Reunited: The wild chase to track down a missing iPhone

Michael Schwartz/Sipa Press/Newscom
After it! OK, this is just a costume. But Kevin Miller lost his iPhone in Chicago. Thanks to MobileMe, man and machine were soon reunited.

At Apple's keynote two weeks ago, one notable announcement was the launch of the new MobileMe feature Find My iPhone, which helps iPhone owners locate a missing phone.

Just a few days later, Kevin Miller made good use of the lost-and-found measure. He was kind enough to share his MobileMe experience in his LiveJournal. His entry details just how he was able to track down the man who stole his iPhone – and it's a pretty suspenseful and entertaining read.

It all began on a Saturday night at a dive bar in Chicago, Mr. Miller recounted in his blog. After hanging out with friends that evening, he realized he had left behind his precious phone. When he returned to the bar, it was gone and all he could manage to do was leave a number with a waitress hoping someone would be kind enough to turn in the beloved gadget.

Miller felt pretty glum, but then he remembered that he had had signed up for Apple's MobileMe the night before.

So he tried logging onto the MobileMe website on a friend's MacBook Pro, but sadly to no avail: He received a message stating his phone couldn't be located. And then he tried texting and calling his iPhone, but no one picked up. He thought this thief was pretty crafty.

Miller felt hopeless, until he logged on to the site again the next morning. Sitting at the Lego Convention in Chicago on his friend's laptop, Miller discovered that his iPhone was apparently being held captive in a nearby neighborhood. Rather than listening to speeches at the convention, the three friends hopped into their car and drove through the neighborhood following the thief's every move on Google maps.

In hot pursuit of Miller's iPhone, they sent text messages promising rewards. Miller and his friends eventually got out of their car with laptop in hand, equipped with a Sprint 3G card, and walked down the street in hopes of finding the thief.

And then, suddenly, the MobileMe feature zoomed over a bus stop on Google maps right in front of them – where they spotted him!

The group ran toward the iPhone culprit and yelled "Have you got it?" The man, who says he intended to return it at the bar where he found it, then handed over the iPhone to Miller. Within seconds of retrieving the iPhone, Miller says the "phone's battery literally hung on until the second it was in my hand."

Though his iPhone hunt was successful, Miller did have a few quips about the program. For one, you can't use an iPhone to find another iPhone – MobileMe only works on computers. Also, he had to refresh MobileMe continuously to find the exact whereabouts of his phone.

While Miller's story is entertaining, writer Josh Lowensohn of CNET argues that it's still easy for thieves to disable MobileMe's Find My iPhone feature.

Still, Miller raves about the application, saying it's worth the money (it costs $99 for a year of service) and that the program "FINALLY got a killer feature."

In his blog entry, he writes that "... it was almost worth losing the phone just for the thrill of finding it like this. We want to pitch a reality show to the Discovery Channel: 'Phone Hunters.' It certainly felt like we were in one there for a second."

Hmm ... maybe he's on to something?

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