The Orlando Incident Part 2/3: How I got my iPhone back via Find My iPhone

I lost my iPhone 4 over the weekend and was able to locate it via Find My iPhone (FMI), but I couldn't recover the device. A little gumshoeing and technology gives this story a happy ending.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

Yesterday I wrote a post about how I lost my iPhone 4 over the weekend at Disney Hollywood Studios. Although I was able to locate it on a map via Find My iPhone (FMI), I wasn't able to actually recover the device. But I'm happy to report that a little gumshoeing and technology gives this story a happy ending.

To recap: I lost my iPhone in the park on Saturday and checked all the usual places (guest service, lost and found) to no avail. At about 11pm my iPhone showed up on Find My iPhone and I was able to narrow its location down to a building in an apartment complex about 15 miles away.

Sunday morning I created a flyer, made 50 copies and went to the complex where my phone was located the night before. I knocked on all the doors, spoke to the residents and taped flyers to the doors that didn't answer. I also gave some flyers to the management office and posted a few on the communal mailboxes for the building in question.

Here's the copy from the flyer (so you don't have to squint):

My iPhone 4 was lost on Saturday, December 4 at 3:00pm at Disney Hollywood Studios. Do you know someone that works at or went to Hollywood Studios on Saturday? The phone has been located in this area by GPS and has been reported lost to AT&T and the Orlando Police. I’m offering a $50 reward (and immunity from prosecution) for its return. Please call...

Sunday night, my phone showed up again on FMI but this time at a different location, about two miles away -- clearly it was on the move. I sent push notifications to the device offering a reward several times and two of them were successfully displayed (an example is at the top of this post).

Then came my big break.

At about 10am on Monday, I received a call  from the flyer. A man told me that he had found my phone. He told me that he found it in the park, but didn't know what to do with it (1) because it had a passcode lock enabled. I didn't ask too many questions and promptly arranged to pick it up. He suggested a TGI Friday's outside the Millenia Mall, which happened to be about a mile from the spot were the phone was last located.

When I pulled into the TGIF parking lot, I was extremely worried about the presence of a Orlando Police Department vehicle parked prominently by the only entrance to the restaurant. My mind raced. What if the guy got spooked by the cruiser in the lot and thought that it was a sting? He could just take off and I'd be out a phone. At this point adrenaline was coursing through my veins and I wasn't thinking completely rationally. (I really thought that he was going to bail. Too much CSI/24/Dexter perhaps?)

I called him from the drop location and asked how I'd know who he was. He told me that he was driving a silver Jaguar (2). He arrived on schedule, apparently unfazed by the OPD cruiser, after all.

That's him on the left, holding my iPhone in his left hand, wrapped in the flyer that I posted at the apartment complex. (The guy's not guilty of any crime, so I obscured his identity).

The exchange went something like this:

Me: Thanks so much for bringing my phone back!

Him: No problem.

Me: How did you find it?

Him: I found it in Hollywood Studios, by the parade route on a bench. (I was definitely at the parade and on a bench that day, so this jibes. But then again, I think that 50 percent of the park's attendees were at that parade.)

Me: Great!

Him: I took it home (1) but it started beeping and displayed a message with your phone number on it. So I called you (3).

Me: Here's a reward for returning it.

Him: No, I can't take it.

Me: Please take it, it would have cost me a lot more to replace, and that's what I said on the flyer.

Him: No, it's alright.

Me: Seriously, take it. Buy your kid a Christmas present or something.

He reluctantly took the money and we parted ways. Me: extremely happy, him: $50 richer.

A shot of the guy's silver jaguar. (License plate obscured)

Needless to say, I was overjoyed to have my iPhone back. The icing on the cake was that it still had 80 percent of its charge (4), so I was even able to take it to Epcot all day Monday. I had expected the battery to be dead and was resigned to have to losing another day while it charged in my room.

So there you have it. A happy ending as a result of a little gumshoeing and some technology.

I'm just happy to have my phone back. But several people familiar with my story suspect that something nefarious is going on. Here are some of the issues that have been raised:

1. Why did he take a lost phone home with him? Wouldn't most honest people turn lost property in to the front gate or a uniformed staffer?

2. I didn't notice any nice cars in the parking lot of the apartment complex. If this guy didn't live in the apartment complex that I canvassed, how did he see the flyer (which he had a copy of).

3. Did he only return the phone because he knew that I was closing in on him and had his location? (I don't buy this point because if he was scared of getting caught, wouldn't he just chuck the phone into the trash?)

4. Why did he keep the phone turned off? Did the flyers at the apartment complex scare him into giving it back? (Again, I don't buy this because he could have simply thrown it out.)

Also, why did he wait until Monday to call me? Why not Sunday after the push notifications or after seeing my flyer? Do locals really go to Disney parks much? Or was this part of his story fabricated?

I'm a perennial optimist and accept his story at face value. Heck, I'm just happy to have my iPhone back and probably would have accepted just about any story. And besides, if he was a crook, would he have called me to return the phone in the first place? Wouldn't he just throw it away?

What's your take on the guy's story? Was he telling the truth?

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