Monday, December 22, 2008

Options for tracking down and recovering lost or stolen iphones

Unfortunately AT&T doesn't seem to care about tracking down your lost iPhone. Fortunately if you've got a lost iPhone and need to track it down, their are a few options you can use.

The program at, which has a beta program already... From the description:
  • Track a lost or stolen iPhone or iPod touch's location
  • Lost under the couch? Alarm noises will help you recover it, even if switched to 'silent'
  • Backup all your important data and settings, automatically, seamlessly over the air any time
  • Wipe all your sensitive data on loss or theft
  • Annoy the thief and send pop-up messages and recovery instructions
  • Track usage, numbers called, view the camera, view text messages
    What will you do when you next lose your iPhone or iPod touch? With iRedHanded installed, you always have a backup plan.
  • Hopefully coming soon to the app store, until then you will need to "Jailbrake" your phone

TUAW Twitter Solution

This is an iPhone LoJack solution. The solution is called findme. It's a command-line program that returns the location of the cell phone tower nearest to your iPhone. When run, it tells you the tower id, plus its latitude and longitude courtesy of Google Maps.

Still, how to get the location report to a place you can get it... but nobody else can... and without receiving a zillion SMSes? For this part of the puzzle, enter Twitter.

Todo this, create a new Twitter account just for your iPhone (it will need its own unique email address, separate from your main account, so have one handy). Open the Settings panel, and look for the "Protect My Updates" checkbox. It's towards the bottom of the page, just above the Save button. Check this and click Save. With protected updates, only the Twitter users you approve will see the updates for this iPhone-only account (just you? you + spouse? spouse, kids, and "special friends?" Up to you).

Update: updated version of findme (findme-better) is available at the TUAW folder.  To use, just copy to your iPhone (you may have to use Firefox if you get errors after downloading with Safari), rename to "findme" and replace the original findme.

After creating your phone's Twitter account, you're ready to set up your iPhone to tweet in on a regular basis. For more instructions visit TUAW's original post on this fantastic application. I have not tried this yet, because I'm not sure how to unlock my phone, but let me know what you think!


With iLocalis you can control your iPhone from your computer connected to the internet. If your iPhone has been stolen you can find it with the track feature or even make a remote call or SMS to see the new number if the SIM has been changed.

- Location trackingYes!
- Share your location with othersYes!
- Notify friends nearbyYes! (if they've got iLocalis)
- Remote iPhone controlYes!
- Send messages to your friends for freeYes! (if they've got iLocalis)
- Remote SMS commandsYes!

Watch for more features in the future! Stay in touch!

Due to the limitations at the iTunes AppStore this application will only be available from Cydia, so you will need a Jailbroken iPhone. If you don't know what that means please search on Google. I will publish a tutorial in the future with instructions about how to Jailbreak your iPhone.

Also you can download another utility I coded from my personal page.

I-Tunes App Store Options (for phones that are not "unlocked")

Unfortunately the only options I found for this are really simple and lame. 

  • $.99 Lost Phone App Their are dozens of apps like this (this one is paid, but their are similar free options). The app is just a wall paper background with information to help someone who has found or stolen your phone to be able to contact you, so you can offer them a reward.
  • $.99 Call owner App - this application looks like a big red stop sign. When pushed it automatically calls or emails who ever you have programmed it to. Unfotunately --if it was stolen I doubt that person is going to call you.
  • $.99 Top Secret - This application just says top secret on the front. It is to entise the person to try to find your personal, valuable information and instead text or emails you (or calls) -- where the phone is. Then gives that person a network error message.. so that they will try to use the application again later.
  • Free If Found App. Looks like a dollar sign. When clicked just gives the person your contact info.
  • $.99 Tracker - This application is suppose to send your location consistantly to a website via ftp. It would also be password protected so if the phone is stolen the application can not be changed. The problem with this is-- I didn't downlaod  it because all of the comments said it doesn't work.
Would love to hear if you know of any better applications for tracking down your favorite phone quickly and easily. Also if you are a developer, I would love to see an application similar to the ilocal, but where you can text from a friends phone to find yours and can text your phone a code to lock it up so no one can edit it or use it.

All iphones have GPS built in, and the police can locate it, but only in emergency (theft apparently doesn't count). So is it just.. Mostly thanks to At&T not wanting to co-operate? Or because of the few people that think it's a privacy violation, but to track your own phone.. with a password? I would say thats not a violoation. Just At&T wanting to make money off you needing to buy a new phone! What do you think?

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