Yesterday I lost my iPhone

by Volker Weber

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I often don't know where exactly my iPhone is. When that happens I go to this glance on the Apple Watch and tap the sonar button. The iPhone will make a loud sonar sound, even if the volume is turned down or the phone is on mute.

Yesterday however, something was wrong. The watch face showed a red disconnect icon. The iPhone was not in my vicinity. And it could not have shut down because of low battery. It was gone.

I did not go into panic mode, because I was prepared. Just three weeks ago, a friend lost his iPhone and he made all the mistakes you could make. Call the carrier, lock the SIM card, change the password to his mail address and so on. He had cut all cords before asking for help. It was like a patient who did not only have a heart attack, but was shot and quartered before calling the ambulance.

Since I had told him what to do next time, I had completed my fire drill:

Chances are that not all of those options work. iCloud may ask you two of your three security questions and you may not know the exakt answers to them, just as an example. If you know your safetey net works, you can do what I did.

I had an idea where the phone could be. I looked it up in the Find iPhone app on the iPad, and it was still there. I set the iPhone into Lost Mode. This lets you put instructions on the home screen and insert a number the finder can call. The phone remains locked and will display the number. And calling the number is the only thing the finder can do.


Since the phone had not moved in about half an hour, I set a number to call and left to fetch it. Halfway there, a young man called and I asked him to wait for me. Three minutes later I met him right where I had left the phone, and I got it back.

Two lessons: (a) be prepared and (b) people do the right thing if you ask nicely.


Third Lesson:

buy a second iOS Device

Karl Heindel, 2016-06-10

Great story! Though Karl is also right: this prerequisite would run me into troubles right now ;)...

Ingo Seifert, 2016-06-10

No, it is not a requirement. Log into

Volker Weber, 2016-06-10

So either "Find iPhone app" or use the feature on

Ingo Seifert, 2016-06-10

Either one, or both. Does not matter.

Volker Weber, 2016-06-10

Congratulation & well written, as ever. Just perfect.
Thanks Volker.
Also to the very kind finder :)
May the iForce always be with us.

Stephan Perthes, 2016-06-10

Last summer, I was less lucky.

Lost my iPhone at IKEA. Find my phone and send last location was enabled.

I noticed the loss/theft within five minutes. Searched the phone instantly via my wife´s find my phone app - to no avail, the phone was instantly turned off. At that time, battery was half full.

I put the phone in lost mode, but it never showed up again.

Long story short: If a pro snatches your iPhone, they know, what to do - they turn off the phone instantly.

Later, I asked a genius at the apple store three things:

a) Is it possible that my data stored on the phone is at risk?
b) Does Apple list the device as stolen if I tell them it is and prevent anyone from activating it again?
c) If the thief swipes my phone and resets it - will I be noticed via find my phone?

Apple store genius told me, that no one could use the phone again, and no one could use the data on the phone. It is an unusable brick. And he told me, the phone shows up in find my phone, when it is connected to the internet, even if it is set up as a new phone by someone else

One year later, I still don´t believe all this. The phone is still listed in my iCloud devices, but never showed up. So in my opinion, the practical use of find my phone/mac is very limited.

Richard Donninger, 2016-06-10

same experience here. Managed to leave my iPad Mini on board of an airplane (Wifi only model). Also put it to Lost mode. But never showed up again. Just vanished from this planet.
So, it seems there ways to reset the devices and not have them bricked by Apple.
Else, I struggle to image what people do with lost devices if they don't activate / use them ever again.

Jens Nullmeyer, 2016-06-10

If a phone is turned off, it disappears at its last location. That means if it is stolen, it is gone.

If you lost it, it is not gone. Most people do the right thing. But you have to tell them what the right thing is. That is where this "lost mode" comes to play. Of course you can also just call the phone, but that means somebody has to be around to answer it when you call. They cannot call back.

iPhones cannot be activated (or wiped) without the last known Apple ID and password. But thieves take them for parts. You data is safe, but the phone is gone. Sorry to hear that.

Volker Weber, 2016-06-10

Jens, if it is wifi-only, chances are it cannot connect to the network. And on the plane, it most likely is in Airplane mode. If it is locked, it cannot be taken out of Airplane mode. That means it can only be recovered through the airline or the airport.

Volker Weber, 2016-06-10

If your're, let's say, at the train station and you loose an iOS Device.

Then you go to the next computer, you can't log into iCloud, because of the activated two factor authentification.

So it's better to have a second iOS device which is logged into the the same account.

Am I right?

Karl Heindel, 2016-06-10

Looks like you restrained yourself. 2F requires you to have the second F.

Volker Weber, 2016-06-10

Very instructive, thank you, Volker.

Inspired by your loss I just did an emergency drill and tried to use BlackBerry Protect on my laptop for the first time with my phone lying right in front of me. Frustrating result: BB was unable to communicate with my device, they could not make it play a sound, I could not display a message and they could not locate the phone. All it showed was a map where the phone was located "three weeks ago" although location services were enabled. Scary ...

Has anyone had better experiences with BlackBerry Protect or used another program?

Jochen Kattoll, 2016-06-10

Something seems wrong here:

"Apple store genius told me, that no one could use the phone again, and no one could use the data on the phone. It is an unusable brick. And he told me, the phone shows up in find my phone, when it is connected to the internet, even if it is set up as a new phone by someone else"

How could an unusable brick be set up as a new phone by somebody else?

Jörg Michael, 2016-06-10


If you log-in to iCloud on a browser, you (may) get the two-factor dialog.

But if you look a the bottom, you find an icon for "Mein iPhone Suchen". Click that and you can continue just with your password.

Ole Saalmann, 2016-06-10

UPDATE: Second attempt with BlackBerry Protect was successful. BB was able to communicate with my phone and (a) made it play a (horrible) sound, (b) displayed a message for the potential finder and (c) located the phone at its current location with 20 m accuracy. Excellent!

Jochen Kattoll, 2016-06-10

Wife had it the other way around. "Lost" her Apple Watch on the train. Well, she took the watch off and forgot that she had put it into her backpack. When coming back home I looked at the iPhone and in the Bluetooth settings I could see that an Apple Watch was still connected. Moved around with the iPhone and saw that the connection disappeared while moving away... ...from the backpack. And the connection came back when moving towards the backpack. Bingo. We found the watch all the way down in the backpack. I miss a "make a loud" noise function in the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. The other way around of what is possible with the Apple Watch - that is to find an iPhone. :-)

Federico Hernandez, 2016-06-10

@ Jörg Michael, 2016-06-10 13:54:

I´m not a technologist, but I just found it unplausible, that a stolen idevice could not be wiped and reseted. Maybe through jailbreak?

I mean, these things get stolen so often. And I have not heared yet of an aftermarket for iPhone parts, but what do I know.

At least, from the San Bernardino case we learned, that the data is fairly safe on those devices.

Richard Donninger, 2016-06-10

Richard, just read this. Every iPhone needs to be activated. If it is locked to your account, Apple will find it when it comes alive. Even IF you could somehow wipe it. Activation means it needs to talk to Apple, either on the mobile network or on Wi-Fi. That's where the journey ends.

Volker Weber , 2016-06-10

Thanks, Volker! Now I can sleep even a little better.

I hope that counts for Macs as well. (Did I mention, that my MacBook Air was stolen last year as well?)

Good grief.

Richard Donninger, 2016-06-10

I'm afraid not. Macs are like PCs and provide no security.

Volker Weber, 2016-06-10

So it appears that the only thing that was wrong was the last bit of information given by the Apple store genius.

Jörg Michael, 2016-06-12

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