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I've recently had an iPad stolen, and used the "Find my ____" app to try to locate it. There's also "Prey" available which does a bit more. I think there are others but I don't know any names.

But it seems to me that both are useless, because the device cannot receive a control message unless it connects to the internet, and it cannot do that unless someone who knows the passcode unlocks it and selects a WiFi AP. (Or they happen to go to a location where I have already "remembered" an SSID/password.)

Plus, unless a thief is quite stupid, won't they promptly wipe the device and treat it as a new one?

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If an iPad is registered with "Find my iPhone", it can't have iOS reinstalled without entering the password for the iCloud account with which it's registered. The thief can't do a wipe and reinstall. It's certainly true that it has to connect to wifi to tell you where it is, and so you should consider setting your iPad to connect to unprotected wifi networks automatically to help its chances of doing so.

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    This is a helpful link on what happens if you put your passcode in too many times. I'm not sure suggesting to automatically connect to unprotected WiFi networks is security conscious. Find my iPhone only requires a data connection, so LTE/4G/3G should work fine. – RoraΖ Oct 23 '17 at 14:47
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    @RoraΖ LTE/4G/3G won't work fine on a wifi-only iPad. – Mike Scott Oct 23 '17 at 15:42
  • Good call, that went right over my head. – RoraΖ Oct 23 '17 at 16:17
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    I am not familiar with a "connect to unprotected wifi networks automatically" feature on iOS. – Eugene Nov 22 '17 at 15:57
  • So, since I didn't turn on that security hole, my stolen iPad is probably now in a landfill. It is cell enabled, but I kept data turned off until actually needed, since things that are unimportant waste bandwidth. – WGroleau Jan 21 '18 at 16:42

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