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The best watchOS 8 feature means no more losing my iPhone — here's how it works

watchOS 8 Find My devices notify when left behind setting on Apple Watch
(Image credit: Future)

Thanks to watchOS 8, I might never lose my iPhone again. You’d be surprised — for a device that’s seemingly glued to my palm, I’ve put it down in all sorts of unusual places.

Until I can literally strap my iPhone 12 Pro Max to my body like my Apple Watch 6, it’s completely susceptible to vanishing. But after enabling the new ‘Notify When Left Behind’ setting in the Find Devices app added in the watchOS 8 software update, I’ve found some peace of mind.

The last time I abandoned my iPhone by accident, my hometown pizza joint rang the home phone I placed the pickup order through. They kindly kept it safe behind the counter until I came back. 

I know I wouldn’t be as fortunate in all the places I frequent. Whether it’s the park, a busy restaurant or public transportation, there’s no shortage of locales for my iPhone to be forgotten and, uh, re-homed?

Now, though, my Apple Watch will alert me when my paired iPhone has been left behind. As long as I haven’t strayed too far, I have a better chance of ultimately reuniting with my smartphone than before.  

Notify When Left Behind works on an iPhone with iOS 15, too. Your iPhone can alert you when you leave an Apple device or item at an unknown location. I imagine I’ll be toting my new iPad mini 6 (which I got for free) around often, and Notify When Left Behind nearly guarantees I’ll never lose it on my journeys. 

If I do walk away from it and get a notification, I can tap Directions to my iPad, similar to how you can be led to an AirTag key finder. And the first time I was notified for leaving my iPad at home on purpose, I tapped, “Don't Notify Me Here” to better curate my alerts.

Still, the added Find My app for Apple Watch in watchOS 8 is the most useful iteration of Apple’s device-tracking feature. When I’ve left my iPhone in my car after arriving home before, I had no idea it wasn’t on me or in my bag until I noticed the subtle disconnected status icon at the top of my smartwatch’s display. The next time this happens, I’ll be actively alerted.

As if you couldn’t tell by this point, I’m the type who pings my iPhone ten times a day at minimum. Again, I probably should get one of those phone strap accessories all the kids on TikTok are using (follow Tom’s Guide on TikTok, if you haven’t yet) or just convert one of those wristband playbooks athletes wear into a wearable case. 

But Notify When Left Behind is way more practical, not to mention free. Note that it won’t work automatically when you know how to download watchOS 8. You’ll need to open the Find Devices app and grant it location access. Check your notifications settings for your iPhone or any other Apple device and toggle 'Notify When Left Behind' on to enable these alerts. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.