All is not lost: Do this one simple trick and easily find a lost iPhone

Recently, Matt and I went to a birding festival in northwest Ohio called The Biggest Week in American Birding. The highlight of the festival is the boardwalk at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Each May, thousands of people from all over the world flock to the area to walk the boardwalk and watch the warbler migration. You can read more about my experience at the festival here

We were in the middle of our second day of birding and finishing up a break when I reached around to pull my iPhone out of my back pocket and check the list of birds we had seen that day. To my horror, the phone was gone!

My heart sank, my stomach flipped. My phone is my constant companion and it was gone!

Matt and I searched the area around the car. We checked inside every part of the car we could think of. We were parked near the bathroom and I knew it was in my pocket when I walked in, so it had to be on the ground somewhere. Except, it wasn’t.

I asked a few people if they had seen or picked up a phone but no one had. All the pictures, the screen saver of my late dog which I haven’t been able to bear getting rid of, all of my apps, contacts, music and books are on that phone. I had also compiled a list of the birds we saw that weekend–nearly 95–and without my phone, I’d never be able to remember them all!

Rationally, I knew if I bought a new phone I could get everything back from iCloud, and get a spiffy new phone in the deal. But, the irrational part of my mind just wanted my baby back and was ready to harass every person in the park until I found it.

After about twenty minutes of going over the same thirty-foot path from the bathroom to the car, I remembered that when I bought the phone I turned on the “Find My Phone” option. Folks, if you haven’t done this yet stop reading, pick up your iPhone, go to the iCloud option in your settings and turn “Find My iPhone” on. Other smartphone users, I’m guessing you have something comparable. Figure it out and do it now. You’ll thank me later.

“Okay,” I thought to myself. “I have this feature on my phone, now how do I go about using it?” I grabbed Matt’s phone, started Googling and quickly realized there’s an app for that! It’s conveniently called, “Find My iPhone.” This app is the McGruff the Crime Dog of apps. Once downloaded, all I had to do was log in with my Apple ID and it went to work using GPS to locate exactly where my phone was. It showed the phone was at the opposite end of the parking lot. Someone picked it up and took off with it!

Find iPhone app

Someone needs to update her apps.

In addition to the GPS tracker, the app has some other useful features. The first is an option to play a sound on the missing phone. I just tested this and my advice to anyone who has lost their phone is to play this sound as often as possible. It is loud, annoying and might just have the thief offering to pay you to take the phone back. If the phone is within several yards of where you are, you’ll hear it.

The second option allows you to put your phone in lost mode. This locks the phone, prevents it from being activated or erased without your password and allows you to enter a phone number where you can be contacted by the person who has your phone, assuming they are the honest type. The number displays on your lost phone’s screen along with a call button.

The last thing the app can do is erase your phone so no one can hack into it and steal your valuable information. This is obviously a last resort.

I put my phone in lost mode, entered the number to Matt’s phone and started walking to the other end of the parking lot while tapping the “Play Sound” button over and over. (Apologies to anyone who had to listen to that noise.)

Within a few minutes, Matt’s phone rang. The voice on the other end told me he was at a Division of Wildlife tent, he had my phone and it was making a lot of noise, emphasis on “a lot.” He was not amused. It hadn’t been stolen after all! Someone found it on the ground and walked it to the tent in the hopes the owner would come looking for it. We rushed to the tent and I was reunited with the most valuable tool I have ever owned. I simply had to use my password to unlock it and we were back in business.

I learned a few valuable things from this experience.

  • Don’t assume you’ll never lose your phone. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Turn on the “Find My iPhone” option and download the app on all of your devices. Now.
  • Technology is the shiznit. It really is our friend (at least until it evolves, becomes sentient and rises up to destroy us all).
  • Birders are wonderful people. I already knew this. Other birders are the reason Matt and I have had the success we have had. They are friendly, enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge and willing to let even the most green and scopeless birder look through their mega-expensive scope at a rare find. I’m now adding honesty to the list of their positive traits.

As soon as my phone was returned to me, I tweeted a message to @BiggestWeek thanking whoever turned it in. I have no idea if the person responsible saw that tweet, or if they will see this post. But, I hope they know that their random act of kindness was greatly appreciated and will never be forgotten. To say thank you and pay it forward, I’ve sent a donation to the Friends of Magee Marsh, an organization that does a wonderful job preserving the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area so that birds can have a place to rest and refuel during migration and the humans can have a place to enjoy all the wonders of nature.

Have you ever lost something valuable and had it returned to you? Please, share your story in the comments section, we’d love to hear it.

P.S. The opinions in this post are completely my own. The Apple Inc. has no idea who I am and has not provided me with any products or compensation to write about their awesomeness. I, however, have probably given Apple more of my money than I should have.

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