How to Protect Your iPhone from Thieves

Apple products, with their high sale and resale values, have always been popular targets for thieves—none more so than the iPhone. Let’s look at some of the steps you can take to protect your iPhone from thieves.

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When protecting your iPhone, you’re really looking to do three things:

  • Make it a less tempting target
  • Stop the thieves from getting access to your data or being able to resell it
  • Prevent yourself from being too inconvenienced

While your iPhone can be stolen anywhere, tourists (and tourist hotspots) are prime targets. You’re far more likely to be at risk if you’re sitting in a café in Paris, France than doing whatever people do in Paris, Maine.

Make Your iPhone a Less Tempting Target

Your first step is trying to make sure your iPhone doesn’t get stolen in the first place, and there are some steps you can take to make yours a less tempting target.

Disguise It

The simplest way to protect your iPhone is to disguise it by putting it in a case to change its appearance a bit (I use this one from Incipio). Old Android phones are a lot less valuable and as a result, a lot less tempting to thieves.

Android manufacturers are even copying “features” like the iPhone X’s notch, so as long as you use a case that hides the Apple logo on the back, most people won’t be able to see what make your phone is from the distance.

You might also want to think about the accessories you use. No matter how much you disguise your iPhone, using bright white Apple earbuds or AirPods can still give you away.

Don’t Leave It Somewhere a Thief Can Easily Get It

For a thief to steal your phone, they have to be able to get to it. If you keep it somewhere more awkward for them to take it, they’re less likely to take it—especially if there are easier targets around.

For example, if you’re getting coffee in a Parisian café, don’t leave your iPhone sitting on the table beside you. It’s simple for a thief to distract you, and take your phone out from under your nose.

Similarly, leaving your iPhone poking out of the back pocket of your jeans is an open invitation. The front pockets may be less comfortable, but they’re significantly more secure.

Likewise, keeping your phone in a zipped closed pouch in a zipped closed handbag is much better than leaving it in a handbag that’s sitting open.

While it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to store your iPhone in a completely thief proof place, think a little about where you keep it. If it’s out of your sight (or your sight is easily drawn away), then it’s probably not a good spot. It’s also very easy for thieves to open backpacks without you noticing, so avoid storing it there.

Use It As Little As Possible in Public

A thief can’t steal your iPhone if they don’t know you have it. This means you should use your iPhone as little as possible in public spaces or on public transport. The reasons why are twofold.

First, having your iPhone out in public makes it very easy for a thief to steal. My mother had her phone snatched out of her hand by someone on a bike while she was walking along making a call. Before she even had time to register what had happened, the thief was 50 meters down the road.

Second, even if the thief doesn’t steal your iPhone right out of your hand, they can see where you put it, follow you, and then steal it a few minutes later. Be particularly careful of this sort of thing on public transport. If a thief sees you put your phone back in your pocket, they can wait until the next stop, snatch it, and exit before you even realize what’s happening.

Make Sure They Can’t Access Your Data If Your iPhone Is Stolen

The next step in securing your iPhone is making sure that, if yours ever is stolen, the thieves can’t access your data,

Turn On Find My iPhone

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Find My iPhone is really useful if you lose your phone. It’s less useful if your iPhone is stolen. Not only will police not tend to act on your tip, if you attempt to retrieve your phone yourself you might end up dead. Seriously, don’t attempt to track down a thief with Find My iPhone.

That said, you can still put it to good use. You can use Find My iPhone to wipe and lock your phone so that the thief not only won’t have your personal data, they won’t be able to sell the phone because whoever buys it won’t be able to activate it.

You can also send thieves a message and see if they’re prepared to return your “lost” iPhone for a “finder’s fee.” This has its own risks, so be very careful if you decide to take this option. You are probably better off just wiping your iPhone and leaving it at that.

Use Touch ID or Face ID, and a Strong Password

Find My iPhone is great, but it can take you a while to be in a position to use it. In the hour or two it takes you to get to a computer or another Apple device, you don’t want the thief rifling through your iPhone and looking at your stuff. I don’t know about you, but you could blackmail the hell out of me with the stuff you’d find on my iPhone!

The best deterrent here is to use Touch ID or Face ID backed up with a strong passcode. If the thief can’t get into your iPhone, then they can’t get any juicy details on you.

Make Your iPhone More Convenient to Replace

The final step you can take is making sure that if your phone is stolen, you don’t have too hard a time getting a replacement, and then getting your stuff restored to it.

Insure It

I travel a lot, which means I put my iPhone—and also my MacBook, camera, and other valuable gear—at more risk than most people. For this reason, I’ve taken out a serious insurance policy that covers all my gear for pretty much anything. I can leave my camera on the top of Mount Everest and they’ll still pay out.

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You probably don’t need an insurance policy anywhere near as insane as this, but if you’re travelling a lot or are just generally careless, it’s worth considering. A proper insurance policy is definitely worth more than an extended warranty. Most wireless carriers offer these policies, as do some regular insurance policies. It’s worth considering, even if it’s something you only take out while you’re on vacation, and then cancel later.

Remember to Back It Up

If your iPhone is stolen, the odds of you getting it back are pretty slim. Even if you report it to the police, they’re not likely to do a lot. The most important thing, then, is making sure you don’t lose any valuable or important personal data. And the only way to do that is with a backup.

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Turning on iCloud Backup is the simplest way to make sure that all your iPhone’s important data is backed up to the cloud. Your iPhone seamlessly backs up whenever it’s connected to Wi-Fi and charging, so you’ll rarely lose more than a few hours hours of data.

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Unfortunately, you only get 5 GB of iCloud storage for free. You can free some up, but that does mean making some sacrifices. Personally, I’d recommend paying the $0.99 a month to get 50 GB of space. Alternatively, you can back your iPhone up to iTunes every few weeks and before big trips—or even during big trips if you take a laptop along.


Phone theft isn’t as bad as it was a few years ago, but it still happens. As long as some people don’t use their iPhone’s full security features, there’s still an opportunity for thieves to make some cash. If you can’t prevent your iPhone from being stolen, at least you can minimize the harm.

Image Credit: MeskPhotography/Shutterstock.com

Harry Guinness writes occasionally when he’s not busy skiing, sailing, partying, lifting weights, or otherwise dodging responsibility. His main areas of interest are himself, gin, and crazy people with interesting stories to tell. When people won’t pay him to write ill-thought-out opinion pieces, he covers photography, technology, and culture. You can follow him on Twitter.