When “Find My iPhone” Becomes An Adventure

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TechCrunch reader Nikos Kakavoulis sent us the following amazing story earlier this week … The Daily Secret founder used “Find My iPhone” to catch an naive iPhone “thief” — turning on the Play Sound feature in Starbucks in order to locate his lost phone inside the person who had found (and kept) his phone’s pockets.

Writes Kakavoulis (yeah, I know, us Greeks and our “names”):

So I’m sitting in Starbucks in Athens, Greece, meeting with Daily
Secret developers. After taking a quick break, I realize I’ve left my
iPhone on the bathroom sink. It’s gone. The barista says no one’s
handed in a phone but suggests I check the ‘Find my iPhone’ app. Our
head designer, Spiro, is already on the case—by the time I get back to
the table, he’s got the app on iCloud. The good news? My iPhone’s
still in Starbucks. The bad news—it’s on silent (probably turned on silent).

There’s a small button on the iCloud interface, which I’d never
noticed before—Play Sound. In an instant, we can all hear my iPhone
beeping. I’m looking around Starbucks and the noise is coming from a
couple with a baby two tables away. “Have you seen my iPhone?” I ask.
The guy pretends not to hear, which is insane because the beeping is
now incredibly loud. “Maybe the baby took it?” I say, even though
their kid’s about a year old. The beeping stops.

I go back to our table, click the same button and this time, when the
beeping starts up, the guy takes my phone out of his pocket all
contrite—“Oh is this your phone? I found it on the floor.” I’m almost
speechless by now, then his wife jumps in—“You’ve got it back, what’s
your problem?”

By the time we call the police, the couple has disappeared. No apology, nothing. Do I want
to file charges? No. Facebook? Hell yes. We post the guy’s pic on
Facebook. Ten minutes later, the kicker. His wife comes back into
Starbucks, presumably to apologize. She comes up to our table. “I’ve
lost my sunglasses. Have you seen them?”

While Kakavoulis’ story had a happy ending, “Find My iPhone” didn’t have the same results for Prism SkyLabs founder Steve Russell, who live-Facebooked tracking down the iPad he lost on a flight to the Carriage Green Apartments in Aurora, CO (United/Continental’s Lost and Found Facility is down the street).  While he updated the thread with every step of the process and at times was so close, Russell never did end up with his iPad.

Russell later wrote me with this suggestion for the makers of “Find My iPhone,”

“Wouldn’t it be neat if an option on the “Find my iPhone” App was to automatically submit your device serial number to police and and various lost and found registries…as it was for me…I couldn’t find my serial number and it was logged by “Find My iPhone” so it made talking to the airline and police about my device much more difficult …

Airlines, like pawn shops are required to do today, should be required to submit the serial numbers of found high end electronics to the police and possibly set up an online registry.  In the Pawn shop case, this is actually how MOST stolen iPads are found and returned, according the police person I talked to.  They Cops wait until the thief tries to sell the device…and then pick it up from the pawn shop. “

I too have had a “Find My iPhone” adventure, rifling through anything and everything backstage for hours last month at Le Web, to find my iPhone that supposedly was right there according to “Find My iPhone” but actually wasn’t. I also didn’t get mine back. :( Maybe that guy’s wife was right?