AMITIAE - Saturday 5 December 2015

Cassandra: Making use of Find my iPhone

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I had a minor panic earlier today when I looked inside the small bag I now use and was unable to find the iPhone 6s I have. I was already carrying the iPhone 6s Plus that is on loan to me and swap the SIM card depending on which of the two Apple Watch devices I use. The iPhone 6s Plus is paired with the Apple Watch; the iPhone 6 with the Apple Watch Sport: having two watches needs two iPhones. I think that is a requirement that needs fixing.

I normally keep the spare iPhone in the bag I now use in the light of the requirements of various security guards at various malls and stations round Bangkok, who demonstrate to me each time they ask to look inside, just how ineffective they are. Tired of opening my backback every time and the guards not even asking about the large section that contained a computer; or the tote bag I bought to make checks easier, when no one even looked beneath the towel I placed on top of my possessions, I bought a small over-the-shoulder bag with several pockets.

Find my iPhone

Into this I stuffed all the must-have documents, adapters, attachments (including a mini tripod and set of lenses for the iPhone). The bag was sold to me by one of my students who designed and had a few made, then after selling out the entire run to other students, had friends of friends ask for more. I was one of the second wave. When he made a presentation in class about the bag, I was so impressed (there were a couple in the class anyway), I handed over the cash right away.

I am never checked now (unless I have a bag clearly marked as coming from a high class bakery I frequent), even though there is enough room in the bag for a revolver or other dangerous materials. One presumes that security guards in Bangkok have X-ray vision the cursory way bags only of tourists and local teenagers are checked.

As I sat down in the BTS carriage on the way to Siam, I looked in the bag but the rose gold iPhone 6 was not in its normal pocket. I checked again; then I checked another compartment, plus a couple of extra pockets the bag has. Subduing the panic, I thought where it might be, if not where it normally was, but was acutely aware that I had been using it to help a colleague who has developed a Braille Notetaker (Jod Jum) examine the changes that iOS 9 had brought.

Find my iPhone

I lent him my iPhone 6 and we were discussing the keyboard input using the iPhones, the iPad Pro and its Smart Keyboard along with an Apple Wireless Keyboard. I knew it had been on the table at that time (Friday morning): had I left it there accidentally, forgotten it in my office (both unlikely) or put it elsewhere, such as the tote bag?

At Siam, I sat down and started the Find my iPhone App. After logging in, the only device visible was the iPhone 6s Plus in my hand, as well as the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro at home. That has a SIM card. I turn off the Wi-Fi when I leave the apartment, so the Macs were also not shown as active.

As there was a possibility I had forgotten it at work I needed to make sure (as best I could) that it was secure. Even with the new 6-figure security code, there is a risk that someone could find it and, although they might not be able to access the phone, this would be inconvenient.

I decided to send a signal to lock the iPhone when it went online. If it was me who made the connection, all well and good. If not, maybe I could put a hold on someone's plans. I also set the iPhone to display a message, using the default message offered and adding my phone number. I decided not to use the option to delete all data at this stage.

Find my iPhone Find my iPhone

Later at home, the iPhone 6s was in the first place I looked: a pocket in the tote bag. Using the Touch ID I was able to enter the home screen for a moment, before the Wifi connected and everything was locked. The message appeared on the screen and there was nothing I could do with it, as per the plan.

On the iPhone 6 Plus, I had a message to tell me that the missing iPhone was online. I accessed Find My iPhone again and in a couple of quick taps undid the lock: I also had emails telling me about the locking and unlocking. Later I saw that a similar message had been received on the Mac.

Find my iPhone

No harm was done this time as the misplacement was my fault and soon corrected. iPhones, iPads and Macs do go missing. I know several who have had these stolen, with one Phuket user being offered his several months after the loss as the person who had found it was unable to unlock it. I had a Mac stolen before this feature was available and using Undercover, managed to track the device a couple of times, but not get it back: it was last seen in Dublin, still locked (Firmware password).

Find my iPhone (which also covers iPads and Macs) was some help to me with this misplacement, but in a real theft situation would be valuable in preventing use, protecting data and hastening its return.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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