What happens if I find a locked iPhone?

What should I do if I find a locked iPhone?

If you find a locked iPhone, the ethical thing to do is to try and return it to its rightful owner. Here are some steps you can take:

  • See if there are any contact details on the lock screen – Many people display a message with their name and phone number on the lock screen in case their phone gets lost. If you see something like this, you can call or message the owner.
  • Take the phone to an Apple store or carrier store – Employees there may be able to look up the owner’s contact details from the iPhone’s serial number and get in touch with them.
  • Ask Siri “Who owns this iPhone?” – If the owner has entered their contact details correctly into Siri, this can bring up their name, email, phone number, etc.
  • Post about it on social media – Post on local Facebook groups or Nextdoor mentioning you’ve found an iPhone and provide any identifying details about it (color, case, keychain, etc). The owner may see your post.
  • Report it to the police – Take the iPhone to your nearest police station. They should be able to contact the registered owner if it’s been reported lost or stolen.

If after a few days no one claims the iPhone, you may want to factory reset it. This will allow you or someone else to use it as a clean device. However, remember that the original owner could still potentially track it down and claim it back based on the serial number.

What information can I access on a locked iPhone?

On a locked iPhone with no passcode entered, you have access to limited data and functions. Here’s what you can access on a locked iPhone:

  • Lock screen notifications – You can view notifications that appear on the lock screen, such as text messages, emails, news updates and more. However, you can’t open or respond to them.
  • Control Center – You can access the Control Center by swiping down from top right corner. This lets you toggle settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, airplane mode, flashlight, calculator, camera etc.
  • Emergency call – You can make an emergency call on a locked iPhone by tapping on the Emergency button on the passcode screen and dialing the number.
  • Medical ID – If the owner has set up a Medical ID, you can access it from the lock screen by tapping the Emergency button and selecting Medical ID. This provides info like the user’s medical conditions, medications, emergency contacts etc.
  • Siri – You can use voice commands to ask Siri questions or request actions like “Call mom” or “What’s today’s weather?” Siri does not reveal personal data of the owner.
  • Battery charging – You can of course charge a locked iPhone by plugging it into a charger.

Apart from these functions, you can’t access any apps, photos, emails, messages or personal data on a locked iPhone without entering the correct passcode. The device remains secure.

Can I unlock or reset a locked iPhone?

There are a few options if you want to unlock or reset a locked iPhone:

  • Enter the passcode – If you know the passcode, you can unlock the iPhone and access all its data and functions.
  • Ask Siri – Say “Hey Siri, unlock iPhone” and Siri will remove the passcode if the owner has previously authorized it and the device recognizes your voice.
  • Use Screen Time passcode – If Screen Time parental controls are on, you may be able to use this simpler passcode to unlock the device.
  • Force restart – A force restart may bypass the passcode and unlock the phone if there are no hardware or software protections enabled like Find My iPhone.
  • Erase with Find My iPhone – If Find My iPhone is enabled, the registered owner can remotely wipe and erase the device, removing any passcode.
  • Erase with iTunes – Connecting a locked iPhone to a PC/Mac with iTunes will allow you to erase the device and remove any passcodes after entering the device passcode.
  • Take to Apple store – Apple stores can unlock an iPhone with proof of ownership, though there may be a fee involved.

However, unlocking someone else’s iPhone without their consent raises legal issues regarding hacking, privacy and theft. So return the device if possible.

What happens if I try guessing the passcode?

You won’t be able to access a locked iPhone by simply guessing the passcode, thanks to security mechanisms in place:

  • Limited attempts – After 10 wrong passcode entries, you will be locked out for 1 minute. Subsequent failures rapidly increase this timeout period.
  • Data wipe – After 10 consecutive failed passcode attempts, by default, the iPhone will get erased and all data will be deleted. This serves as a theft deterrent.
  • Custom timeouts – The owner can customize the number of attempts before timeout/wipe. The timeouts can be specified up to 1 hour.
  • USB restricted – Connecting a locked iPhone to a PC and entering multiple passcode attempts can trigger USB Restricted Mode. This disables any data transfer over the Lightning port.
  • Restore via iTunes – Trying multiple passcodes and failing may require connecting the device to iTunes and restoring it completely before you can use it again.

So random guessing of passcodes is ineffective. It will just lead to frustrating timeouts or the device getting wiped after too many failed attempts.

What if I forgot my own iPhone passcode?

If you forgot your passcode for your own iPhone, here are some options to regain access:

  • Ask Siri – If you have enabled the Siri unlock option, you can simply ask Siri to unlock your phone.
  • Screen Time passcode – Use your 4-digit Screen Time passcode if you have set up parental controls.
  • Recovery Key – Access your iCloud account Recovery Key to unlock the device remotely.
  • Trusted device – Use your Apple Watch or another trusted device paired to your iPhone to unlock it.
  • iTunes restore – Connect the device to iTunes on a trusted PC or Mac to erase and restore it, removing the forgotten passcode.
  • Apple Store – Make a Genius Bar appointment for professional assistance to unlock your iPhone.
  • Third party tools – As a last resort, specialized mobile service technicians use advanced tools to bypass or reset iPhone passcodes.

Avoid passcode guessing as it could wipe your device. Use reliable methods like the iCloud Recovery Key or take it to Apple for official passcode removal assistance.

What happens if I find a locked iPhone and try using it?

If you find a locked iPhone, using it without authorization could lead to:

  • No access – You will not be able to actually use the iPhone beyond the lock screen, as it remains protected without the passcode.
  • Device wipe – Multiple passcode attempts may trigger the data wipe security feature, erasing the entire device.
  • Tracked location – The owner can track the device location through Find My iPhone.
  • Bricked device – Entering the wrong Apple ID during setup may permanently disable the iPhone.
  • Legal issues – Using someone else’s iPhone without consent raises legal concerns like copyright violation and theft.
  • Charges for service – Apple may charge a fee if you need to bring the device into a store for unlocking assistance.
  • No reward – Even if you return the device, the owner is not obligated to compensate you beyond thanks.

Rather than using a locked iPhone you find, the recommended approach is to follow the steps outlined earlier to get it back to its owner. This avoids any issues down the line.

What should I do if I find an unlocked iPhone?

If you find an iPhone that is already unlocked:

  • Notify the owner – Call or text contacts that are visible on the screen or ask Siri “Who owns this iPhone?” to notify the owner.
  • View Medical ID – Check the Emergency Medical ID on the lock screen for emergency contact details.
  • Return to venue – If found at a venue, leave it with lost and found or staff to contact the owner.
  • Take it to authorities – Drop it off at the nearest police station so they can trace the owner.
  • Post on social media – Share that you found an unlocked iPhone on local community groups to help locate the owner.
  • Don’t snoop – Avoid the temptation to snoop through an unlocked iPhone. Respect the owner’s privacy.
  • Back it up – Before turning it off, backup any data that could help identify the owner, like phone numbers.
  • Power off – Power off the iPhone to protect any personal data until returned to its owner.

Return it promptly, as the owner may still have tracking enabled to locate a lost device. Avoid handling an unlocked iPhone found in public beyond trying to return it.

What legal rights do I have to an iPhone I find?

The laws regarding your legal rights to a found iPhone vary by location, but some general principles apply:

  • No ownership – Finding an iPhone does not typically give you ownership or permanent rights to the device.
  • Obligation to return – You generally have an ethical and legal obligation to return lost property like an iPhone to its rightful owner.
  • Theft if keeping – Keeping or using a found iPhone without trying to locate the owner could constitute theft or conversion.
  • Proof of ownership – If the owner can’t be located after diligent efforts, you may need to prove how you acquired the iPhone to legally keep or sell it.
  • Finder’s laws – Some locations have “finder’s laws” that let you keep unclaimed property after a waiting period, if you report it to authorities first.
  • Good faith required – You must demonstrate good faith efforts to find the iPhone’s owner to have any legal claim to an abandoned device.
  • No reward required – While some owners do reward finders, they aren’t legally required to compensate you.

So while finders aren’t strictly entitled to found iPhones, following certain rules can establish legal rights if it remains unclaimed. But it’s still wisest to return it if possible.

What should I do if I find an iPhone and want to keep it?

While it’s not recommended, if you do wish to keep a found iPhone, take these precautions:

  • Document efforts – Keep detailed records of all attempts made to contact the owner, like calls, texts, fliers posted, police reports filed, etc.
  • Follow finder’s laws – Learn your local “finder’s laws” and follow all requirements such as reporting it as found property, waiting periods, etc.
  • Consult authorities – Speak to the police about the rules and procedures for keeping unclaimed found property in your jurisdiction.
  • Reset and clean – To use it yourself, completely wipe the iPhone and reset to factory settings to remove any of the owner’s information.
  • Proof of acquisition – Keep evidence like police reports and documentation of your finder’s due diligence for proof of legal acquisition.
  • Remove tracking – Disable any activation lock and remove Apple ID to prevent the original owner from tracking it.
  • Beware risks – Recognize legal risks if the original owner eventually surfaces and claims their lost device.

Keeping a found iPhone has risks, even if done legally. When in doubt, it’s safest to turn it over to authorities to locate the real owner.


Finding a lost iPhone brings unique challenges and responsibilities. While unusable in its locked state, it likely contains sensitive personal information of the owner. Making a good faith effort to locate them, like contacting their visible emergency contacts or turning it in to the police, can protect you legally if the device ultimately remains unclaimed. Still, claiming a found iPhone as your own has ethical and legal pitfalls in most cases. So if no owner turns up after diligent attempts, surrendering it to authorities for proper processing is generally the wisest and safest choice for any discovered missing device.

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