My wife lost her phone this past Friday. White iPhone 5 with 16 GB on iOS 7.0.3. It’s okay, we got it back, but this is the story of how that cycle took its turn.
She loses her phone all the time, except that it’s always somewhere on her person or in the room. We’ll arrive somewhere or depart from somewhere else, and she’ll get that look of shock like she left the stove on or the garage door open but worse. Then she’ll pull it out of her bag, relax her face, and move on like nothing happened. Every time. All day, labour day. Except this time.
We just cabbed home from her belated birthday dinner, and we were taking our jackets off to get ready for bed. I already had my warm yoga pants on when she said she lost her phone. My pavlovian instinct ignored her shock, but she kept saying how she couldn’t find it. Crap. I unlocked my phone, ignoring some messages and emails, opened the Find My iPhone app I have on both my iPad and iPhone, and we both followed her phone’s location down the Deerfoot. We had a couple drinks at dinner, so we were in no shape to chase it. The phone sped away to the southwest corner of Calgary. As soon as the app logged in to her phone’s account, I put the phone in lost mode and asked that whoever found the phone give me a call. The phone was charged pretty high, but it was on silent. Fortunately, the app has an override on the silent mode and could play a loud and distinctive sound to assist in finding the phone. We played the sound over and over, but I didn’t get any call. Location turned a corner. No call. The phone stopped. After hopping off the Deerfoot, it headed for the ‘burbs of Mckenzie Towne. Although it kept refreshing its location, it stopped moving, so whoever it was must have arrived at their location. Was it at the cabbie’s house, who was calling it a night at 12:47 AM? Was it some passenger who found it and just happened to not see the message? Was this passenger a thief or big burly meathead or nefarious hacker? Do we call the police or try it ourselves first?
Luckily, one of the messages I dismissed earlier was from a friend who was visiting for the weekend and was actually nearby. What were the odds? I called and asked if he wanted to go on an adventure. He was hanging out with a friend, and they were both down for a chase. Baby and I got dressed and waited for them downstairs.
The atmosphere in the car was one of nerves and excitement. What’s gonna happen? What are we supposed to do? Why did it have to happen tonight, when we were celebrating Baby’s birthday? What were the odds that we had two fellow adventurers within 15 minutes of our place just when we needed them? Somehow, I had set a passcode on her phone just a week earlier, but Find My iPhone is always one of the first apps we download after a major update or unboxing of a new device.
The location had grown cold for 20 minutes. It stopped updating, so whoever had it must have turned it off. We crossed from Inglewood to Mckenzie Towne in 20 minutes, a feat made possible only by a trafficless Deerfoot on Calgary’s second major snowfall of the season at 1 in the morning. What would we say to the phone’s captor? I updated the message to say “It’s 12:40 AM, but you can still call.” Did they still neglect to call back because of the time of night? Did they think they could bypass iOS 7’s lost mode protection? If a device on iOS 7.0 and later is lost, it can only be restored and used with the original Apple ID’s passcode. Did the thief know as much anyhow and figured out a way to crack Carrie’s passcode which contains at least one each of a letter, capital letter, number, and special character, making up at least eight characters total?
My buddy and I walked up to the house. We had our black jackets on, so that would add to the intimidation factor if it were needed. What should we say? What approach should we use? There were so many questions, and we simply had to make it up as we went along. I figured we’d try a slightly aggressive approach. There’s a good chance whoever grabbed it saw the standard message supplied by Find My iPhone: “This phone has been lost. Please call me at (403) 780-5878.” They saw the follow-up message about being able to call me late at night. They must have heard the numerous sounds we played in our confusion and hysteria. The phone’s location stopped refreshing, so they turned it off after cluing in that we were looking for it. Whoever got the phone wasn’t being very nice, so we had to take a more aggressive approach.
The lights were on, we rang the doorbell, and a dog barked at us through the window. Feet clopped on stairs, but it was hard to determine whether it was upward or downward. We looked at each other with anxious eyes and shrugged shoulders, and turned at the now open door. A woman peeked through. “Can I help you?”
“I think you know why we’re here.” Man, if someone said that to me late at night as I opened the door to my private domicile, I would have lost it. Did we overdo it? She opened her screen door and stepped out, shutting the main door behind her and ensuring her dog didn’t get out. My friend did all the talking; seems he was the most sober of the three of us.
“Did you just get home?”
“Did you take a cab.”
“Was it a yellow cab?”
“Did you find something in the back seat?”
Pause. Blank stare. Wide eyes.
“Oh! The iPhone 5! White! Right?” Her tone seemed really friendly and helpful. I think she realized we caught her red-handed.
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“Yeah yeah, let me just go grab it for you. I’ll be right back.”
She disappeared back in the house, and we bumped fists. I said so far so good, but I would feel better with the phone in my hand. Our new friend re-emerged.
“Here it is. Sorry it took so long. I wasn’t sure if it was upstairs or downstairs. I turned it off because it kept making noises.” Oh really. Are you sure you weren’t trying to restore it on iTunes just now? Not that you could have, but you didn’t know that.
“Alright. Have a good night. Thanks for helping us with the phone.” We walked back to the car and reveled in not having to decide on a color for an iPhone 5c.
While that wasn’t the best recollection of a lost iPhone incident, it’s what happened to us. Basically, I’m a super hero for knowing all this technological stuff. We thank God it all worked out okay. While it could have been a much scarier or expensive situation, it wasn’t the worst thing that’s happened to us. Silly as it is, we uttered and muttered many prayers from logging into the Find My iPhone app and offered much thanks and worship as we returned home for the second time that night.
Find My iPhone for iOS 7 introduces Activation Lock, so only the passcode for the Apple ID to which the phone is registered can turn off the Find My iPhone feature, erase the device, and reactivate it. Enable a simple passcode and set the phone to require it after an hour of inactivity. If you have a 5s, you probably already have Touch ID enabled because it’s awesome. It’s not perfect, but it’s a convenient and powerful password; the best of both worlds. If you’re already covered, you should make sure your loved ones also protect their personal information and device. iOS 7 doesn’t work great on all supported devices, but it runs like a new OS on an older device. At least with Find My iPhone enabled, they’d have to erase the phone before using it. If you don’t have a passcode, God help you.