The Orlando Incident Part 3/3: How to protect your iPhone from loss

The Orlando Incident Part 3/3: How to protect your iPhone from loss

Summary: After successfully recovering my lost iPhone I wanted to share some tips on how to protect your iPhone from loss and how to get it back if you do.

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In case you haven't been following the drama, on Saturday I lost my iPhone and on Monday I got it back. After successfully recovering my lost iPhone I wanted to share some tips on how to protect your iPhone from loss and how to get it back if you do.

1. Enable Find My iPhone

When Apple announced iOS 4.2 last month, it made Find My iPhone free for users of current-generation hardware (i.e. iPhone 4, iPad and fourth-generation iPod touch). If you have one of these devices, enable FMI right away -- it's disabled by default. Seriously, do it right now, it saved me $700 by not having to buy a replacement unsubsidized iPhone 4.

Although it is only free on Apple's current generation hardware, Lifehacker has discovered a loophole to get Find My iPhone for free on pre-2010 devices. Simply create your free FMI account on a current generation device. From Apple's iOS footnote 3:

You can create a free Find My iPhone account on any iPhone 4, iPad, or iPod touch (4th generation) running iOS 4.2. Once you create an account on a qualifying device, use your Apple ID and password to enable Find My iPhone on your other devices running iOS 4.2.

2. Add a passcode lock

It's a bit of a pain when you first enable it, but adding a passcode lock (Settings > General > Passcode Lock) can prevent an unauthorized user from rummaging through your personal data. If someone has your iPhone and access to your email, it's trivial to "recover" the passwords for your banks and brokerage accounts.

3. Use a product like Nio

I haven't tried it yet, but Nio (~$60) is an intriguing hardware device that prevents the loss or theft of your iPhone by wirelessly tethering it to a Bluetooth dongle on your keychain. It also works for other stuff too.

Although MobileMe costs $99 per year -- and is well worth it -- some people can't justify the expense. CNet notes that two cheaper alternatives to Find My iPhone are available:

Fortunately, there are alternatives. On the low-tech side there's StuffBak, a coded recovery label you slap on the back of your iPhone. The finder dials a toll-free number or visits the StuffBak site; the service arranges return shipping at no cost to the finder.

The good Samaritan also gets 20 bucks' worth of StuffBak stuff and any cash reward you want to add to the pot. As for you, recovery costs vary depending on the service plan you choose, but they won't be more than $30.

Getting closer to a MobileMe-style solution, GadgetTrak is a free app designed to help you locate a stolen iPhone (so you can recover it vigilante-style! Or, if you're boring and law-abiding, with the police's help).

4. Options for jailbreakers

If your device is jailbroken you could use Cylay in Cydia. It costs $19.99 per year and there is a free trial available.

Moving forward, there a lots of ways that we can better protect our devices.

Reader ClearCreek posted a suggestion in the TalkBack under my second installment: A lost handset could take a series of photos from the front and rear cameras silently then send them via SMS and/or email to the owner. Heck, software could turn on the camera and mic and broadcast a live audio and video feed to the owner or police. This brings up all kinds of privacy issues and would have to implemented fairly.

Then there's Apple's patent application titled “Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device” that was filed in February 2009 and published in August. It details security measures that automatically protect devices from thieves and other “unauthorized users.” The security ramifications are tantelizing, including being able to identify an authorized user by their “photograph, recording, or heartbeat.”

I light of the recent events, I'm a huge advocate of Find My iPhone, and think that it alone is worth MobileMe's $99 annual subscription fee.

What's your take? What do you suggest to protect/recover a lost iPhone?

Topics: Mobile OS, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

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41 comments
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  • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

    get a diferent screen protector,get one that isn't flimsy, they tend to be harder, and they're more expensive (like $14 for one) but they go on smooth as long as the screen is clean and they don't leave bubbles because the screen protector is harder plastic so it won't wrinkle or bubble up easily...

    http://renadexreview-rainaki.blogspot.com/2010/12/renadex-review.html
    Norikom
  • Let me ask this

    I gave my old iPhone 3G to my wife. Is it possible to do that method of enabling the find my iPhone on a current device and apply it to my wife's phone using my Apple ID and not interfering with her settings or Apple ID for iTunes and what not? Not that I want to track my wife but I would like to keep tabs on the phone as she has left it places on more than one occasion. It is for that reason and the fact that she does not take care of her phones that she will always get a lower end or hand-me down device.
    bobiroc
    • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

      @bobiroc Yeah we know why you want it.

      Stalker.
      cyberslammer2
      • Typical.

        @cyberslammer2 <br><br>God forbid anyone wants/needs something that the iDevice can't do, or something that Steve Jobs didn't present as "magic" in a press conference.<br><br>And when someone poses a legitimate question or need, they called names and accused of stalking their wife.<br><br>Similar to numerous posts and forums about "how do I delete a single phone call from the log on my iPhone, <i>without jb'ing it</i>" The Apple idiots answer: "stop cheating on your spouse. that's the only reason you could possibly have to want to delete a single phone call. Apple didn't include that functionality so you don't need it. Stop being a wh0re."
        SonofaSailor
      • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

        @cyberslammer2

        [i]"Yeah we know why you want it."[/i]

        sure you do..I said so in my post above. Do I need to say it again?
        bobiroc
      • RE: Typical

        @SonofaSailor

        [i]"Similar to numerous posts and forums about "how do I delete a single phone call from the log on my iPhone, without jb'ing it" The Apple idiots answer: "stop cheating on your spouse. that's the only reason you could possibly have to want to delete a single phone call. Apple didn't include that functionality so you don't need it. Stop being a wh0re." [/i]

        I have often wondered that too to get rid of the caller IDs of people I do not want in my recent list like that of a spam/telemarketing call or maybe I did a side job for someone that I no longer need that number in there so I can shorten the list. But I realize now it must be because I am cheating on my wife and that I want to stalk her that I ask for features that Apple does not feel they need to give me.

        Speaking of features, I cannot grasp why in this day and age with what phones can do today that we cannot block numbers or set up profiles to send some numbers directly to voicemail. Or even to have separate voicemail profiles depending on caller groups. I, like many people, use their phone for both work and personal and often thought wouldn't be nice that the numbers that are in my Friends/Family groups go to one greeting, and the numbers that are in my work group go to another and even numbers unknown go to a completely another greeting. I mean I can do that on my work phone so that internal calls get one greeting and external calls get another and even numbers I have manually entered for external can get a separate greeting. There are other things that I have thought of too but can't help but thinking why this cannot be done from the start.
        bobiroc
      • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

        @ SonofaSailor

        No - he asked for a feature that the iPhone has had for a long time.

        He just asked if you could bypass the charges for using it.

        And in response got a joking response about stalking.

        Apple did include the functionality, the other bloggers probably had the comprehension skills to know that.

        So your comment is completely out of line, and shows the usual hate speech lack of knowledge of the people and products you are attacking!!!
        richardw66
      • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

        @cyberslammer2 That was a pretty ignorant comment dude... His reason for asking is the EXACT same reason I got MobileMe for all 3 of my family's iPhones to begin with - to be able to track the device if it's ever lost or stolen - does that make ME a stalker as well?
        athynz
      • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

        @SonofaSailor While I will not claim to know if slammer's post was a joke or not, I can see how it could have been. On the other hand your post has no relevance, input or help and is just another attempt to attack a product you don't like and another poster that you don't like, pathetic.
        non-biased
    • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

      @bobiroc <br><br>I don't think you can cross Apple IDs as each are tied to a Mobile Me account (MM). The only option would POSSIBLY be is to have the (MM) me family plan. I only have an individual MM account so I do not know for sure, but I logically suspect that family MM accounts have an account administrator who reins over each account. If this is the case, then in the grand scheme of things, YES you can track your wife's iFon and she can keeper her own Apple ID, settings, etc. and just be able to be independent of your account.<br><br>With this in mind I recommend giving Apple Support a call (800-275-2273) or do a chat with them (www.apple.com/support/mobileme) using the "express lane" URL at the bottom of the page and get answers to your specific needs.<br><br>Let me know what you find out so I can help others too!

      New Username: McMocoChocolate
      McMocaChocolate
      • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

        @McMocaChocolate

        I haven't tried this - but since the Apple ID for the MobileMe tracking is entered completely separately from the store ID, and along with several mail accounts, I doubt that there is a problem.
        richardw66
  • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

    My Son lost his iPhone in SF getting out of a cab. We went to mobile me, found it on the map, he went to the street location while I sent the help signal to the phone. He found the phone on the ground and all is good! Great system!
    Don.Fowler
  • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

    There's also an app called FoneHome that costs $1.99 and works very well at updating its location. They provide a free web site at which you can check your phone's location.
    PghMike56
  • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

    ALso, don't forget that AT&T can enable something called FamilyMap even after your phone is lost, to *help* locate your phone, but beware -- it only uses triangulation from cell towers for iphones 4s at least, so it is very inaccurate. Still, it can help.
    PghMike56
    • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

      @mlkazar

      It will only use triangulation with any phone because that is the only info the carrier can get.
      richardw66
  • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

    I lost my iPhone 3G almost a year into my contract. With no upgrade possible, I had to by a replacement 3GS for over $400 dollars. I now pay MobileMe $99 a year just for the Find My Phone feature. The passcode is a bit of peace of mind day to day, but I really could have used that $400 for something else, like presents that Xmas.
    teopen@...
  • $2.99/mo equipment insurance?

    As soon as I connectected to my employer's Exchange server it forced me to enable a password. Password and equipment insurance seem to be the most cost effective. The kindness of a stranger to return it if found is iffy at best.
    :-(
    kd5auq
  • The best way to protect your iPhone from loss would be to

    disguise it as a Windblows phone 7!!! NOBODY would bother to steal it then!!
    Ron Bergundy
    • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

      @cyberspammer2
      Heaven forbid we dont all want an iPhone. How dare we want a phone that's applications are free (Unless you jail break your iPhone in which case you void your warranty) and open source or that doesnt cost an extremely high amount of money for being an over glorified cellphone/mp3 player.

      I smell apple fanboy.
      Relorian@...
      • RE: How to protect your iPhone from loss

        @Relorian@...
        <i>I smell apple fanboy.</i>

        You do because you do not have a clue.

        JailBreaking does not make apps any more or less free.

        Many, many apps are free. Apple does not prevent free apps, in fact they provide distribution service for free apps, called the App store.

        Apple only charges for Apps if the app developer decides to charge for the app, and the cost of the app is decided by the developer, not by Apple.

        I smell ignorant hate speaker!
        richardw66