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An AirTag broadcasts its unique ID to nearby iOS devices so that they can transmit its location via the Find My network.

Why can't an iPhone that has no mobile data access, after it runs out of data allowance for the month after having been lost, do the same to help to be found?

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Your iPhone can do that.

iPhone running iOS 15 or later can participate in Find My network and are locatable offline, even when the battery on the device has drained.

Go to Settings app and tap on your name shown as the first item, and navigate to Find My → Find My iPhone and turn on Find My Network.

Find My iPhone setting screen on iPhone

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  • I have an iPhone 12 running iOS 16.1 and I don't have these options at all. I see only Find My iPhone, My Location and the option to Share My Location.
    – IconDaemon
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 2:02
  • It's inside that top Find My iPhone On>
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 8:07
  • How, technologically, does it manage to do that, even when the battery is drained? Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 15:04
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    @JohnJacobJingle The device broadcasts it's location information in a secure manner via Bluetooth low energy which can be picked up by a nearby iOS device. The iOS device in turn can relay this tiny amount of information about the device location to iCloud servers by making it piggyback atop other packets. The information is shared in a private manner without revealing the identity of the device or Apple ID to the transmitting device. This neat trick is possible due to vast network of active Apple devices that are participant in Find My network.
    – Nimesh Neema
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 15:09

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