On Friday, I set my iPhone down. I walked away for a minute. Then I realized "oh shit my phone". I ran back and it was gone.
I grabbed Morgan's phone and called my number. It rang several times then went to voicemail. I called three more times. Each time it went straight to voicemail.
To me, that says the phone has been turned off. If the phone was turned off, it was stolen. The reason? My lock screen has a background image that says
If found, please call . And ask for Morgan. Thanks!
I ran back to the van, grabbed my iPad, and opened "Find iPhone". The app tells me the phone is offline. It's been turned off by whoever has it.
The good news is:
- I have a six digit lock code (1 million permutations)
- My phone gets erased after 10 failed attempts to unlock it
- All of my data is backed up / synced to the cloud and other devices
- My Apple ID / iCloud password is required to unlock the phone, erase the phone or disable "Find My Phone"
So, I wasn't worried about data loss or privacy. I was just angry at the person for stealing my phone. Doubly angry knowing that they wouldn't even be able to do anything with it. I thought it might even go the way of the stolen phone in China story.
I put my phone into Lost Mode with Morgan's phone number on the lock screen message.
This phone is lost. Please call: (her phone number).
And I set it to notify me next time it was turned and connected to the Internet.
A few hours later that happened. I got the alert and looked at the map. The phone was over by The Do Lab stage inside of the festival.
- I only have staff wristbands, not a festival wristband. So I couldn't actually go into the fest to try to find my phone.
- I'm pretty sure that after they saw it was in Lost Mode, they turned it right back off.
Morgan and I ran around to eight different people at different stations and levels of security/authority. No one would take us to my phone or even into the festival.
At this point, the location data I had was out of date and I couldn't even get to it. An hour later, we called it quits.
The next morning. I woke up, checked the time on my iPad (7:30a) and right then I got a notification that the phone was on again.
This time it was in camping. And I had access to camping. I put on my shoes, grabbed a water, threw some supplies into my backpack, and hoofed it over to camping.
The phone pin on the map never moved and never turned off. The location was incredibly precise. Within a few feet.
I got to where my blue dot was right on top of the phone's green dot.
I pressed the "play sound" button. I heard nothing. Again. Nothing. Several times. Nothing.
But the phone stayed on and didn't move.
So, I used my words.
With a voice as loud and booming as I could muster, I announced:
Good morning, campers! Someone over here has my stolen iPhone. I want it back right fucking now. Find My Phone says that I'm on top of it. None of you are getting anymore sleep until I get my phone back.
Meanwhile, I was tapping the Play Sound button, but couldn't hear anything yet.
No security had been called yet. No police. No one's getting kicked out of the festival yet. Just give me my phone back.
Oh hey. Is this your phone, man?
Some half asleep 20 something kid unzipped his tent and hands me my phone. He claimed that he found it. And didn't turn it off. When I asked why he didn't call the number on the lock screen, he stammered then changed his story to "my friend who's still asleep found it".
I yelled at him real good, thanked the other campers for their understanding and then left. Phone in pocket.
Not a bad way to start my day.
This story was the result of a couple human actions. Me misplacing my phone for a minute and him stealing my phone. But there were no human solutions to the problem.
Everyone that could've helped me wouldn't. Someone actually told me to file a police report online. I told her that A) cops do fuck all about stolen phones. And 2) it'll be weeks, days or at very best hours before the cops even see the report, let alone do anything about it. Meanwhile, I knew where my phone was. I just wasn't allowed to go to there.
The event security was completely useless. In fact, there were two security companies working the event, one for inside and one for out. "Mumble mumble jurisdiction. Can't help."
The only solution to the problem was a technical one. Were it not for a strong(er) lock code, the setting to erase after 10 failed attempts, Find My Phone, and owning another device that also had cellular data (iPad mini), I would've never seen my phone again.
Once again, the law and law enforcement is lagging behind the technology of both criminals and victims. And also once again, authority and bureaucracy was not only not helpful but was actively in the way.
Score another for DIY ethics and self determination.
Now that I've gone through this process, there some features that I'd like to have built into iOS / Find My Phone.
- I have an Apple Watch paired with my phone and that watch almost never leaves my wrist. If my watch looses Bluetooth range with my phone, buzz and beep like all hell to alert me that I've left my phone behind. (Except if it's on a charger.)
- Take a photo (or continuous photos, hell maybe even video) with both cameras and upload them to some place in iCloud and/or email them to an alternate email address. (So the thief doesn't see that they've been photographed.)
- A setting to require my passcode to power off my phone. It would be slightly inconvenient for me on the very rare occasion that I turn my phone off. But it would've completely prevented the thief from hiding my phone from the Find My Phone map.