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My iPhone got stolen about 3 months ago on an airplane in the middle of the sky. It was on airplane mode, and after landed, I realized that my phone had been stolen so I logged in to my iCloud to turn on Lost mode and to track location. However back then it did not appear on Find My Device!

Today, 3 months later, it just notified me that my lost iPhone has been located and put in lost mode! Does this mean that the thief has bypassed the passcode and put on Wi-Fi? Or did the thief restore the phone and it still had my ID Apple so it notified me? I hope it is the second option because I would be doomed if the thief could bypass my passcode!

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    Did you have access to the Control Center when locked disabled? If you didn't then someone can turn off airplane mode by opening the control centre while it's locked
    – Jonathan.
    Oct 13, 2023 at 16:43
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    My phone did have access to the control center when locked, they can turn off airplane mode. I haven't thought of that!
    – Daniel
    Oct 13, 2023 at 19:46
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    The iPhone 15 explicitly says that even if turned off it will still respond to the "find my" network. Oct 15, 2023 at 9:31

2 Answers 2

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Today, 3 months later (of the loss); it just notified me that my lost iPhone has been located and put in lost mode!

Even if there isn't any Internet connection at your device's last location, Find My will use an innovative "Apple Network" comprised of countless Apple devices owned by other Apple users.

Does this mean that the thief has bypassed the passcode and put on Wi-Fi? Or did the thief restore the phone and it still had my ID Apple so it notified me?

Neither. It means Apple was able to reach the device and lock it down per your instructions/policy.

It is here where you can further lock down your phone, wipe it, or supply the geolocation information to the authorities for recovery.

The good news here is Apple prescribes exactly what you should do in the event you lose access to your device. Hopefully with the device found, you can get it back unscathed.

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    If this was actually the answer then you'd expect it to have notified a few days later, not 3 months later. The more likely answer seems to be that the phone was recently connected to a WiFi network - maybe that's possible without bypassing the phone - or that the phone was actually bypassed. There are a handful of devices that can do that, and it wouldn't be surprising if organised crime had access to at least some that are being used systematically in a factory of stolen devices. Oct 13, 2023 at 15:34
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    @HashimAziz Unless the phone had been powered off once stolen, and just now they got around to powering it back on
    – StalePhish
    Oct 13, 2023 at 17:52
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    I believe that my phone got powered off, because yesterday when the location popped up, it was in another country haha. And the flight I took 3 months ago was toward the country I am currently in now
    – Daniel
    Oct 13, 2023 at 19:37
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    Airplane mode can be switched on/off from the lock screen, without having to log in. That is likely what happened. If it is not in Airplane mode, then it can communicate with other Apple devices.
    – fishinear
    Oct 15, 2023 at 19:57
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    Maybe it never got stolen but fell somehow down in the airplane. There is a good chance that it was not found right away by Find My Device since there was nothing around. Afterwards the battery died and it did a few trips until someone found it finally and decided to give it a charge.
    – Zibelas
    Oct 16, 2023 at 6:03
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If I understand correctly, the Find My network may be able to locate your iPhone if it's not connected to any cellular or WiFi network, but it won't be able to turn on Lost Mode. This is because Find My depend on the lost phone sending out pings which are picked up by other Apple devices nearby and then reported to Apple servers, but there should be no mechanism for these other Apple devices to tell the lost phone to go into Lost Mode.

If the lost phone has actually went into Lost Mode, then it means the phone actively checked in to Apple servers, and Apple told it to go into Lost Mode. It could be because someone turned Airplane Mode off via the Control Center, which does not require the phone to be unlocked, and the phone connected to cellular networks. However, since you said the phone is now in another country, your phone would have to have roaming data access for this to be possible. Is your lost SIM card still active, and does it have roaming data access?

Alternatively, it could be because someone restored the phone via DFU mode (this restores factory settings and wipes storage contents), and is attempting to activate it. During activation, the phone contacts Apple servers, which then ordered it to go into Lost Mode. If this is the case then your data is safe (because it has already been wiped), and whoever has possession of this phone cannot complete activation and use the phone, as long as you don't remove this phone from you Apple account. However, be on the lookout for phishing attempts on your Apple account credentials, because the possessor may want to steal your password in order to remove the activation lock.

In any case, do not remove the lost iPhone from your Apple account unless it returned into your hands.

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