Stolen Phones and Unicorns
I got first-hand experience today with Apple’s system for handling lost & stolen phones. My daughter, who just started college last week, was bumped while walking to breakfast. When she got to the dining hall, she noticed that her phone was missing from her pocket. She rushed back to where she was bumped, retraced her steps to the spot that she last knew she had the phone, etc – it was not to be found. Not a good start to any day, and especially for someone just beginning a new life 3,000 miles away from home.
She had hopes that someone might find the phone and return it. After all, it is a campus community, and my daughter is very trusting. She contacted campus police in case the phone gets turned in to them. But then, when she got back to her dorm after class, she turned on Apple’s “Lost my iPhone” feature to see if she could track the phone and learned that it had been switched off. Only a thief would do that. So, the likelihood that the phone will ever be seen again is very, very small. If she ever sees her old iPhone again, it will be a unicorn.
She let my wife and me know what was going on, and we weighed our options. I used Lost my iPhone to report the phone as missing, which locks it and puts a message on the phone asking whoever has it to call a phone number (mine), but I don’t have high expectations that the phone will ever be found since whoever has it turned it off.
My daughter is eligible for a new phone, but we didn’t want to use the subsidy now when Apple has just announced (today) that it will have an event on September 9, presumably to announce the new version of iPhone. We considered having our daughter purchase a pre-paid “burner” phone like the drug dealers use on TV. Then, we hit on what I think is the right option.
I had an old iPhone 4 in a drawer, so I charged it and restored the backup from my daughter’s phone that I made two weeks ago, right before taking her to college. Then, my wife and I took a quick trip to the AT&T store with that iPhone 4 and got a new SIM that identifies the iPhone 4 as my daughter’s phone. Like magic, the old iPhone 4 now identifies itself to the phone network with my daughter’s phone number. Within seconds, it was receiving text messages that my daughter’s friends were sending to her. We dropped the iPhone 4 off at UPS, and it will be delivered to her on the other side of the country tomorrow.
All in all, the process was pretty easy. And the only part of the process with any cost at all was UPS!