A couple of weeks ago, on a weekend getaway, my family and I went for a hike – at 10:30 in the morning, parking at a busy trail head with tons of cars and people all around. When we came back to the car 45 min later, someone had smashed the passenger side window and grabbed my purse which was stuffed under the passenger seat. Fortunately my wallet wasn’t in it, but my iPhone was. Here’s what I learned as I struggled to replace it.
The Bad News
1. Apple and AT&T do nothing to discourage an active market in stolen iPhones. There was no way for me to register the serial number with either Apple – so no one could use the phone with iTunes – nor with AT&T. This is nuts. I’ve written to both Apple and AT&T insisting that they create a simple database that would help discourage theft by making it harder to use the stolen phones. Tweet @attcustomercare or email Apple to ask them to fix this.
2. For a week and a half I explored different ways to replace the iPhone without spending a fortune. I called AT&T general customer care, called their business center twice – the phone is part of a small business account, called Apple, went to the AT&T store in Hastings Ranch, and the Apple store in Pasadena. No one had a clue. The AT&T store wouldn’t even sell me a new phone at full price of $600 even though I had an existing contract!
3. I am a MobileMe subscriber (which I love by the way) and had heard about the Find My iPhone feature that allows you to GPS the location of your phone and assumed it was the default setting. Nope, the Find My iPhone feature is OFF on your iPhone by default so unless you’ve turned it on before you lose it, MobileMe is no help. Trying to understand how this is some sort of privacy protection but seems to me default should be ON. If you have MobileMe, turn on Find My iPhone on your phone now.
The Good News
1. As a MobileMe subscriber – which automatically syncs my iPhone, Laptop and Desktop calendars and contacts without any plugging in – within 30 minutes of discovering the theft, I was able to remotely lock the phone, display a message that it was stolen and phone number for if it was recovered. Then a few hours later when it was clear I couldn’t use the Find My iPhone feature, I was able to remotely erase all the data on the phone.
2. The AT&T Store in Old Town Pasadena rocks! Okay, I guess to be accurate, the woman who helped me rocks, Lindsey. She was the first person I talked to who was friendly and helpful. She looked up our business account and recommended that we add a line to the account which would allow me to buy a new iPhone for $199. The new line would only cost $20/month and would give us an 8% discount on the whole bill which would likely be worth even more than the $20/month line. Done! She set me up and I took the time to ask for her manager to give her appropriate kudos.
3. State Farm insures iPhones! AT&T won’t. Apple won’t. But in my online searches I discovered State Farm does. Called our local State Farm office, Jim Krause, who handles all our insurance, and they called back immediately. For $42/year we can insure both our iPhones for a total of $1200.
Oh yea, and one more thing. Thieves don’t know my wallet isn’t in my purse, I’ll be putting any bags in the trunk from now on.