It started as just another early morning at work, arriving at 5.30am outside the converted mill where I rent a small space in amongst the myriad industrial units and office lets. I pulled up outside in my Fiat 500 and removed my backpack that doubles up as my laptop case and portable office, and my messenger bag with the iPad inside. Unknown to me, I also dropped my iPhone by the car before locking up and heading inside. And that's when the fun began yesterday, if your idea of fun is pulling your hair out at how stupid you are and how technology can be both a blessing and a curse.
I had been in my office on the first floor of the old mill for just 10 minutes, had got my laptop fired up and was about to do the same with the coffee machine when my stomach started to churn as I got that undeniable feeling of terror which accompanies the realisation that: my iPhone is missing. At first I convinced myself I had just left it in the car, so dragged myself back down to the street only to make the butterflies in my belly even more excited when it turned out it wasn't there. That's when technology took over and my iPad came to the rescue.
Actually, to start with, my iPad only made matters worse as far as the feelings of gadget loss were concerned. I fired up the 'Find My iPhone' app which Apple includes with all iOS devices. It took a few seconds to locate my missing iPhone, there it was at the other side of the mill in amongst the industrial units and residential properties. I had definitely dropped it then, and someone had definitely picked it up. First things first, make a call: I did, and my heart fell when the person who answered was myself telling me to leave a message. The curse of the 'Find My iPhone' app really started to bite when it became clear it was unable to tell me exactly where my bloody iPhone was. A general rule of thumb is that the bigger the green location circle which appears on the map is, the bigger the area it could be in. My green circle converted pretty much the entire mill, car park and road behind. The pushpin, however, remained fixed in the middle of the access road between the industrial units and the residential properties.
But the iPad with that Find My iPhone curse is also a huge blessing, and this started to take effect the moment I hit the 'Lost Mode' button. Now, at this point I should point out that in order to make any real use of the whole Find My iPhone service you need to set it up on your iOS devices first. Once you've done that you can track the location of your iPhone from your iPad and vice-versa, or the location of both from a web browser via the iCloud. Anyway, hitting the Lost Mode button I was able to enter my office telephone number along with a message informing the finder of the device that I was prepared to give a cash reward for safe return and asking them to call me ASAP. This message then appears on the iPhone lock-screen, and enables the finder to make that call by clicking on the message box. Neat huh? Activating Lost Mode also locks the phone down with either your existing locking PIN or, if you are daft enough to use an iPhone without requiring a PIN to access it, apply a passcode there and then. As long as the device is online, that is not switched off and able to get a network signal, Lost Mode immediately locks it down and starts tracking the location if you have iOS 6 installed anyway. Changes to the location will be tracked on the Find My iPhone map, and an optional email alert can be sent every time the location changes for good measure.
Happy that my iPhone was now locked down and the finder could not easily use it (there are ways to bypass this kind of lock down, which I am obviously not going to go into here) I needed to get their attention so they read the 'cash offered' message. Which is where the 'Play Sound' button comes in. Hit this and a message is sent to the iPhone remotely, activating a loud alarm sound which continues for a full two minutes. Alarm duly sent, but my office phone didn't ring. In fact, during the course of the next hour and four more sets of alarms, four more unanswered calls, and no sign of my iPhone location budging an inch, I was starting to think I might have to swallow hard and hit the third button that the Find My iPhone app presents: Erase iPhone. As the name suggests, this is the button of last resort, when you are sure your smartphone isn't just lost but actually stolen. Use this and, provided it is still switched on and therefore reachable, the handset is reset to factory defaults within a minute or two. You may not have your iPhone back, but the thief doesn't have your data either.
Just as I was beginning to give up hope, after all more than two hours had now passed since dropping my iPhone by the car, the telephone rang. The person who had picked up my iPhone had got my message. I see him most every day walking his dog, we cross paths as I park up outside the office and he walks past. He lives, you see, in one of those houses alongside the mill. In fact, he lives in the house right alongside the access road and just a few feet from where the location marker suggested my phone was all that time. Within five minutes iPhone and owner were reunited, and the honest chap who found it wouldn't even take a £20 reward. In his own words, he said "No money required, I just hope if I lose my phone then someone is also honest enough to bring it back". Karma in action, folks. And his name wasn't even Earl.
To conclude then, with the iPhone back in my possession I just hit the home button and was presented with the Lost Mode Message. By typing in my PIN code Lost Mode was toggled off and the iPhone immediately became unlocked and fully usable again. The iPad saved my life, and yes it does feel as dramatic as that when you lose a smartphone such is the impact they have on our day to day existence both at work and within a social context. Now I'm seriously considering investing in one of those proximity tethering devices which link the iPhone to a keyfob gadget which sounds an alarm if the two are separated by more than the configured distance. If I do, I will be sure to review it here on DaniWeb and let you know if it's worth investing in for old duffers like me who have started dropping iPhones...