April 19, 2017 — Just about everybody has an iPhone, smart phone, or at least a vintage flip phone. If you own one of the former two devices, you have made a significant investment, one that would hurt if you lost it. Unfortunately you could experience that pain all too easily if you lose it (done that several times!), take it swimming (that too), or have it stolen. This article will focus on what to do if you lose your phone, and why you have pretty good odds of finding it again, if you take the right steps.
Although Apple claims in advertising that the iPhone 6 starts at $200, higher performance models can easily go to $400 (plus a $450 subsidy from your carrier). But by the time you attach it to a 2 year plan, your total cost will probably not be less than $500 and could go over $1000 (See ZDNet article on costs). Models from other manufacturers are also expensive.
So when your editor lost his phone yesterday – Ouch! We were on a solo bikeride, iPhone safely in shorts pocket. Except about a half hour into yesterday’s ride, the phone wasn’t so safe, in fact it wasn’t even there. After backtracking several miles to look for it – still no phone. Using a friend’s iPhone and his Find My Phone option (with our apple ID), a map showed the phone in the middle of an intersection about 2 miles away. More about what happened there later.
To avoid losing your phone – follow these 7 steps (these are for an iPhone, but Android and Samsung phones have similar steps):
1. When you buy your phone (or now if you didn’t do this already), activate iCloud, and under that, activate Find My Phone. The vendor should help you with this.
2. Set up your phone to require a passcode or fingerprint before it can be used. That might seem like a pain, but it’s not. A passcode was the key to your editor’s happy ending.
3. If you think the phone is lost, sign in to icloud.com/find on a Mac or PC, or use the Find My iPhone app on another iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. If using someone else’s device, sign in with your Apple ID and password.
4. Find My Phone will show you where the phone is on a map.
5. Before you go to pick it up, you need to take action at the icloud site or Find My Phone app. The first thing to do is turn on Lost Mode. Using that you can: remotely lock your device with a four-digit passcode, display a custom message (like a reward) with a phone number to call on your missing device’s Lock screen, and keep track of your device’s location. Once you have it in Lost Mode, no one can turn off the phone or use it without entering the 4 digit code. You can also erase all data, which you should consider if your phone didn’t require a passkey or fingerprint.
6. Go to where Find My Phone says the phone is. Obviously you should use some discretion. You might want to call it first and see if someone answers. If it is in a private home or unsavory situation, get backup or even the police to help.
7. If you can’t find the phone but it says it is there – call it. Civilian GPS isn’t accurate down to the foot – it might not be exactly where it says it is.
A happy iPhone ending – after a while
So back to our story. We went to the middle of the intersection where the Find my iPhone app said it was – but couldn’t find the device (for the record, we had not been anywhere near this intersection that day). Inquired at a coffee shop and several passersby – but no one had seen it. Giving up and assuming it had moved on, we went back home and looked on the app again. Which said it was still there. So back to the intersection, this time with the wife and her phone. Still couldn’t find it, repeated inquiries to no avail. Then, about ready to give up, we saw a trash can and looked inside, just for the heck of it. And there it was! Safe and sound – and displaying the message that it was lost, there was a reward for finding it. One mistake: we would have found it earlier if we had called the lost phone at that location – would have heard it ring inside the trash.
Passcode to the rescue
Our theory is that because the phone couldn’t be used without entering the correct passcode, whoever found it finally gave up trying to use or sell it. And not wanting to get caught with it, or maybe just they were not a very nice person, they tossed it in the trash.
Don’t put your smartphone investment at risk. We are at a certain age when bonehead moves are an everyday occurrence – misplacing a phone is no challenge. So take the steps outlined above and maybe you will have an outcome as happy as your editor’s.
Do you have any tips for protecting your smart phone? Please share in the Comments section below.