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August 31, 2009

MobileMe catches iPhone thieves

Posted: 10:24 AM ET

Swiping a GPS-enabled phone could ruin your plans for the weekend.

Cell phone thieves beware: that shiny iPhone you just nicked from a naive tourist could be leading police to your location quicker than a trail of donuts. New GPS features such as Apple's Find My iPhone tool allow users to locate lost or stolen phones on the Internet.

Stories of elaborate iPhone rescue missions such as this adventure posted by Kevin on his blog at Happywaffle.com are popular online topics. And, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Find My iPhone may have snagged its first official arrests this weekend.

Ben Parr at Mashable praises these new tracking features:

With GPS technology becoming more and more prevalent, we’re hoping to hear more of these stories, and that they will make crooks think twice before committing robbery or a more serious crime. Find My iPhone is just the beginning of a new technology wave that helps us fight back.

Most tracking services require users to opt in before losing their phone, and many, such as Apple's MobileMe, require a monthly fee. Also, phones can only be located while powered on, so clever thieves and dead batteries could always foil your detective work. But the satisfaction of solving your own phone mystery is still enticing.

Have you every used Find my iPhone or another GPS tracking service to locate your lost device? Were you successful?

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Filed under: Apple • consumer tech • gps • iPhone • technology


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Jeff Vachon   August 31st, 2009 1:25 pm ET

Of course, whenever a person discovers a phone missing all he/she has to do is inform their cell phone provider who disconnects it and the phone becomes a worthless piece of plastic Cell phone theft is not very common.


John   August 31st, 2009 2:09 pm ET

I have some iPhone ideas that are worth thinking about...

1. I'd like to see an iPhone app that will allow me to find my promiscuous dog when he escapes from the yard.

2. I'd like to send custom voicemails to particular people. "Oh, mom called looking for her car and I'm stuck in a meeting. Good thing I made a custom voicemail for mom letting her know that I'll have the car back soon..." It would also be cool if I can let the many ladies in my life know that I love them with their own custom voicemail.

3. Every city I visit has a hot spot that's "banging" with fun things to do. These hot spots are normally posted on state government websites. I wish I had them organized on my iPhone...

4. I wish there was a database somewhere that I can post my iPhone ideas.

5. I'd like my iPhone to interact with me more. I like the Nike shoe thing Apple worked on for people who like to exercise. I think these ideas can be taken a step further. Put an accelerometer into a gulf club and tell me how I'm swinging... while I listen to swinging music!

6. Would it be possible to create "cloud" applications with iPhones?

7. What happened to all those dead analog tv channels? I think those could be useful in providing the world free internet.

8. When is video chat coming to cell phones?

9. I would like to see a business card application. If you meet someone with an iPhone, it would be nice if I could press a button and then suddenly our information is exchanged (does this already exist?)... certain files too.

10. Is it possible to create an application that uses facial recognition for access to certain files? If that's too hard, how about voice?

I hope by making these ideas public can help not just Apple, but everyone who makes cell phone applications... So, if any of these ideas spark your interest, share them. Thanks.


Jeremy   August 31st, 2009 8:50 pm ET

Hi, I had my Apple laptop stolen so I created a website where you can put the details of your laptop, phone, GPS or anything else. It is based on the serial number or IMEI of a phone, and you just enter your items as you get them, if they ever get lost or stolen you can flag them. The serial number then becomes searchable on Google and people can contact you should they find or see your item for sale. This message is for a free website that is a non-profit, not for business. Hope it is useful. Address is 'www.assettmate.com'. Thankyou.


Dee   August 31st, 2009 10:34 pm ET

I had my iphone stolen in Vegas in April. The worst part about the whole thing is that it is cheaper to cancel and get a new number/phone (175 early term fee + 99 for new phone), than it is to re-purchase a brand new iphone that you are unable to insure in the first place ($399). Apple and AT@T seem very reluctant to embrace this technology, all because of $$$.


Not quite clueless   September 1st, 2009 2:46 am ET

An iphone is a GSM phone... meaning it can be unlocked and re-programmed to work on a different GSM network like T-mobile or any other international GSM networks... where it can be sold for quite a bit of money. GSM cell phone theft is quite common... especially for something as popular and expensive as the iphone.


Bob   September 1st, 2009 11:43 am ET

The wonderful technology that allows the stolen iPhone to be located and recovered means that any 'agency' that so desires can keep track of your phone location 24×7. If you carry a cell phone (and that's the point, isn't it), then you are pretty much broadcasting your location 24×7.

Now of course we live in a perfect world where such activities would never take place, especially on a governmental scale, right? A country like China would never think of using that to keep track of dissident movement.

Lets all hope that our government officials are always honorable people with the best of intentions., and never abuse their power.


Mark   September 1st, 2009 12:49 pm ET

John – #9 already exists. It's called Bump.


CIA, FBI, IRS, GOV, MIB   September 1st, 2009 4:16 pm ET

Bob, way ahead of you. Keep up that positive thinking.


shaun   September 1st, 2009 9:27 pm ET

Isnt anyone worried about big brother. what is to stop government from using this to track citizens. or remotely activave your phone to listen to your conversations, even when not using your phone? Technology is a double edge sword.


Jeremy   September 2nd, 2009 2:11 pm ET

Many of you, especially in Britain, are very concerned about government using cellphone technology to enforce a police state. Yet you can't stop this technology from being available just because it might be so misused.

There is one piece of technology that prevents government abuses of this nature. We're widely aware of it in the United States, although not everyone practices it. It's called gun ownership.


Daniel   September 2nd, 2009 6:10 pm ET

Do you really think that the Government has time to keep track of you all. First let me say that most cell phones have the technology to track you. Grow up! Dont breat the law and then the Gov wont track you!


Chuck   September 3rd, 2009 1:17 am ET

Yes! As a MobileMe member, with an iPhone and Macbook Pro, all this technology is AWESOME. Not only is there "Push" for email/calendar events/contact info, Find my iPhone, photo gallery, iDisk (through the Mac or iPhone) ... I also use MobileMe to publish my website, generate and RSS feed, and submit my Podcast in iTunes. I need a Time Capsule.. I read somewhere that you can access your entire computer's back-up information wherever you are in the world. ...oh I love you Apple.


Undisclosed Government Agency   September 3rd, 2009 8:36 am ET

That's right, Daniel, we're very busy people and don't have time to snoop in responsible citizen's business. your privacy is completely safe as long as you're not breaking any rules! (yes, we make up new rules arbitrarily and without advance notice, but you shouldn't worry your pretty little head about that either...).


Mike   September 3rd, 2009 6:31 pm ET

Cell Phone thievery happens all the time > A user only has to swap the sim card to use the phone


apollo gichuki   September 4th, 2009 5:45 am ET

one security feature offered by apple enables you to remotely erase your iphone if its stolen. This same app erases the iphone software too making the iphone a paperwieght. Of course if the thief tries to reinstal it on line, the system boots it off. Although i think jailbreak software might be able to reinstal it without sync to apple network...


LEO   September 6th, 2009 10:34 pm ET

Jeff, cell phone theft is ridiculously common, but as soon as you cancel your service the GPS and chance of easy recover by police go away.

And yes, government is using this technology against you, like all the others. Get over it, be honest, and have a nice life.


lola   September 7th, 2009 7:42 am ET

This may have been a great idea before this news report came out. Now the cell phone thieves know that they must find a "cell phone hacker" to remove the GPS unit from the phone.


Dana   September 10th, 2009 12:39 pm ET

Yes, last weekend my boyfriend had to drive to Kansas City from Denver (a 10 hour drive) and I tracked him online to make sure he was safe. It's a great tool!


Elaine   September 10th, 2009 10:43 pm ET

My phone was stolen at a local Home Depot. I used the find my phone feature and the phone did not move from that location for several hours. During that time I went back to the store, talked to employees, called them several times and nobody seemed to care. I paged the phone several times, then after 2 hours the phone went off line. I went to the AT&T store and got a new phone and they told me to do a 'Remote Wipe'. Now the wipe is pending and I'm not sure if all is lost or if it will eventually go back on-line if the phone is sold. Where can I find more information about this procedure? My main concern is the information stored in my phone. Will the remote wipe still work? And, If the phone is sold and connected with another service, will I be able to see the location?


eyeNtheSky   September 13th, 2009 3:29 pm ET

"Yes, last weekend my boyfriend had to drive to Kansas City from Denver (a 10 hour drive) and I tracked him online to make sure he didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to! It’s a great tool!"

Anybody else read it that way?
The way things are progressing we'll soon have no privacy from ANYONE. Unfortunately the genie's already out of the bottle.

ps, just razzin' ya, Dana.


Doc   September 15th, 2009 10:08 am ET

@Daniel – as just another member of another undisclosed agency... its been done for years, for no reason whatsoever


Valley Girl   October 12th, 2009 2:54 am ET

A friend of the family was robbed by gun point and the thieves took his iPhone along with other items. Apparently these guys were randomly robbing people in the neighborhood but through the MobileMe account on the stolen iPhone the police were able to track the thieves down in less than 3 hours.


phone lookup by address   March 30th, 2012 10:09 pm ET

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