly what is Find My Friends? Well, what it isn't, is new — the very first version of it launched in October of 2011 — but iOS9 marks the first time it has been automatically included as a feature of the operating system. (Previously, it had only been available as a standalone app which could be acquired from the iTunes App store.) Neat-o, right?
Like Find My iPhone, Find My Friends does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: It uses your phone's GPS to identify where in the world you are so your friends can find you if they need to. The myriad ways one might use it are vast — from trying to find your pal in a crowded location to functioning as a safety measure when you're on a blind date with someone — although it does have a few limitations: It only works on iPhones, meaning that you can't track your Android-using pals with it; and you have to have either iOS8 (for the standalone app to work) or iOS9 (to take advantage of it as a built-in feature). But of course, you don't have to use it if you don't want to; it's opt-in only, so no, everyone and their uncle will not be able to follow you wherever you go without your consent.
If you, like me, have only just discovered about the existence of Find My Friends, here's the lowdown on how it all works.
Where Can I Find It?
In two places: One, buried a little bit in the “Settings” menu, which allows you to turn it on and off; and two, as a widget in the pull-down menu you can access from any screen on your iPhone that allows you to use it once you've enabled it (just swipe down from the top of the screen and voila — there it is). Going to “Settings,” then “Privacy,” then “Location Services” lets you turn it on or off; to enable it, first toggle the “Location Services” switch on, then scroll down to “Find Friends,” tap it, and set it to allow location access “While Using the App.”
To stick the widget in the pull-down menu you can access from anywhere on your phone, scroll down until you see some tiny type that tells you how many widgets you have available. Tap it, then select Find Friends. The widget should now appear in the pull-down menu.
How Do I Use It?
In order for Find My Friends to be able to work its magic, you need to give it some friends to… well, find. To do so, tap “Add Friends” from the pull-down menu widget — this will bring up a map with the word “Add” in the upper right hand corner. Tap “Add,” then input either the name of one of your contacts or an email address of a friend. Find My Friends will send that person a request — if they accept and share their location with you, you'll be able to see them on the map. However, it's worth noting that just because you can see them on the map doesn't mean they can see you on it — they also have to send a request, which you them must accept in order for them to be able to track your location. If you accept a request from someone you're not already following, though, the app automatically sends out a request from you to them, streamlining the whole process.
Important note: Find My Friends shares your location whenever one of your buddies asks to see it, but does not transmit your location on a regular interval (that is, it's not just constantly broadcasting anyone's location — someone else has to ask to see a friend's location first).
How Do I Stop It From Sharing My Location?
Don't want to share your location anymore? Easy: Tap the “Me” banner at the bottom of the map screen, then toggle the “Share My Location” switch to the off position. You'll still be able to see where your friends are; but, if your friends try to locate you, all they'll see is a message stating, “Location Not Available.”
Additionally, if you go into the regular iOS “Settings” menu, then “Privacy,” then “Location Services,” you can set Find Friends to “Never” allow location access. This will essentially disable Find My Friends entirely.
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