How to improve your chances of recovering a lost iPad or iPod Touch

iPhones are easily tracked, but what happens when your tablet or Touch goes missing? Here are four ways that might help you find it.

A StuffBak sticker may be just the incentive someone needs to return you lost iDevice.
A StuffBak sticker may be just the incentive someone needs to return you lost iDevice. StuffBak

See if this sounds familiar: "I can't find my iPod!"

Then you must have kids. If I had a nickel for every time one of my offspring said those exact words, well, I'd be sitting on one massive pile of nickels.

Of course, anyone can lose an iPod; the trick is getting it back. The same goes for iPads, but because they're larger, they're less likely to go missing. iPads usually don't slip between couch cushions or under minivan seats (which, incidentally, are among the places my kids' devices spent days or even weeks before being discovered).

iPhones are different; they're pretty easy to track thanks to the Find My iPhone app. But an iPod Touch and Wi-Fi-only iPad lack cellular-assisted positioning, so you can't rely solely on that. Thankfully, there are a few ways to help these lost devices find their way home. All it takes is a little prep work.

1. Slap on a StuffBak sticker. Assuming someone finds your lost iPod or iPad, you want to make it as easy (and cost-effective) as possible for them to return it -- and maybe even provide a little incentive.

StuffBak makes specially coded stickers you can affix to your device. Each one reads "Reward For Return" and includes both a Web address and toll-free number the finder can use to arrange return. The built-in reward is a pack of StuffBak stickers, but you can add a cash reward if you so choose.

You can buy the stickers individually, but they're cheaper in packs. A basic six-sticker kit, for example, costs $19.95.

Obviously these won't guarantee the return of a found device, but they definitely make it easier (and more rewarding) for honest finders to do the right thing.

Take two minutes to create a contact like this one. It can't hurt.
Take a couple minutes to create a contact like this one. It can't hurt. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

2. Install an "I'm Lost!" app. Don't want to spend any money up front? At least make it easier for an honest person to track you down. An app like iRewardU provides basic contact information and offers a reward for return of the device. It also lets you create a custom wallpaper containing any information you want. (See No. 4 below.)

Put the app on your Home screen to make it as visible as possible, perhaps even in one of the upper corners or down in the toolbar.

3. Add an "If Found" entry to your address book. While there's no guarantee someone who finds your device will even bother looking in your address book (it's not a phone, after all), this is all about improving your chances of recovery. And that means adding an "If Found" entry to your contact list.

Who could resist a lock-screen plea like this one?
Who could resist a lock-screen plea like this one? Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Specifically, create a new contact and name it "AAA If Found" (to insure it appears at the very top of your list). Then include your phone number and perhaps even a note with more detailed "please return to" instructions.

4. Use recovery-minded wallpaper. If you typically lock your device, the last two suggestions won't do you much good. This one will: Create a lock-screen wallpaper that includes contact information.

For example, you could write your name and phone number on a piece of paper, take a snapshot of that paper with your device, then use that snapshot as your lock-screen wallpaper.

On the other hand, if you already have a beloved photo or other image you don't want to sacrifice, use an app like Over to add some simple "if found" info in a corner or along the side.

Find My iPhone won't save the day if your device isn't connected to Wi-Fi, but it's worth installing just in case.
Find My iPhone won't save the day if your device isn't connected to Wi-Fi, but it's worth installing just in case. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

5. Install Find My iPhone. Though obviously designed with iPhones in mind (it says so right there in the name), the Find My iPhone app does work with iPads and iPod Touches. And it's definitely worth installing.

Although the app does require an active Wi-Fi connection, it can help you determine if the device is, say, still in the house. And if someone has found the device and is actively using it, you can do all the usual Find My iPhone stuff: send a message, remotely wipe it, activate Lost Mode, and so on.

Do you have any other tips to share for iPod/iPad recovery? Shout 'em out in the comments.

 

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