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The unreachable iPhone

posted May 16, 2012, 3:39 AM by Max Tardiveau   [ updated May 16, 2012, 11:53 AM ]
3:02PM : Val comes by my house in Oakland to pick me up, we're going down to Paypal in San Jose to listen to Simon Phipps talk about the future of open source (excellent talk, by the way -- very engaging speaker).

3:07PM : we drive down the street towards the 580 freeway

3:09PM : we get on the on-ramp. There is a slight noise, we both hear it. Val comments: "I hate noises".

3:58PM : we arrive at the eBay/Paypal headquarters and go to a nearby Starbucks to do some work on our startup (plug: if you use Hibernate, you should look at it).

4:15PM : Val pats his pockets and searches his briefcase, looking for his phone.

4:25PM : the iPhone is not in the car, it's not anywhere at Starbucks. Aha! Let's try this Find my iPhone thing we've all heard so much about.

4:28PM : rats! Someone has stolen the iPhone and is driving away with it as we speak.



4:29PM : no, wait, it's not moving. It's on the 580 freeway, down the hill from my home, right after the on-ramp. That would explain the noise we heard at the time. Val must have left his phone on the roof of the car when we left my house, it miraculously stayed there for 1.5 mile down the hill, and finally slid off as we were getting on the freeway. We are amazed that it's still working.

4:35PM : Val decides that it's not worth driving back right away. We came to listen to the talk, we might as well stay. He is understandably antsy.

4:45PM : I call my neighbors Bram and Roxanne, and ask them to drive by the location on the freeway indicated by Find my iPhone and try to find the phone. They agree (very generously -- they're the best neighbors in the world) to do it as soon as Bram gets home. I beg them to be really careful, this is a very busy freeway.

6:01PM : Bram calls to tell me that they have driven by the location I described, but did not see the phone. I thank them profusely for trying, and feel greatly relieved that they are not splattered on someone's front bumper.

9:30PM : Val and I drive back to my home in Oakland, we decide to drive by the phone's location and see what it looks like. It's dark, and traffic is still pretty heavy, we don't see anything. I can see that Val is already thinking about his next phone. He drops me off at my place and goes home.

10:00PM : I don't know what's the right thing to do: should I call the highway patrol? I assume they'd just laugh at me. I have no idea what would be the "right" way to retrieve something from a busy freeway.

2:10AM : I decide that now is the right time to go for it, based on two factors:

    1 - Traffic should now be considerably quieter, though, as it turns out, not as quiet as I'd like (I'd guess 10 cars/minute).
    2 - It's dark (the freeway is lit, but not very well), so I might be able to see the phone light up when I call it

I am concerned about stopping on the freeway, though. Besides the obvious danger, what will I say if the California Highway Patrol comes by?

2:15AM : I do an initial swing by the exact location. The shoulder is narrower than I'd like, and the side of the road is covered in ivy. This is not looking good.

2:24AM : I take the next exit and come back. Showtime! I stop on the shoulder of the freeway, 50 feet short of the location indicated by Find my Phone, emergency flashers on. I get out of the car and look around. There is no way I'm going to find it, there is just too much garbage lying everywhere. I feel extremely exposed, my car's headlights are on me, I must look pretty weird to the people driving by.

2:25AM : I call Val's phone, and what do you know: there it is. It jumps out at me as it lights up. I pick it up and drive away before anyone decides to plow into my stopped car.

2:33AM : I get home and get a good look at the phone. It's badly damaged:


The front glass is completely shattered. But the back glass is practically intact, with just a few nicks and scratches, and the sides look OK, so actually it's not looking that bad. Apple will replace the front glass for $199, it's not cheap but it beats buying a new phone.

Lessons learned

  1. Don't put your phone on top of your car. Ever. For any reason.
  2. Find my iPhone is one of the coolest features of the iPhone (I know, it's available on other phones, but I think Apple was the first one to make it super-easy to use)
  3. You cannot drop an iPhone 4 from 5 feet, going 50MPH, onto asphalt, and expect it to survive intact.
  4. If you're looking for your iPhone in a noisy place with a lot going on, wait until it's dark: if the phone is right side up, it will be easy to see when you call it. If it's not right side up, you're in trouble, though you may still be able to see it light up, depending on how it's lying.

Val now owes me a nice dinner. I think I'll settle for a cheaper dinner if we can invite Bram and Roxanne too.

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