How to lock your iPhone from your Apple Watch

Apple’s built-in security features and huge Find My network should deter thieves from stealing iPhones. Yet thefts still happen. Some involve thieves looking over your shoulder to see your lock screen password so they can unlock your phone and then try to lock you out of your Apple ID. This is a nightmare scenario that Apple needs to fix. Until then, I’ve already shown you what you can do to strengthen your security and prevent the Apple ID from being taken on a stolen iPhone.

But what if someone steals your iPhone from your hand while the screen is unlocked? Well, this is quite an unusual decision on their part, as you would still be able to trace the phone. The problem is that the thief could access sensitive data on your phone while it’s unlocked. And they can enable airplane mode. Thankfully, there is a brilliant Apple Watch trick that you should implement as soon as possible to remotely lock iPhone screen.

Key prerequisites

For this iPhone security trick to work, you need to make sure a few things are in place.

First, you should use a password/PIN for the lock screen and Face ID/Touch ID on your phone. If you don’t, your phone is basically unencrypted. Also, the Apple Watch trick doesn’t work, as it won’t unlock the screen. The thief would still be able to unlock an iPhone without password protection.

Second, you need an Apple Watch connected to that iPhone. And you better hope this thief didn’t stop to grab your watch and other belongings too once they snatched your iPhone from your hands.

Finally, you may want to disable Control Center on the iPhone lock screen so that the thief cannot access Airplane mode once the display is unlocked.

Set a new Focus Mode on iPhone: like the
Set a new focus mode on iPhone: like the “Lock screen” example here. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

How this Apple Watch trick works

Detailed by Gizmodo Australiathe trick relies on an automation that you’ll set up from the iPhone Shortcuts app.

Automation will allow you to create a custom file Focus mode on the iPhone which does the following things:

  • lock the screen
  • turn off airplane mode
  • Turn on mobile data, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth
  • turn on Energy Saver mode
  • show a notification

The purpose of this automation is to allow you to remotely enable Focus Mode which performs all of these actions so that you can lock the iPhone right after the thief leaves via Focus Mode.

You need to be fast enough for the iPhone to stay within Bluetooth range of the Apple Watch. You’ll want to turn on Focus Mode to turn on all wireless connectivity, and turn off Airplane Mode so you can reach the iPhone. With Control Center disabled on the lock screen, the thief won’t be able to enable Airplane Mode again.

That said, here’s what you need to do to enable this automation.

Starting an automation for the
Starting an automation for the “Lock screen” focus mode. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

Lock your iPhone screen from your Apple Watch

First, set a Focus mode on your iPhone by going to Settings, Focus mode, and tapping the + button. Give it a name you’ll remember, like Screen lock. Make sure you share access across all devices.

Now open the file Shortcuts app and go to the Automation tab to search Create personal automation.

Enable the parameters that will allow the Apple Watch to lock the iPhone screen securely.
Enable the parameters that will allow the Apple Watch to lock the iPhone screen securely. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

We recommend that you tap the Screen lock option in Focus menu. Then choose On power up before clicking Next. This is the page where you will use the Add action command to find the actions mentioned above and set these parameters:

  1. Lock the screen
  2. Set airplane mode (Worn out)
  3. Set up cellular data (ON)
  4. Set up Bluetooth (ON)
  5. Set up Wi-Fi (ON)
  6. Set to low power mode (ON)
  7. Show notification (custom message to the person who finds the phone)

Once you’ve set them, tap Nextturn off Ask before you runand strike Done.

Finish the automation.
Finish the automation. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

If someone snatches your iPhone from your hands while the screen is unlocked, you can then swipe up on the Apple Watch screen to bring up Control Center. Click the Crescent moon icon and choose the Screen lock focus. Enable Focus Mode and you’re good to go.

Make sure you test the feature at home so you know what to do. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use automation. But trying it at home will tell you whether you did everything right or not.

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