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

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.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

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?

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