iOS 7 Preview: Activation Lock makes Find my iPhone more foolproof

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Apple introduced Find My iPhone back in 2010 as a way for iOS users to locate their device in case it was lost or stolen. It also offers an easy method to remotely delete all the data on your device to protect sensitive information.

They’ve quite a few success stories reported in the media about people using the service to find their lost or stolen devices.

Unfortunately, it had a major weakness, it was very easy for someone to erase and restore the device as a new device, and use it again.
Apple has addressed this limitation with a new feature called Activation Lock in iOS 7, that ties your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with your Apple ID. Apple describes the new changes in Find My iPhone service in iOS 7 as follows:
Losing your iPhone feels lousy. Thankfully, Find My iPhone can help you get it back. But if it looks like that’s not going to happen, new security features in iOS 7 make it harder for anyone who’s not you to use or sell your device. Now turning off Find My iPhone or erasing your device requires your Apple ID and password. Find My iPhone can also continue to display a custom message, even after your device is erased. And your Apple ID and password are required before anyone can reactivate it. Which means your iPhone is still your iPhone. No matter where it is.
Here’s what’s new in Find My iPhone in iOS 7:
  • The user interface of the Find my iPhone app has been redesigned to match iOS 7 design language.
ios7-findmyiphone
  • There isn’t a new setting to enable or disable Activation Lock, the feature has been integrated with Find my iPhone.
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  • In iOS 7, if Find my iPhone is enabled (Settings > iCloud -> Find my iPhone), it won’t be possible to turn it off without entering the Apple ID password. This is to ensure that someone who has access to your iPhone, cannot disable it without your knowledge.
  • You also can’t restore the device if Find my iPhone is enabled. iTunes will inform you that the device cannot be restored as Find my iPhone is on. So the only way to restore it is to first turn off Find my iPhone, which as we mentioned earlier, will prompt you to enter the Apple ID password.
  • If someone tries to erase all the content and settings from the device via the Settings app, he or she will be prompted to enter the Apple ID password.
  • You can restore the device by putting it in DFU or recovery mode when it is Lost mode, however after restoring your device, the person will be prompted to enter the Apple ID and password, so it won’t be possible to use the device.
  • In iOS 7, if you remotely wipe the data on your lost or stolen device using Find my iPhone, you will still be able to display the custom message with your phone number on the Lock screen. iTunes will also display this message when you connect the device to a computer running iTunes.
  • If you are lucky to get your device back, you can reactive it by entering your Apple ID and password, and restore it using iCloud or iTunes if you had remotely wiped the data.
find_my_iphone_erase_screen
  • It is however possible for someone to turn off the device when it is Lost mode, so someone can still prevent the device from being tracked. 
It doesn’t offer features such as the ability to take a photo remotely, which could be handy in finding the person who stole your iPhone, that is possible using jailbreak tweaks like iCaughtU Pro. It also doesn’t record audio from the microphone, or give you remote access to the recent call list, which is available on Android apps like CerberusBut with features like Activation lock, Apple has made it next to impossible for someone to use your device without entering your Apple ID and password (another reason to use a strong password).
At the end of the day, no system is foolproof, but these changes should deter thieves from stealing iOS devices. Government officials also seem to be happy with the improvements made in combating smartphone theft.
Find my iPhone with Activation Lock will be available when iOS 7 is released next month.
Update:
This post was updated based on information provided by Alan and Zangpakto. Thanks for the tip!
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