Recover a Lost iPhone for Free -- No MobileMe Required

Last Updated Nov 22, 2010 11:22 AM EST

Apple's not known for giving things away, but today the company broke with tradition: Find My iPhone is now free. This GPS-powered phone-recovery app previously required a $99/year MobileMe subscription.

What's the catch? A bit of age discrimination on Apple's part: only owners of the iPhone 4, iPad, and fourth-generation iPod Touch can get in on the freebie goodness.

I must admit, I've long considered Find My iPhone the single most compelling feature in MobileMe. With it you can not only locate your phone on a map, but also remotely wipe the memory (to prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands) and/or trigger an alert sound (which can help you find an iPhone that has, say, fallen between the sofa cushions).

Of course, I wasn't willing to pay $99 annually for that -- not when third-party apps like FoneHome and iHound do the same thing (minus the remote data-wipe) for much less. (My preferred remote-recovery app, FoneHome, costs all of $1.99.)

Now, anyone who has "compatible" gear and iOS 4.2 (available now) can enjoy the benefits of Find My iPhone (which I have to assume Apple will rename Find My Device, or something similar) without spending a penny. Gotta love that!

Image courtesy CNET.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.