September 22, 2012, 7:40 AM — As part of Apple's release day onslaught, its two location-based iOS apps have been updated--and what nice updates they are. Find My Friends gets geofencing capabilities, allowing users to get notifications when a contact has entered or left a location, and friend suggestions; Find My iPhone gains a new Lost Mode for finding missing devices more easily and Forever Login, which keeps you logged into Find My iPhone if your iCloud account is associated with your device.
Find My Friends gets fancy fences
First debuted alongside iOS 5, Find My Friends lets you know where your friends and family are at any given time, either perpetually or for a specifically delimited time. The app's new update builds upon this theme, leveraging location geofencing so that you not only can find out where your friends are--but when they leave or arrive at a certain place.
[ Free download: How to craft a mobile-application strategy ]
The new feature, Notify Me, lets you set up an alert for when your friend arrives or leaves a certain address. You can get to it by tapping on an individual contact and tapping the Notify Me button; from there, choose whether you want the alert to fire when they enter or exit, and at what address. This is surprisingly useful for timing meetups with friends: If you're walking distance from a restaurant and your other friends are driving, you can set a geofence at a stoplight several blocks away; when they go through it, you'll get a notification and can start walking. (Also helpful, I've found, for timing carpool rides to work.) This feature only works on contacts who have upgraded their app to the latest version of Find My Friends and are running iOS 5 or later.
You can also flip this feature around and notify others of your location--either currently, or when you leave or arrive somewhere. Unlike Notify Me, you can send these notifications to anyone--whether they have Find My Friends installed or not. If your contact isn't using Find My Friends, they'll receive an email with your current location (or when you left or arrived); if they are, they'll get an alert from the app.
These notifications can also be set up as repeating alerts; if you want your significant other to know when you leave work, for instance, you can set up a notification to ping them every time you do. (There's no specification beyond Repeat Every Time, unfortunately, so you can't set it up at time intervals.)
Geofencing isn't entirely one-sided: You can see when your friend has put a notification on you, though you can't remove them. Head to the Me tab to see if you've been geofenced; if you have, the outline of the Location Services arrow appears next to their name. You can tap their name to see what they're tracking, though there appears to be no way to get rid of the geofence currently without removing them as a follower altogether. (You can hide your location from followers temporarily by enabling the switch in the Me tab, but that doesn't wipe out the geofence--only ignores it while you're hidden.)
As always, while these features are nifty for those you trust with your location, you might not want to let every person you met at a conference have permanent access; for those, we recommend using the app's Temporary Event feature, which lets you set geofences and track location for a limited amount of time.
Find My Friends's last new perk in this update is Friend Suggestions; now, when you tap the Add Friends button, a pop-up window will hover below the To field with the email addresses of iCloud contacts you haven't added to Find My Friends. (On the iPhone, it's a separate Friend Suggestions button.)
Little lost iPhone
These days, losing a device is almost as traumatic as losing your wallet. Thankfully, Find My iPhone exists to ease your panic and help you find your poor missing devices. You enable the feature itself on your devices via the Settings app; the Find My iPhone app is here to help you track any of those devices that you've lost. (If you only have one iOS device and you've lost it, you can head to iCloud.com.
The latest update to Apple's device-tracker app features a new, streamlined interface along with a new perk for missing iOS devices: Lost Mode. Enable Lost Mode on your gadget, and it will lock itself and display a phone number and a message on the screen. Your lock screen wallpaper is replaced with Apple's grey linen texture, and the message and number displays on-screen with a big green Call button.
But just in case your device gets, say, thrown in a dump truck and zooms around town, Lost Mode will make a map of its movements that you can view on using grey pins and an orange dotted map. You can see your device's current battery level, too. (If you tell it to, the app will also send you email updates as the device moves.)
Once your phone has been unlocked, or you've disabled Lost Mode from the app or iCloud.com, it returns to its normal state and stops tracking movement.