How my stolen iPhone was recovered using the formerly lame service, MobileMe

[Before this story, a caveat: In almost 20 years of working in the same office building, our company has never had any theft of equipment. It’s a rather secure building and it is managed by some real pros, as you’ll see in a moment. Second caveat: Of all the things I’ve ever purchased from Apple, I have considered the MobileMe service the least impressive (translation: lamest) — until now.]

I realized on the way home last night that I had left my iPhone on my desk, which, no big deal, I do about once a week. However, when I arrived at work this morning, it was gone. Usually, when that occurs, I check Find my iPhone, a GPS tracking feature that is part of Apple’s “MobileMe” service.* (Or, as I believe I’ve called it on this blog before, the secret iPhone-owning-teenager tracking feature.)

100% of the time before today, I’ve seen that my phone was at my home, in my car or at my office.

However, today, it went something like this:

1. I discovered the phone was in this house across town.

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2. With a couple of clicks over to Google, I used street view to get a better view of the house. I sent a couple of alert messages to the phone, offering a reward. But when that didn’t work, we provided the address to the building’s management. 

3. While the MobileMe feature would have allowed me to wipe all content from the phone, I chose to merely “lock” it so that I could continue to track the phone. Around noon, I saw the phone begin moving and noted it was heading in the direction of the office. The tracking was so “real-time,” when it stopped at an intersection next to our office building, I could see what truck it was in. It turned out, however, that the phone was in the truck because the address had led the building’s management to the residence of a person on a contracted crew doing some work for the building. The phone was recovered (after some denial, but, duh, the GPS was still showing the phone was in the house) and the person who took it was fired.

Note to people who want to steal stuff: Don’t steal stuff with GPS built in. You never know who’s tracking you.

*To further clarify this, “Find my Phone” is not an iPhone App*. It’s part of MobileMe, a subscription service.

[Updated: There is no such thing anymore as MobileMe. And Find my phone <i>is</i> an iPhone app.]