Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Product Review: Find My iPhone App

Warning: you will have to read through one of my patented, long winded set ups to get to the meat of the review. Skip down about half way if you could not care less about the back story.

When my company set me up with the new iPhone 4s, the inevitable happened. You see, The Queen and I had had the second generation iPhone 3G. It had served us well for two years until it became increasingly slow and frustrating to deal with. In hindsight, the problem was blindly upgrading the OS every time iTunes said there was an update available not realizing that the platform was not designed for the newer OSs and didn't have the horsepower to run the code.

Also around this time, there was all the hoopla in the media about Apple using location information gathered from the phones without express permission (ignoring the fact that such a clause is supposedly buried deep within the 40 something pages of end user license agreement that no one reads). So, bowing to the pressure from my beloved Queen to fix the problem, I suggested we try out the Droid platform. The Queen was game, and our brief foray into Sprint's services was the net result.

Upon returning to AT&T, we stuck with the Droid platform mainly because I wasn't flush enough with cash at the time to shell out over $300 a piece for new Apple iCores. Anyphone, The Queen gamely accepted the Droid (a Motorola Atrix)...and promptly began to complain about the touch screen keyboard. I suggested she use the voice to text feature....apparently Droids don't speak Thingie.

As you might expect, upon the conferring by the company of my new Apple iCore,  royal decree came forth that "We want!" (that being the royal we). Promises were made; and, lo and behold, the royal exchequer received a healthy infusion of cash from the treasury in the form of a tax refund earlier this month. We were too early in our current contract to get the full benefit of an upgrade discount, but we got enough of a discount to make a refurbed iPhone 4s doable (albeit at a price that would make Robin Hood look like a small time liquor store robber).

The phone was ordered online and arrived at the castle via FedEx last Thursday. We (meaning me) got The Queen's information transferred over the weekend, and all was right in the royal household.

Until yesterday.

The Queen decided that yesterday was too beautiful a day to remain indoors. As a result, after M&M's visit with her bio parents at the CPS offices, The Queen and our little princess departed in the royal carriage to set up court in the botanical gardens in Fort Worth. After my departure from the office, The Queen asked if I would like to join the royal party in the gardens. I asked what she had in mind for dinner, and she decreed that a picnic was in order.

Guess who stopped by the house to secure supplies for said picnic?

I arrived at the gardens a little before sundown and was warmly greeted by my Queen. A lovely picnic was had by all...well, almost all. M&M slept through the event. Being adorable is sssooOOooo tiring.

Anybaby, as we were packing up, The Queen discovered that her new iPhone was nowhere to be found. A thorough search of the area turned up no phone. Retracing her steps...no phone. It was last seen on a bench around the time of my arrival. The Queen claims she was so excited to see me that she forgot about having put the phone down.

What can I say? I can't really gripe at her for that now can I?

It was about this time that I remembered our IT guy telling me about the Find My iPhone app. I downloaded the app as quick as I could. Fortunately, having been the one who set up The Queen's new toy, I knew here Apple ID and password (both necessary to get the app to hunt down your stuff). Plugging the information in, the app brings up a map and pings the phone. It thinks for a moment and then shows you on the map where the phone is. More or less. There are limitations.

When I first pinged the phone, the app showed it to still be in the park at a parking lot about a 100 yards away.

Yep, you guessed it. Lazy, overweight, white collar, professional with a fantastic case of developing plantar fasciitis had to lope/jog/gimp/hobble and otherwise painfully move quickly in the direction of the phone.

Or, at least where the phone HAD been.

By the time I made it to the parking lot...no people, no cars, no phone.

Drat and other curses.

I spotted a security guard and asked if a phone had been turned in. A quick check determined that there would be no joy in Muddville that night as Casey struck out. The guard suggested I call the police for assistance.

Long side story short...the popo can't help much.

So, it was back to the app. Pinging the phone again showed to be on the move in southeast Fort Worth. After some debate about whether the now incommunicado Queen would go straight home or follow me, it was determined that time was wasting and that she would follow me while I tracked the phone.

Now, a couple of quick suggestions here. First, be prepared. I started out with about a third of a tank of gas. If this goose chase got too wild, I was going to have to break it off, gas up or rethink my strategy. I also had no means to communicate with The Queen what was going on. Second, ping that phone as often as you can to keep tabs on where it is. The Queen's phone took a circuitous route through east Fort Worth before doubling back to head southwest. Pinging regularly helped me avoid a lengthy detour and actually gain some ground against the phonenapper's approximately 20 minute head start.

We were ultimately able to track the phone to a lower income (okay, it was Section 8 housing) apartment complex in south Fort Worth. I was fairly sure that the person with the phone had arrived home as it stayed put for about 5 or 10 minutes before we arrived.

The Queen and I had another brief set to about whether or not she would come with me to search on foot. I convinced her that I could take care of myself with God's help, but that I couldn't search and protect her and the baby at the same time. After me promising not to be stupid, The Queen relented and stayed with the cars.

So, how accurate is the locator? The app narrowed it down to one building in the center of the complex. I'm pretty sure it narrowed it down to the eight units in the center of the building; but, short of knocking on doors, I had no way to know which door on which floor to have Monty Hall open.

After returning to the cars to let The Queen know I was still alive and where I thought the phone was, there was a debate about what next. I was trying to call the phone and send texts to it to see if I could get the person who had it to respond. The Queen was encouraging me to call the police again. While this went on, I pinged the phone again and, much to my surprise, it was on the move again coming out of the building I had tracked it to.

I told The Queen of the development just as a young lady came out from between two buildings heading for a car about 20 yards from us. I told The Queen, "I think she's the one with your phone." The Queen asked me if I thought she should approach her so as not to spook her. I okayed it while following far enough not to be threatening but close enough to intervene if necessary.

It turns out I was dead on. She had the phone in her hand. She claimed she was on her way to her boyfriend's to get a ride to return the phone.


Yeah, that's what I thought. Whatever.

She readily gave the phone back. The Queen hugged her. There were tears. I did offer her $40 (the cash I had on hand) as a reward. She promptly and adamantly refused and quickly ran back to her apartment. Go figure.

Bottom line: the app works. It works real well, but it does require some patience and persistence. Having a little blood hound in you helps too.

FTC Disclaimer: It's a free app. So, up yours you bunch of fascist gooberment bureaucrats.


  1. oh wow. i can't believe how much this sounds like one of them CSI or Law and Order shows on TV. i am glad that you got the phone back and so quickly and easily. please always remember to stay safe first. i know that you do.

    your friend, bowing to the Queen always - hey, how is baby M&M doing? need an update fix soon! your M&M/Queen junkie friend,

    1. Kymber, total elapsed time from "oh crap" to "thank you" was about one hour. The the amazing thing to me is to think about the fact that this wasn't possible just a couple of years ago.


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