The Secret iPhone & the Power of MobileMe: How Apple Wiped a Stolen iPhone

Secret iPhone

By now you’ve probably heard that Gizmodo got a hold of Apple’s next iPhone after an Apple engineer accidentally left it at a bar in Redwood City, California. I’m not going to repeat the story to you (go read it), but what I found most intriguing about the ordeal was that Apple remotely wiped the data from the secret iPhone once they realized it was missing. So espionage-esque.

I can hear Steve Jobs yelling, “Abort iPhone!”, and VP Phil Schiller dutifully extends his palm to push down the Big Red Button. And then the iPhone, in some far away place, goes blank.

Phew! Imagine if Gizmodo had gotten their hands on the data on that iPhone. That would have been a whole different fiasco. Instead, Apple saved what remains of their dignity by wiping the iPhone clean.

How’d they wipe the iPhone?

You might be thinking: Apple must have access to some secret CIA technology to just wipe an iPhone at the push of a button like that. But actually, Gizmodo’s secret iPhone was wiped out by a service that’s available to all iPhone users, MobileMe.


Maybe you already know about MobileMe’s Remote Wipe feature, but it was news to me, since I’ve usually paid no attention to the service. After doing some research on MobileMe’s Remote Wipe capabilities, here’s what I learned about what MobileMe can (and can’t) do to recover or protect a stolen iPhone:

  • You can locate your lost iPhone on a map.
  • You can remotely set a Passcode Lock. Of course, those are easy to crack apparently.
  • You can display a message or play a sound on a lost iPhone.
  • You can remotely wipe the data from a lost iPhone, like Apple did to the iPhone before Gizmodo got to it.

In my opinion, the Remote Wipe service alone is worth $99 a year. Considering how much I rely on my iPhone, it worries me to think about what could happen if I lost it. My heart would sink. But I haven’t taken the plunge yet.

Have you tried MobileMe?

What do you think of Apple’s MobileMe cloud services? Have you ever Remote Wiped your iPhone? How did it go? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Helpful Links

Apple – MobileMe
Apple – MobileMe – Find Your iPhone

iPhone 3.0: Now With Text Message Privacy

iPhone 3.0 SMS privacy

One of the problems I used to complain about most was iPhone’s “SMS Preview” feature, which prompted you with an excerpt of any incoming text message you received. You can imagine — or maybe you’ve actually experienced — the awkwardness when a raunchy text message from your significant other pops up on your screen while a relative or coworker is using your iPhone.

SMS Preview and the lack of text message privacy on the iPhone caused embarrassment for a lot of my readers, who left comments about inappropriate text messages popping up on their screens at the worst times — pretty funny, you should go read them.

After TWO YEARS of complaining about this extremely irritating issue, Apple has finally heard our pleas and given us the option in iPhone 3.0 to turn off SMS Preview for incoming text messages.

Just go to Settings >> Messages to turn SMS Preview on or off. That’s it, no more unnecessary text message drama.

Update: Mark writes,

I do not agree that this solves the problem. I actually think Apple needed one more SMS privacy preferences option to completely suppress pop ups for text messages, don’t you? Complete suppression of text messages would be I don’t get any popups about any text messages if desired.

I agree. I noted this as a concern in my post 6 iPhone Privacy Issues You Should Be Concerned About.

iPhone Review: My Experience

iPhone Box

It took me a while to get this iPhone review up, since I was busy driving back to the Apple Store and exchanging my new, slightly-defective iPhone for another.

Although I was super eager to explore my new gadget and write up an iPhone review, the iPhone I originally purchased had something loose in the USB port that brought it out of charge mode with even the slightest movement of the USB cable, so I was forced to return it.

I was the first person to go back to the store to report an iPhone-related problem, they told me, so the issue is most likely a rare one.

I’m not going to lie, though: the hassle of going back to the Apple Store was almost worth the thrill of unboxing two shiny new iPhones yesterday.

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