Tales of a stolen iPhone

Whilst on the underground a few weeks back, I left the train after a deep meaningful existential discussion with the mrs only to experience the cold rush of blood one encounters during the time one realises the exact moment when they leave their iPhone behind in a public place.

I should know better as it’s scarcely been a couple of months since I left an iPad and a camera in my holdall on a train and subsequently lost it to the charitable endeavours of mankind. How gently do I revere fellow man….

However, I did learn one lesson from that ill fated first moment of insanity and that was to purchase a MobileMe license and to install Find-My-iPhone on all my iDevices. So it was with this anticipated knowledge that I rushed back to my office and opened up my browser to locate the iPhone.

It essentially works from three different options. The SIMM card, the phones GPS antenna and wifi. So even if they take the SIMM card out, I should still be able to track it. But the phone needs to be switched on in order to send the signal.

The first thing I did was a remote device lock. Although my phone locks automatically after a few seconds with a password screen, I wanted to remain prudent. Next step was to send it an immediate screen message offering £200 reward together with an audible signal. All these options are available through the MobileMe application, together with a last minute option, the remote wipe. This zaps all data from the device and renders it blank, saving any potential data compromise.

From 11am until 5pm I must have refreshed the Google Maps based application 200 times. Nothing. No signal, no response nada. It was excruciatingly frustrating and given how I’d already lost all my hope in humanity, I was fast building up a Falling Down moment.

By 6pm, I’d given up. Initially, I’d considered the reason the phone had no location signal was because it was still on the underground, so lost property were notified. But before long I knew it was a fruitless ambition.

I find solace in these stressful events by way of retail therapy, so off to Selfridges in Oxford Street. It was a £700 replacement, which is ridiculous given that Apple choose to penalise you for losing or having your phone stolen. With no insurance, the replacement was going to be expensive.

It was about 7pm as we left Selfridges when down the escalators towards the tube, I was asked about my data and if I’d lost it all. As a demonstration, I opened my iPad to show that all my data was synched through cloud technology. And then it happened….PING..iPhone 4 located 3 minutes ago!

The map hadn’t drawn yet as we were underground. So a fast sprint upstairs back to ground level and we settled in Pret to check the map again. By pure chance, the location was about a mile away from me, at a shop in Tottenham Court Road. The application is very accurate and is detailed enough to show you exactly where the phone is to within a couple of metres.
I jumped in a cab and started a journey that would take 3 minutes without traffic but 25 with. Just then, the iPhone lost it’s signal, prompting fears that the one person to find my phone knows to take it to TCR where there are a plethora of shops that unlock and unblock iPhones. I had to rush there as it was merely a matter of time before it would be lost forever.

As we turned up to the shop, we realised there were two of these poxy shops side by side, so we started the ‘pincer move’. It was quite clear that one of the shops was lying and the other was quite sympathetic. It was time to step up the aggression.

I made it obvious that unless my phone appeared in my hand within the next few minutes I would put on a show for them. I was so angry at this point I threatened to trash the shop, and I would have done. I also stated that I would then wait for the police and explain to them that I had trashed this joint as they handled stolen phones and I had evidence to prove it.

This seemed the right tactic as within minutes I had the phone in my hand. I can only assume that they bought the phone off whoever found my iPhone, I’d suspect for a couple of hundred pounds, with intent to resell. It’s obvious that this happens quite a lot and MobileMe is going to make it very difficult for these cowboys to continue in this practice.

I celebrated with a massive McDonalds. Justice was served and I had my phone back in my grasp. Having a MobileMe account does have various uses, not least for knowing the exact whereabouts of your devices, a service of which could be abused if used for the wrong reasons. But it does require a level of confidence to do something when chasing a stolen / lost phone. I was happy to face a confrontation but some people may prefer more peaceful methods, many of which would not bear any fruit to your endeavours.