4 On Your Side: Protecting your cell phone

Posted at: 11/19/2012 10:30 PM
Updated at: 11/19/2012 11:57 PM
By: Gadi Schwartz, KOB Eyewitness News 4

I am an expert at losing my phone. I've lost my phone in restaurants, in cars, in couches, in the street, in a movie theater, in the desert, in a river. The last time I lost my phone was two weeks ago while doing a story on poaching in the middle of nowhere. It was a brand new iPhone 5 and soon I had several helpful Game and Fish wardens cutting sign and literally backtracking my footsteps in the dirt and grass until someone got the bright idea of calling my phone... Ring, ring. We found it about 5 feet away.

I'd like to think that if we were in the city, I would have remembered that calling your phone is step 1 in the lost phone protocol.

But what if your phone is on silent, what if you don't have a phone, or what if it's already in some thief's pocket?

That's where the GPS that comes standard with all new smart phone comes in handy.
This month, we decided to test one of the most popular phone trackers on the market by leaving an iPhone out in plain view on a table along Central to see if it actually worked.

The application we set up on the phone to track what happened is called "Find my iPhone," and it usually comes included with newer iPhones.

The application lets you monitor your phones location from a computer through a Google map that shows it's GPS coordinates. The app also allows you to remotely lock your phone, send a loud beeping ping sound to your phone, and even erase your phone completely if you don't think you will ever get it back.

We set our decoy phone on a table along Central's brick light district next to a jacket and walked away.

Our 4 On Your Side team watched the phone for about an hour before a transient couple sat down, picked up the phone and then walked away.

As soon as they left the immediate area, I activated the locking feature on the iPhone and sent out an alert text message saying "I've lost my phone" and giving them a number to call to return the phone.

I then activated the ringing feature that emits a beeping that sounds similar to sonar.
The GPS told us they were about a block away from our location so I grabbed a hidden camera and went out to get a closer look. As soon as I walked by the woman asked me if she could borrow a phone. I stopped to pull the phone she was about to call out of my pocket and asked her why she needed it.

She told me they had just found a phone and needed to give it back to the owner who was trying to find it.

"We have to be good samaritans and give it back to that person," the woman said.
Find my iPhone had worked.

We placed the phone out on the table again and watched an older gentleman with a blue shirt stop by and shove the phone in his pocket and then walk east along Central. Once again we sent a text message, sent out an alert and started tracking the phone down the street.

When the phone began emitting the location sound, the man darted inside Frontier and threw the phone in the trash where it was soon fished out by a Frontier employee.
For the most part our test was a success. The Find My iPhone app allowed us to recover our phone... actually our bosses phone, without any major incidents and with out any damage. (Other than a bunch of ketchup on the carrying case.) The only mishap we experienced was in erasing and then trying to restore all data to the iPhone. For some reason our backup sync only allowed our News Director's iPad setting to be restored to the iPhone. Might have been user error... Sorry, Laurie.

If you have a droid or an iPhone, phone finding programs must be installed and set up before a phone goes missing for them to work.

If you have an iPhone here is a link to specific instructions on how to set up the Find my iPhone application.


If you have a droid, I highly recommend the "Where's my droid" app available on Google Play. That app literally helped me find my old droid every time I lost it.

One of the most convenient features is the ability to send a text to your phone from another phone that will take your droid out of silent mode and emit a very loud locating sound.
A $3.99 upgrade to "Where's my Droid" will also allow you to take pictures from your phone remotely in the hopes that your camera captures the image of a possible thief. Those pictures are then uploaded to a server and emailed to your address.

Here is a quick how to on setting up the "Where's my droid" App.


For my tutorial on phone tracking apps, click here