Find My iPhone and email failure notices

One of the new features in iOS 4.2 is a free, limited MobileMe account to access the Find My iPhone service. It’s great, but you may find yourself dismissing error messages throughout the day. I think there’s a missing step in Apple’s instructions: sync your phone to iTunes agan after setting up your new MobileMe account.

Update 11/26/10
As you’ll see, the solution I proposed turned out not to be a solution at all—the error messages returned after a few hours. However, Tony Park in the first comment has a solution that’s worked for him and me. I’ve written a new post with an illustrated guide to his fix.

Shortly after upgrading, I went to Apple’s instruction page and followed the steps to activate Find My iPhone. Basically, you go into the Mail, Contacts, and Calendars part of Settings and add a new MobileMe account. Set the email address and password to your iTunes login credentials.1 When I first tested it out, it worked just fine. I found my phone on a map and sent myself a threatening “You’ll never get away with it” message. Fun.

But from that point on, I started getting email connection failure notifications.

(The redacted bit is an email address that I use for both a real account and as my iTunes login.)

Clicking the Settings button takes me to the new MobileMe account setup screen in Settings, so it’s obviously that account is what’s causing the problem.2 If my phone is actually trying to collect email from MobileMe, it’s no wonder it’s failing—there’s no email there because it’s not a full MobileMe account.

When I woke up this morning I had to dismiss four or five of these error notifications and was really pissed. Surely Apple was expecting loads of iPhone users to sign up for this limited MobileMe account. How could it be checking for email on an account that doesn’t have a proper MobileMe email address?

All these failure notifications happened, though, between syncs. I’d synced the phone to do the update to 4.2, then did all this MobileMe setup stuff—and got all the error messages—before syncing again. Since syncing the phone again when I got to work this morning, the error notifications have stopped.

Maybe on some phones the syncing after setup is unnecessary. And maybe the notifications on my phone will come back. But for right now my suggestion is to resync your phone immediately after setting up your new free MobileMe account.

Update 11/24/10
Feh. The spurious notifications didn’t stop, and this morning I deleted the free MobileMe account from the phone. If I go through today with no notifications (confirming that the MobileMe account is the cause) I’ll file a formal bug report.

  1. Yes, just as Apple is overloading iTunes with all the iOS syncing services, it’s also overloading your iTunes login. 

  2. It could, conceivably, have been another account, the account whose address I use as my iTunes login. But that account was receiving mail just fine.