A co-worker of mine just experienced the theft of his wife’s iPhone. During the process of tracking it down with local police, the thief turned the device off, big surprise right?
As you you can probably guess, once an iPhone is turned off you no longer receive updates as to where it is located via Find My iPhone. I think this can be fixed.
There is a company called Tile that creates a small Bluetooth LE device that acts similarly to an iBeacon.
The Tile connects to your phone via Bluetooth and the Tile app monitors and logs your location. This allows you to later find out the last geographical location your phone was located when it last saw your Tile. In most cases that will probably be where the Tile is located. Pretty simple and also very powerful. But this doesn’t help us.
Tile however has an extremely clever feature where you can report your Tile as lost. Once reported as lost everyone who has the Tile app installed begins monitoring for your Tile and reports where they see it. They call this feature Community Find, and it’s pretty neat. Can you see where I am going?
The iPhone already has Bluetooth LE with support for iBeacons. Bluetooth LE is extremely low powered, usually an iBeacon is powered by a single button cell battery that will last an entire year. My proposal is that when an iPhone is reported lost via Find My iPhone that it turns itself into an iBeacon, even when the phone has been powered down. At that point, everyone else’s iPhone can begin to listen for your phone’s beacon and report its location when seen.
I think that this could help keep a missing iPhone on the grid longer when it is swiped from a casual thief. A “professional” thief could of course do something to block your phone’s beacon, like by putting it into a Faraday cage. At some point they’d need to remove it and perhaps it could be spotted by another iOS device or Mac for that matter.
Or, how much power would it take to emit an obnixiously loud tone if an iPhone in lost mode is turned off? Surely the iPhone battery could sustain making such a sound for awhile. Why does Apple even allow the powering off of “lost” iPhones?
I can imagine Craig Federighi announcing this on stage.
Now, if you report your iPhone as lost, everyone’s iPhone will keep an eye out for it and report its location, even if it has been turned off.