Find My Friends for iOS 7 review
Now, Find My Friends may not be Apple's most popular app these days, but it has had a rather pleasant make-over following the release of iOS 7. So, for those still interested in stalking their friends, checking up on their wife's whereabouts and making sure they don't end up in the same pub as their dad, here's our review of the new version of Apple's friend-tracking app.
What can I use Find My Friends for?
Despite our mockery, there are some really practical uses for Find My Friends, which was initially launched with iOS 5 in 2011 and is now in version 3.0. If, for example, parents want to keep track of where their children are, it could be a really useful app.
Apple's own examples include checking whether your sibling from Australia has made it past baggage claim, or finding the quickest route to a surprise party while avoiding running into the birthday girl.
Of course, in order to achieve these things, those siblings and friends will need to own an iOS device running iOS 7 or later. They'll also need to have an iCloud account, an internet connection and have their location set to visible, so you'll all need to agree not to turn location settings off, and not to hide your location. Additionally, they'll need to be signed in to the Find My Friends app on the device being located.
One occasion when Find My Friends actually did come in quite useful was when extreme train delays meant a slow and tiresome journey to work. Instead of sending regular text updates to my colleagues, they could simply take a look at Find My Friends and track my progress.
Others we've spoken to use Find My Friends to find out whether their parents are "home for a natter" or to check whether their partner has left the office and they need to put dinner on. (Thanks @beckiscott).
Another says that it's used a lot among the family to check each other's whereabouts as it's less obtrusive than calling. (Thanks @garethllewellyn).
Alternatively, one of our readers uses the app to see when his wife will come so that he knows when to turn the PlayStation off and pretend to be cooking dinner. (We hope your wife doesn't read this @pocketpaulUK).
Above: You'll appear as a blue dot on in the Find My Friends app, while iPhone contacts with pictures associated will show up in a small circle, and those without pictures will have their initials instead.
How well does Find My Friends work?
Thankfully, Find My Friends can be really accurate – we found that we could pinpoint almost the exact location of our friends on most occasions.
Apple has kept other useful features, too. You can set up automatic notifications to let you know when your children leave school, for example, thanks to geofencing capabilities in the Notify Me tool.
You can also set notifications that alert others to your whereabouts. If you want to let your partner know when you leave somewhere, or when you arrive somewhere, for instance. This could be handy if you need picking up from the train station, as you could set the notification to a location a few stops away to let your ride know when to leave.
This even works when the recipient of the notification doesn't have Find My Friends. Instead, that contact will receive an email alerting them to your location, handy if that contact doesn't have an iOS device.
If you want this notification to be sent on a regular basis, you can set up repeating alerts, too.
You can also change the size of the area you want to be notified about. So if you often go for a wander at lunch time, you can set the area to be a larger than just the office so your contact doesn't get an alert to say you've left while you're on your lunch break.
By going into the Notifications menu, you can see whether anyone has set up a notification for you. Unfortunately, though, you can't turn off that notification, and it won't ask for your permission or notify you when they've set it up. You can, of course, hide your location, but as soon as you turn your location back on your friend's notification will still be there.
There's also the ability to set up temporary sharing, which means sharing your location with someone for a period of time specified by you. This feature is ideal for times when Find My Friends is useful but the people you need to find aren't close friends or relatives. You can choose to share your location for just half an hour if you want to, or for longer, a week perhaps.
The ability to label locations, add up to 50 friends and set parental restrictions (through the iPhone or iPad's settings menu) add further value to the app.
Plus, your location will only be sent from your device when one of your followers requests to see your location, so your battery life should stay intact (unless you have a friend that's requesting to see your location every minute, of course).
Should I get Find My Friends?
Overall, Find My Friends 3 is a well-designed iOS 7-esque app that does its job brilliantly. While it may not be for everyone, those who do have a use for it will find it works like a charm.
There are some downfalls, such as the need for an internet connection, but there's not much Apple can do about that. In all out tests it was adequately accurate, and unless you're often out and about in places you're not supposed to be, you'll find it's a joy to use.
After revisiting Find My Friends in its new version 3 form for iOS 7, and talking to those who use it, we can see it can be a useful tool on many occasions and for many different types of people. For those that haven't tried it, it's free to download and it's worth exploring. Who knows, you might discover a use for it that you'd never thought of before.