Saturday, May 28, 2011

Find you lost iDevice without looking like an idiot!

Make sure you don't look like this guy if you ever lose your iPhone. 

Long story short, the guy forgot his phone somewhere and thought someone stole it, used his son's iPhone to "track" his iPhone, tracked and beat up the wrong guy (the phone was always where he had left it), and was charged for assault.

Good thing it wasn't more than a beating...

So, how to avoid that? Well here are a few tips and precautions you can take, and a few tools which could help you find your iPhone.. properly. 

I have an iPhone 4, and these apps were tested on it, but they may work on other devices. Your job to check whether or not they do.

I suppose the "default" iPhone tracking tool would be the stock MobileMe - Find My iPhone one. This allows you to locate your iDevice on a map, display a sound and/or text message on the phone (regardless of whether or not it is on silent mode), lock the device using its existing passcode, and wipe the iPhone data remotely. Of course you will need your location services to be turned on on the device otherwise the last known location would be the one you would get, and an internet connection (3G or Wi-Fi) needs to be enabled on your device as well, or you'd get nothing. I think this is an OKish solution but needs a bit more (like changing the lockcode, I thought that we were able to this before!). [Click for instructions on how to set it up + Screenshots]

There are a couple of Cydia apps which I have tried and I believe would be enough to "secure" your iPhone and enable you to locate it "less foolishly" than the baseball guy. You'd need a jailbroken device for them though. If that doesn't suit you, I will talk very briefly about non-jailbroken devices further down.

First: iGotYa, a Cydia application with pretty basic functionality. When your iPhone is locked and an incorrect passcode is entered, the device silently (meaning the user doesn't know that anything is happening) snaps a photo using the iPhone 4's front camera, captures the devices location and sends that to a predefined email address. If the device doesn't have a internet connection the email will be queued, and if there is no accurate GPS location, well that last known one will be sent anyway. Also the application has a feature allowing the iPhone thief to be able to access your device with an incorrect passcode, except all your personal stuff will be hidden. So now you can see the face who stole your iPhone before you beat a random guy talking on an iPhone to death... or something. [Click for instructions and output example]

My favourite must have app for this issue is iLostMyi, has quite a number of different features than the ones mentioned. Firstly the application registers your SIM cards, meaning it will identify any "alien" SIM cards once they are inserted (i.e. thief switches your chip for his). The application the sends you a silent (meaning the user doesn't know that anything is happening) text/SMS message on one or two predefined phone numbers (i.e. your dad's phone number or your partner's). The message you will get will contain the sender's phone number, and his/her SIM card's ICCID and IMSI. You can then send text messages to that number with special commands (which again, will be silent and will bypass the phone's inbox). The special command can enable you to get the GPS location of the device (automatically turning location services on if they are off) and specifying your desired accuracy of location. You can also send other system commands and pretty much take control of your iPhone remotely (given there is a SIM card in it). Here is the list of commands you can send from the official website. In addition to that you can disable the shutting down of the phone. This is a new feature which I haven't tried out yet but should be useful so there would be continuous communication between you and your stolen iPhone. Also you can send a system message to the iPhone like the other applications for example (If found please contact Sam on PHONENUMBER or EMAIL). Useful if the person who found your phone doesn't actually want to steal it!

NOTE: You can still send the command text messages to your own phone even if no one has put an unidentified SIM card in it. Just use your own phone number. [Instructions & screenshots from the Official website]

There is another app (that I know of) on Cydia, similar to iLostMyi, which I haven't tried but seems to do something similar. It's called iTracker. Also I believe there are quite a few apps for non-jailbroken devices on the AppStore, none of which I have tried to be honest. A quick search shows me that "Device Locator: Track and locate your lost or Stolen iPhone..." could be a good one (based on description). Any other one anyone has used? Anything I have missed here or anything missing which you would like to see in iPhone tracker apps? Please share!

TIPS (You don't need to be jailbroken!)

Put a lock code on your device! If you are one to frequently and easily misplace your device make it auto-lock immediately. That could be annoying but better safe than sorry. If you're (like me) glued to your device, and think there is less chance of it being misplaced, put the locking time to 15 minutes or an hour. Or leave it at immediately and download CleverPin from Cydia. Needless to say, don't put obvious lock-codes such as your birth year or 1234 or 1111 or something easily guessable.

Leave location services always on, and if you have a 3G connection leave that always on. There is a trade-off here of-course with battery life. Personally I turn mine off whenever I'm not using them, but I'm willing to take the risk. Are you?

Before beating someone up make sure they HAVE actually stolen your device! Talk to them? Or send a system message or sound using one of the options I have mentioned to make sure your phone isn't just in your backpack, which you didn't check because you never put it there!

Finally, it is an expensive, or at least valuable device with probably quite a bit of your personal information on it. Keep it safe and don't neglect it. Love it and it will try to love you back. Except if it’s a 3GS (or pre-).. Even Apple don't love you anymore!


I do not in any way condone what you have done.
Don't try the lock-code, don't even guess. Just turn the phone off. Go home. Take the chip out and flush it down the toilet. Restore the device on your computer, and you should be sweet.
No guarantees though. Although none of the options I've talked about would work when you do that, I'm willing to bet you can still be somehow tracked by the cops or Apple.
Take the phone back to its owner and apologize.

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Have a good day or night, wherever you are, whoever you are.
It’s been a pleasure.

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