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My daughter forgot her passcode to unlock her phone and it went into wipe mode and then prompted her to connect her device to iTunes. I was able to logon to her iCloud account online and wipe her device in which she then got a prompt to restore from an iCloud backup. So take that for what it's worth. In regard to a potential thief turning off all location services & putting the phone in airplane mode, I would think you still logon to iCloud and have it wiped. I would guess that the wipe would commence whenever the device is able to get a signal, but I'm only guessing.
UPDATE: I found this information HERE
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch appears in Find My iPhone, but is offline
This can occur if:
- iPhone: Your cellular service has been terminated by your wireless service provider. If you contacted your service provider to report your device lost/stolen before locating/wiping your phone, and they deactivated your SIM card or account, you will no longer be able to locate, display a message on, or remotely wipe your iPhone.
- Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is not connected to the Internet. You can still display a message on its screen or initiate a remote wipe, and it will be received once your device comes back online. If you have access to your device and it appears to have an active Internet connection, enable and then disable Airplane mode. If you continue to have issues, turn the device off and back on.
- Your device is powered off (for example, the battery has run out). You can still send a message to, issue a Remote Lock request, or initiate a remote wipe of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and it will be received once the device is turned on and regains its Internet connection.
- iPod touch: Your iPod touch is asleep. You can still send a message to, issue a remote lock request, or initiate a remote wipe of the iPod touch, and it will be received once the iPod touch is awakened and connects to the Internet.
- You recently changed your Apple ID password (if you are a free user) or your MobileMe password (if you are a subscriber). If you recently changed your password online, but have not updated your password on your device, change your password back to its previous setting using appleid.apple.com (if you are a free user) or me.com/account (if you are a subscriber), and try again.