How my Apple Watch and my birthday saved my wife's iPhone (and probably $1,000)

The strange but true story of how an odd series of fortunate events enabled my wife to recover the phone she didn't even know she had lost.
Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

"B-ring! B-ring!"

I was sound asleep. I had decided the night before to turn off my alarm and sleep in on my birthday. My iPhone was in another room, but I always sleep with my Apple Watch in order to track my sleep. Suddenly, my wrist rang.

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I groggily raised my wrist up and looked at my Apple Watch. My wife's name was displayed on it.

Today was actually a big day, pandemic-wise. It was the first day we were considered "fully vaccinated." Two weeks ago, we got our second shot of the vaccine and, as of today, we felt safe being around people.

My wife had planned to start the day taking an early walk with our neighbor. Our neighbor is one of our closest friends, lives 50 feet away, and yet for more than a year, we haven't spent any time together. So Denise took Pixel and our neighbor took her dogs, and they had a nice chat while walking the woofers at the nearby park.

You could actually hear the gears creak in my head as my brain slowly came online. If she was calling me from the park, something must have happened. I took a deep breath and answered the phone. "Hey, honey, what's up?"

Also: iPhone separation anxiety syndrome: Have we become too attached to our personal devices?

In reply, I heard a guy's voice: "Uh, this is Michael." Adrenaline surged through my body. What's wrong? Who's Michael? Is my wife okay? Is my dog okay? Why is not-my-wife calling on my wife's phone???!?

"Okay..." I drew out the "oh" and the "kay" so it sounds more like "ooooooh... kaaaaay." I'm nothing if not quick on the draw.

He continued, "Uh, I found this phone. It said "Call David for his birthday. I tapped it, and I guess I got you."

Comedic confusion then ensued. I rocketed out of the bed, telling the guy I'd find her or come get the phone myself. I shot into the living room, just as my wife came in the front door.

More comedic confusion ensued as I shoved my Watch in my wife's face and told her "A guy found your phone. He's calling on my watch. Talk into my wrist." This was slapstick in action, because she had no idea there was a guy, or even that she'd left her phone in the park. All she knew was that crazy scruffy hubby was holding a wrist in her face.

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She spoke to the guy and asked him to stay please stay put. He said he would. She went to the park, found the kind stranger, and retrieved her phone.

But the story doesn't end there. For without the two factors of always wearing my Apple Watch and iOS automatically posting a birthday reminder on her phone, on that very day, she would not have gotten her phone back.

The thing is, if you find a locked-down iPhone, it's not easy to find the owner. The phone is locked for the express purpose of not letting strangers have access to the data inside. Sometimes, someone who finds a phone can ask Siri for help, but who to call? The good Samaritan could wait for the owner of the lost phone to try to call it, but that's not always a winning strategy.

But on this day, my birthday was in my wife's calendar and it was associated with my contact card. So when it came up on the notifications screen, Michael was able to tap it and call me.

Also: Apple Watch: New or refurbished? Why I'm glad I bought a used Series 4

Now comes the second factor that made this save possible. My watch. I always wear my Apple Watch to bed. I use it as a sleep tracker. My Series 4 has cellular service, so when the guy called my phone, my Watch rang, woke me, and the entire recovery operation was set into motion.

What lessons can we learn from all this? Here's one: always wear your Apple Watch to bed. Only get the cellular model. Only lose your phone on someone's birthday who is in your contact list.

If you find a phone, it can be hard to find the owner. But iMore has a good guide for ways you might be able to track down the owner. 

What about you? Have you ever misplaced your phone? Do you wear an Apple Watch? Have you ever been indirectly given the gift of a thousand bucks on your birthday because you didn't have to spend it to replace your wife's missing phone? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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