iPhone Users: Start Using “Find My Friends”!

Apple includes several native iOS apps on its devices, which users don’t really have a choice but to have on their phones. For better or worse, apps like “Compass”, “Game Center”, “Voice Memos”, “Podcasts”, and the Apple Watch app are installed on every updated iOS device and cannot be uninstalled. Apple also has several apps on the App Store that do not come preinstalled, such as “Find my iPhone”. One of these apps was “Find my Friends.” This is an application where users can choose to share their exact location with other friends either indefinitely or for specific periods of time.

Originally released in 2011, it has for the most part been extremely underwhelming. Apple has rarely discussed the application nor marketed it, and its usage rates have been extremely low thus far. What’s worse for the application is that it relies heavily on network effects; groups of people must all be registered with the application (and in some cases approve one another) before they can start using it to find each other.

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BUT THIS IS A VERY POWERFUL AND USEFUL APPLICATION. Look past the potential for it to be an invasive tracking mechanism, and you’ll find a whole suite of features that make it extremely useful.

Heres the top uses for students at Boston College:

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You’re in O’Neil library, and can’t find the specific classroom that your friend is studying in. Or at Lower Dining Hall during Late Night on Friday, and can’t find the table they are sitting at. Maybe they’re texting you they’re at Mod 21A, which isn’t very helpful considering how the mods are numbered almost at random. In comes Find My Friends! You can let a specific friend (or group of friends) know your location for a specific period of time, such as half an hour, and an extremely accurate location of the device you are using will show up on your friends’ phones with details as to how far you are and how long it might take to get to your friends. Dropping a pin on Google Maps is not nearly as dynamic, multi-faceted, or useful as Find My Friends.

Alerts When Friends Are Somewhere

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.38.48 PMLet’s say you’re at the Prudential Center, or watching a movie in Coolidge Corner. Turns out several of your friends were there at the same exact time- and none of you knew the other was there! Enter Find My Friends. If the setting is turned on for a location, it will alert the friends you have approved that you are in that location as soon as you enter that location’s predefined geofence. You can set this for your dorm room to know who visited while you were gone, or even a specific party to let your friends know that you’ve arrived. So next time you want to let your best friends know when you’re at the Plex so they can come play pickup basketball with you, skip texting them, and just create the setting on the app to let them know every time (or until you wish). You can also set proximity settings with certain people, such as being alerted when your roommate is 1 mile away!

Tracking Down Friends for Group Events

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Don’t leave it up to chance to run into your friends when you’re studying abroad, or visiting different places!

Scavenger hunt. Splitting up in a grocery store to get different groceries. Visiting a new city together and splitting up groups of friends. Whatever the event or activity may be, there is no better app than Find My Friends to make sure you know exactly where everyone is! If you’re spending a weekend in Toronto for your bachelor party, you can have all your friends enroll to the “Bachelor Party” event on Find My Friends, and everyone will be able to keep track of where everybody is. Set the duration of the event of activity, and the tracking ends once the event ends. There is no easier way of keeping track of a group of people for a specific period of time, complete with distance monitoring and constant location pinging. Studying abroad and want to make sure your group of friends knows where everyone is? Now it couldn’t be easier!

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Make sure everyone is enrolled in Find My Friends before the night starts!

Making Sure Friends are Safe

No one would voluntarily allow someone to track them without their knowing, right? Well, specific settings allow you to let your
friends make sure exactly where you are during specific times. For example, every Friday night between 11pm and 2am, you can have your location pinged to your roommates on Find My Friends, and vice versa. It helps let everyone know where everyone is and find each other much more easily, especially during times when we aren’t necessarily looking at our texts. or actively aware that our friends are worried about where we are!

There’s tons of uses for the Find My Friends app. I believe it will be used much more now that it is native to iOS9, and rightfully so! Let’s not leave running into one-another on chance anymore. Or deal with various difficulties when we’re looking for each other. Find My Friends can completely change the way we locate friends moving forward- and its capacity to become an advanced social platform in its own right is fascinating.

9 comments

  1. Find My Friends was one of those applications I immediately just dumped into a “folder” on my iPhone for all default apps I have no interest in using. Your post encouraged me to at least open up that folder and check out the Find My Friends functionality. You raise some interesting points about the benefits–ideas that I had not yet fully considered. While I agree with these benefits, Im hesitant to say these features will every be fully utilized by Apple users.I think the adoption curve is very high and as you mentioned, network effects plays a huge role in achieving the applications full benefits. While It’s good a “handshake” is needed between friends before they can be found, I think the power of group messaging/dialogue will win out for the time being, over a more indirect communication feature like Find my Friends.

  2. rasmusca · ·

    Just like @lakyaks I have never paid much attention to the Find My Friends app. However, after arriving in Boston six weeks ago, I have been using it quite a lot. My friends from Copenhagen Business School and I have added each other, so we are always able to find each other. Being in a foreign country means that we are not always exactly sure of where we are when we are trying to meet up for an event or a party and this is where the app has been quite useful. My roommates think it’s kinda weird and stalker-ish, but I quite like it. Will I still be using it when I return to Denmark? Probably not, but for now it’s a very convenient way to find my friends.

  3. I learned about “Find My Friends” last Thanksgiving while visiting family in North Carolina. My aunt has two sons in high school, and from what I’ve heard, the app is a GREAT way to make sure the boys are where they’re supposed to be. Do my cousins love the fact that their mother knows exactly where they are every Saturday night, and calls them if they change locations without telling her? No, of course not. But I love knowing that my baby cousins are safe (even though they arguably aren’t my “baby” cousins anymore).

    I also love your point about safety – I’ll definitely download this app just so my friends and I can keep tabs on each other when we need to!

  4. Hello Faizan! Thanks for this informative post!

    I actually heard about “Find my friends” from one of my friends half an year ago. Once my friend scrolled her iPhone’s screen and whispered, “My sister’s slacking off again. It’s already 10 am, but she’s still in her room.” I felt confused by her words, because I knew that her sister was living in California while she’s studying in Boston. I asked how could she know her sister’s location,and then she showed me this cool app.

    But back to that time, I didn’t think it’s cool at all. I felt shocked about its creepy function and even didn’t want to try it. The reason was very simple: I need my private time and space, and even to my family and intimate friends, sometimes I just enjoy vanishing from their eyes and escaping from hurly burly.

    But thanks to your introduction, I fully understand how it works and what’re its advantages. It seems that it has taken the privacy issue into thorough consideration. We’re on our own to choose specific time periods to inform friends of our location. And the function of proximity setting sounds pretty cool, too! Knowing someone near to you – that may be a good way to prepare yourself or just turn around. In addition, I also like that it enables us to split our friends into different groups, just as convenient as what Wechat does. Now I can’t wait to have a try right away!

  5. I truly enjoyed reading your blog. In 2011 I thought the app “Find My Friends,” to be nothing short of a more enhanced version of real-time stalking. One of my closest friends was responsible for me actually using the app in 2012 and I have been doing so since. I only allow my brother and closest friends to be aware of my location 24/7. My main rationale for this decision was for security purposes. The app is quite useful for tracking the real-time location of friends who I met at mutually agreed upon locations. In this digital age, it is very common to know that teenagers are meeting with online predators. (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/prank-video-teaches-teens-a-terrifying-lesson-about-online-predators_55ccf07de4b0cacb8d3357c0). Parents of young teenagers should make use of this app. “Find My Friends” will allow them 24/7 monitoring of their loved ones. I am aware that teenage users can use the feature “Hide My Location” to prevent parents from actually “tracking” them, which would be counter-productive. Perhaps, Apple may consider creating some type of parental control feature for this app. Once parents purchase iPhones for their children, they would have the opportunity to follow them via “Add Friends,” link the phones and prevent children from hiding their locations. Of course, as their children get older parents can remove the parental control thus giving their children autonomy to share their locations.

  6. Interesting post, but Find my Friends stays tucked away in my “Junk Apps” folder. The first time I ever hear about the app it was touted more than anything as a way for drunk college kids to find their way back home, or get their friends to locate them if they’d drunken themselves into a stupor and were not able to remember where they were and how they got there. This probably still is a good part of it (and it does have benefits, I suppose, if more drunk kids make it home safe and sound). Nevertheless, I don’t see its use, if texting or calling (whoa, how old-fashioned is that?!) does the job in a less creepy way.
    Also, some of the situations you describe could make for extremely awkward situations: what if a group of people wanted to go see a movie and intentionally did not invite certain others – then you see on your app that your “best buddies” are all hanging out. Not cool. A case where ignorance is bliss.
    It is entirely possible that I’m dating myself here, and as you point out, there clearly can be useful purposes for the app. Thanks for digging up a less obvious SM topic!

  7. I use this feature all the time (although I confess that I tend to use “find my iPhone” for the same functionality). It’s really helpful way to know when my wife is going to be home (i.e. traffic) without having to call her. Once my kids are teenagers, this is likely the primary reason I will get them a phone. Good story is that my wife actually got her phone stolen (after being mugged in a library), and the police used this feature to find the person and arrest them. We got the phone back.

  8. I recently downloaded Find My Friends for the purpose of “making sure my friends are safe” when my friend decided to go on a date with someone she met on tinder. We followed her on the app to confirm she was going to the place she said was going and to track that she was on her way back to BC safe at the end of the night. It was extremely easy to you and enabled us feel like we had some hand in keeping her safe when she was doing something that we did not necessarily support.

    I think the safety reason for using Find My Friends will surpass all of the other reasons and make this a widely used application. Particularly in a college setting where people often drink on the weekends and take safety risks like going out on dates with people they met online, having a safety night like Find My Friends is completely changing and improving the way friends look out for each other. Like Professor Kane said, it is even useful for parents to check up on their children. I understand that there is a “creepy” aspect with using this app, but eventually I think users will look beyond this and see that safety always comes first.

  9. Really interesting post. At first I just thought this app was really creepy, and Freshman year of college I saw how my friends’ parents would call them the next day when they noticed their kid didn’t sleep on their room. But now I see all the other benefits this app has, especially the fact that you can choose specific periods of time when you want to be connected.

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