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Cellphones Portables (Apple)

Tracking a Move Via "Find My iPhone" 216

Posted by kdawson
from the unintended-consequences dept.
dmolnar writes "I recently helped my girlfriend move her stuff from Chicago, IL to Oakland, CA. The movers were scheduled to arrive at 8AM on the 5th of July, and we were stressing the day before about all the things that could go wrong with a move. We realized that if we knew where her stuff was, it'd make us feel better. This is a story about using the $99 iPhone to track the move ... and about a somewhat surprising potential use of Find My iPhone to track your friends' iPhones without them noticing."
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Tracking a Move Via "Find My iPhone"

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  • Much cheaper... (Score:5, Informative)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @01:51AM (#28687291)

    Personally I would have gone with something from deal extreme, a GPSSMS bridge. It costs the same as the iPhone, but without the contract. You could have bought simple card from Walmart.

    Not to mention it would have been designed for this and probably last a bit longer. Put in eBay after you're done and recoup some of the costs.

    What does a iPhone cost without the data plan? (Say the phone broke and you need a new one, not to mention you just signed up for 2 years)

    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.25332 [dealextreme.com]
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.21686 [dealextreme.com]
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.11314 [dealextreme.com]

    • Re:Much cheaper... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by siloko (1133863) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:09AM (#28687391)
      Isn't the whole point of the article about current users utilising existing features in new and innovative ways. i.e. with a marginal cost of zero.
      • Re:Much cheaper... (Score:5, Informative)

        by speedtux (1307149) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:32AM (#28687523)

        Isn't the whole point of the article about current users utilising existing features in new and innovative ways. i.e. with a marginal cost of zero.

        That would be using one of the many location tracking features that have been out for years for other smartphones. The total cost isn't $99+2 year contract, but simply $200 for the phone and no contract.

        These days, the simplest of the bunch is probably Google Latitude.

        No expensive iPhone needed.

        • by siloko (1133863)

          No expensive iPhone needed.

          However if I already have an iPhone it is a useful feature nicely outlined in the article. Although as pointed out by another poster the dude bought the iPhone specifically for the purpose which even he seems to regret come the end of the piece. So the moral of this story is RTFA or learn to mind-meld with blog authors at a distance . . . only one of which requires me to rescind my slashdot membership

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hattig (47930)

            Wouldn't you rather have the iPhone in your pocket, to receive calls?

            However if you have a *spare* iPhone 3G or 3GS, it's a great idea. How many people have spare iPhone 3Gs?

          • Re:Much cheaper... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by mdwh2 (535323) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:50AM (#28689487) Journal

            However if I already have an phone it is a useful feature nicely outlined in the article.

            Fixed that for you. Yes, that was his point - this has been available on phones for years. Why do we need an article specifically for the Iphone, just because it finally joins the club? I thought Slashdot was once a place to find news on cutting edge technology - okay, I know we joke about stories turning up late, but...

            What next? "Using Your Iphone To Talk To People"?

      • Re:Much cheaper... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@@@slashdot...org> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @05:12AM (#28688361)

        How did you come up with that conclusion.

        The only point of that article is to advertise the crappy iPhone, which nobody would buy, were it not for the bubble of love they create around you and it. ^^

        (Hmm... Sadly I think it may be more serious that I wished it to be.)

      • by Gulthek (12570)

        Actually it isn't. If you were to RTFA:

        While the movers packed and loaded boxes the next morning, I went to the nearest Best Buy. In about an hour, I had a $99 iPhone 3G, an extra battery pack ($79), and a year's subscription to MobileMe ($99). Another hour or so, and I'd updated the iPhone to the 3.0 firmware, charged the extra battery, and checked that Find My iPhone successfully located the iPhone. I dropped the phone and extra battery into one of the boxes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      What does a iPhone cost without the data plan? (Say the phone broke and you need a new one, not to mention you just signed up for 2 years)

      From reading the article (I know, sorry!) it seems they believed there was a clause in the AT&T contract which allowed them to cancel within 30 days and keep the iPhone.

      I think they might have been mistaken about that, since AT&T are unlikely to make much money giving away iPhones for free. To use everyone's favourite analogy, it's like renting a car for a week, but if you cancel within 24 hours you get to keep the car.

      • by Ma8thew (861741)
        No, there is a clause which allows you to cancel within 30 days, and return the iPhone.
        • That makes a lot more sense, though not in the context of the article. They shelled out another $200ish on extra batteries, MobileMe subscription etc. I can't imagine all that's refundable too, and neither is it a great deal of use without an iPhone.

    • Question on a related problem:
      I'm looking for a cheap GPS logger that can save a timestamp - coordinate pair every few seconds. Main requisite is a long lasting battery and memory (an SD card slot is fine), bonus points if it has bluetooth that can be turned on if needed. Any advice?
      It won't tell you where your stuff is but will reveal a lot of interesting info on where it has been :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by corsec67 (627446)

        I bought a Garmin Venture CX for a similar purpose; to record where I have been so that I can interpolate the location of pictures I took with where I was, based on the timestamp of the picture.

        It has a feature where every day can be logged to the MicroSD card, so while the built-in memory is a bit limited, you can have basically unlimited storage in the MicroSD card.
        Get some good batteries and it lasts a while. (Hybrid batteries like the Sanyo Eneloops are very much recommended.)

        No Bluetooth, but it does h

      • by ezzzD55J (697465)

        iblue 747.

    • Re:Much cheaper... (Score:5, Informative)

      by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @04:33AM (#28688167)

      So all your belongings are in boxes, including this GPS with SMS bridge business you speak of, all of which is buried under clothes or whatever, sitting deep inside a moving truck which just happens to be built out of sheet metal, strengthened by a steel or alloy frame of sorts (Last time I checked, all of them were built this way) A nice little Faraday cage yes?

      Your solution would not work, this guy lucked out in that the system was using cell towers to triangulate the phones location, if it was true GPS it would not have worked.

      • by Wingsy (761354)
        Waiting for someone to bring this up. Now I don't have to.
      • Hence the entire reason for using the iPhone and not the GPS only stuff.

        The cell phone triangulation is good enough for the purpose of this article. Nothing else is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by smallfries (601545)

        If the truck acts as a Faraday cage why would it block GPS but let through cellphone traffic? They are both just radio on different frequencies after all.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rhsanborn (773855)
          I suspect it acted much less like a Faraday cage than just a poor place to get much of a signal. But I also suspect they'd have a much better chance getting a cell signal than a gps signal.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dmitrygr (736758)
        A faraday cage blocks signals IFF it is grounded. Last I checked trucks are on RUBBER wheels on a non-conductive road. Even wonder why you get cell reception in elevators? Same reason. Please go redo your college physics course.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dougmc (70836)
          Just so there's no confusion ... the parent post is incorrect. Faraday cages do not have to be grounded. There are reasons to ground them, but they can work just fine as a faraday cage even if not ground.
    • This device wouldn't have been fit for purpose:

      quoting the first and second link you provided:

      [...]
      - Built-in SIRF StarIII Chipset, excellent for fixing the position even at a weak signal status.
      - Built-in GSM/GPRS module, supports 2-frequency GSM 900/1800 MHz, working in Europe (not in America).
      [...]

      (emphesis mine)

      Since he wanted to track goods shipping from Chicago to California (i.e. in America), this device wouldn't have worked for him at all. US GSM carriers use different frequencies than Europe (whic

  • Iphones are not $99 (Score:5, Informative)

    by diakka (2281) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @01:52AM (#28687301)

    Do people really buy in to the BS about an Iphone being $99? IT's only $99 if you sign your soul away for 2 years. The mobile carriers here are so fortunate to have an ignorant populace that is eager to go through the mental gymnastics required to truly believe that their iphone only costed $99.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From TFA:

      "AT&T has a clause in their contract where you can opt out within 30 days without paying the early termination fee."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mr_matticus (928346)

        If you also return the hardware, sure.

        That caveat works fine for a scenario like this, until it's systemically abused, prompting AT&T to change its policies when it has too many returned phones (not just iPhones, but any other data-enabled device that might be used for just such a trick).

        It works now because of the balance--it's a good supply of refurbed phones, which are still profitable for the carrier, to a point. As with most things, it's all about balance.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by icebraining (1313345)

          Here in Portugal we have the *right by law* to return those kind of products before 15 days after buying them. ISP contracts too, if you find that it sucks (for example, you have massive ping or you only get 3 of the 15Mbps from any servers but their own) you can cancel it, with full refund.

          But I don't believe it gets much abused. What are abused are nice warranties like some shops give you: My friend bought a 20GB IPod, an year after goes to the store and complains about it shutting down randomly (false) a

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        I too enjoyed the part where he advocated defrauding AT&T. I sure hope they give him a call.

        • Uh, where's the fraud? AT&T put a clause in the contract which he took advantage of.

          • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:57AM (#28687657) Homepage Journal

            hehe, you think people haven't, for decades now, been buying shit with the intention of using it for n days and then returning it? You think there hasn't been a court case finding on it? It's well established law. If you buy something with the intention of returning it, you're not acting in good faith. It's simple fraud.

            • You hit it right on the head. His INTENT was to defraud ATT. He wanted to take a new product, use it for personal gain, and then return it with no repercussions. Honestly hes lucky he kept it, if he hadnt ATT/Apple would have a nice case against him, confession and all. Either way hes a prick.
            • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@nexusGI ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @04:19AM (#28688093) Homepage

              hehe, you think people haven't, for decades now, been buying shit with the intention of using it for n days and then returning it? You think there hasn't been a court case finding on it? It's well established law. If you buy something with the intention of returning it, you're not acting in good faith. It's simple fraud.

              Eh? If I buy a product that comes with a contract saying "you can return it for whatever reason within the first 30 days for a full refund" then returning it for any reason is _not_ fraud.

              Taking advantage of the agreed terms of a contract is perfectly legal.

              • by dzfoo (772245) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @05:00AM (#28688289)

                That clause is predicated on your good faith intention of actually keeping the item until, for some reason, you decide it did not meet your expectations and so you return it. If you intention from the start was to take advantage of this clause by using the item and returning it before the deadline, you are not acting in good faith; your intent is to defraud the company.

                It would have been an easy case for AT&T to make, given the guy's confession and all.

                Check out "Wardrobing" or "renting":
                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Return_fraud [wikipedia.org]

                          -dZ.

                • by rikkards (98006)

                  I think the "for whatever reason" nixes the fraud (I am sure the wording isn't exactly that but you get my point). His reason was he never intended to keep it.
                  However I think if he did take it back, he probably would never have put up the web page.

                • by Sj0 (472011) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @07:26AM (#28689139) Homepage Journal

                  Actual citation needed.

                  The RIAA called downloading music a crime before it became criminal, there's nothing in that article to support the assertion that it's illegal to 'wardrobe'.

              • by bentcd (690786)

                Eh? If I buy a product that comes with a contract saying "you can return it for whatever reason within the first 30 days for a full refund" then returning it for any reason is _not_ fraud.

                Taking advantage of the agreed terms of a contract is perfectly legal.

                The following is a good rule of thumb: A contract is not a computer program. (Also, a law is not a computer program.)

                A contract is an agreement between human beings and as such all sorts of social constructs and cultural traditions come into play that are usually not specifically mentioned in the contract. If a judge finds that you entered into a contract dishonestly, or in bad faith, or with the intention of sticking it to the contractual counterpart, he is quite likely to come down on you like a ton of br

                • As a corollary for programmers: Just because you think you have found an exploitable loophole in the "system" doesn't mean that you actually /have/.

                  Except we aren't talking about a loophole, we're talking about an explicit contractual term.

            • Unless you have a mindreading device and a time machine, good luck proving that.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by subreality (157447)

              It's well established law. If you buy something with the intention of returning it, you're not acting in good faith. It's simple fraud.

              Citation needed.

              I've just spent some time googling around on this one. The term for this seems to be "Wardrobing". There's a stub article, [wikipedia.org] but nothing about law. Nor did any turn up in any of my searching. If it's well-established law, I'd expect it to be a FAQ answered by many retailers. It's not.

              I also fail to see how it is fraud, unless there are complicating circumstances, such as trying to return an item purchased at another store, or keeping the accessories, or other underhandedness... But if th

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spire3661 (1038968)
      Story writer is an irresponsible asshole. "O, Ill just use it and then return it, who cares if it costs other people time and money." What a prick.
      • by EMeta (860558)
        For the most part, phone companies want customers who think that. People are lazy and easily swayed, and the telcoms figure they can get more profit off the ones who end up keeping it (like, I may add, the story writer decided) than the restocking costs them. They don't offer the 30-day deal because they have to.
    • Actually, it's only $99 if you sign a two year contract and you aren't already an AT&T customer. Otherwise, not only do you have to pay significantly more ("discounted" prices of $300 for a 3G, $400 or $500 for a 3GS), you also have to pay an "upgrade fee" of $18, and sign a new two-year contract. Every other phone AT&T offers only requires a set price for current customers, making the iPhone essentially unavailable to us.

      If I wanted an iPhone, it would actually be significantly cheaper for me to
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      The actual cost of the phone is rather more transparent in Europe, where it's available contract-free due to legislation. It costs a little under one thousand dollars.

    • by tgd (2822)

      Sign your soul away?

      Its $60 a month.

      Personally, if such a thing as a soul existed, mine would be worth vastly more than $60 a month.

      But it did sound dramatic, I suppose.

    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      Indeed - by that reasoning, most phones, even the high end ones, are "free" [if you take a contract].

      This idea of paying for the phone and signing yourself into a contract sounds like the worst of both worlds, but maybe that's just because of what we're used to in the UK.

  • From TFA, the "hack" only works if you have physical access to the phone. Security always fails when you give someone physical access. Nothing to see here, move along.
  • Moving company? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:03AM (#28687351)

    What peace of mind do you get from knowing where your stuff is? Is there anything you can do with that information?

    I wonder if it isn't more a matter of control that you feel like you're giving up by letting professionals do their job. Do you also insist on driving everywhere instead of taking a plane or bus?

    • It might be easier for them to watch the location of the delivery, as opposed to repeatedly calling the removal people to find out where they were.

      I am interested in getting phones with something like google latitude because a lot of our calls amount to "where are you" or "when will you be home", etc. And I hate talking on a phone when I am in transit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by webreaper (1313213)

        The parent's point was that why do you need to continually call the removal people to find out where they are?

        If you trust the company to move your stuff, then they'll get it to your new place as soon as they can. If they're late, they should call you. If you don't trust the company to move your stuff, then hire somebody else, or hire a van and move the stuff yourself.

        Seems totally paranoid to want to 'track' the removal company, if you ask me!

        • I suppose it depends on how much trust you have in the moving company. Taxi drivers in my city are notorious for taking the long way to their destination to get more money. Maybe these movers charged by the hour.

          Its an interesting hack all the same. I think people will take this kind information for granted in the near future.
        • Nope: what the real problem is, is they want to know where their stuff is so they can plan on being at the new flat to receive it. Otherwise, they can go to a ball game, museum or simply stay in their hotel until they get called the day after the truck arrived to deliver and their stuff is now in storage at the companies warehouse at $99 per month plus it'll now take them 4 days to get it delivered from the warehouse, meaning they spend another week in the damn hotel.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iffer (559606)
      I see the point of knowing here your stuff is if you have stuff that you absolutely cannot loose, but in thit case you probably wouldn't send it using a relocation company.
    • by Malc (1751)

      It's how much you trust the moving company, isn't it? I've used movers/removers for both international and in-city moves, and there's a world of difference between them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, a friend of mine lost his stuff in a move, and it took the moving company some eight months to find it. They wouldn't admit it was lost (so he could claim insurance and buy replacements), but I don't know what else it was doing for all that time. So, in at least one case, it would have been helpful to be able to tell them "it's on pier 8 in Rotterdam" (or wherever). The original author wasn't trying to control the people doing the move, just wanting to know how it was going.
    • by Sj0 (472011)

      You fail psychology forever.

      Knowing definitively where your things are probably does help you feel like you've got more control over the situation, which does give peace of mind.

      Emotions and logic aren't remotely related. The reason for the peace of mind doesn't mean it's not peace of mind. "Where's my stuff?! -- oh, there it is."

  • I, too, want to advertise for free on Slashdot. Who do I contact?
    -Taylor

    • by daveime (1253762)

      Steve Jobs.

      Once your hardware / software has gone through a rigorous screening process (which basically involves adding a lower-case "i" in front of the name, and painting it some gaudy colour like neon pink or turquoise), you may then advertise it free free on iSlashdot for life.

  • Google Lattitude (Score:4, Informative)

    by iffer (559606) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:25AM (#28687475)
    Won't google lattitude achieve exactly the same thing? I have it installed on my BB and I can get the location of half a dozen of my friends that have added me to their "friends" list on their devices (both BB and iPhones). There is also a google maps gadget you can use to check the location from your PC. What advantages do you get from using MobileMe and Find My iPhone ?
  • by Werrismys (764601) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:29AM (#28687497)
    The "find my iphone" feature requires a MobileMe account. MobileMe is an expensive set of web based services that can easily be substituted with Flickr and Google's stuff. So, 79â a year for tracking my phone i n case I lose it? No thanks.
  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:36AM (#28687549) Journal

    I thought you needed a warrant or at least a private investigator's license to track people by GPS without their knowledge.

    • by fantomas (94850) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:08AM (#28687707)

      Only in the USA do people shout "think of the lawyers!" before considering innovations in technology.... ;-)

      The guy is only tracking his own stuff. He doesn't know who's driving the truck, if they changed every 100 miles and different people are in the cab from when they picked up his stuff, if they are in the cab when the vehicle is stationary or if they've gone off to a cafe or home to sleep for the night. He only knows where his iphone is. For all he knows his stuff might have been shifted to another vehicle, he doesn't even know if it's in the same truck.

      • by syousef (465911)

        Only in the USA do people shout "think of the lawyers!" before considering innovations in technology.... ;-)

        Well that's hilarious considering I'm posting from Australia.

        I'm not saying he should be sued, but I am saying that risking doing something so illegal for no good reason is silly. He could easily inform the trucking company that he was tracking the truck and if they don't like it he can go with another.

        • Apologies and serves my bias right, I just assumed somebody shouting "what about the legal issues" was from the USA seeing as it's such a lawyer heavy culture. Apologies all US citizens.

          Too many lawyers there, too many in the UK from where I am posting, in my opinion sounds like you've got a few as well...

          I'd argue my original point: you could say he's not tracking the people, he's not tracking the truck, he's tracking his phone. He could argue that he has no idea about the whereabouts of anything else. If

          • by bentcd (690786)

            I'd argue my original point: you could say he's not tracking the people, he's not tracking the truck, he's tracking his phone.

            I don't think there's anyway that defense is going to fly or law enforcement would have used it decades ago. "No, Your Honor, we weren't tracking the suspect we were tracking the tracking device that we initially put in the booth of his car."

          • by syousef (465911)

            Thanks for your apology and explanation. Rare here on slashdot these days. Much appreciated.

  • by kklein (900361) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:37AM (#28687871)

    Guy wants to do something bizarre and paranoid. Looks for an honest way of doing it. Concludes that would be too expensive, and notices that if he pretends to want a new cellphone, and pretends to want a set of web-based services for it, he can get them for $99, claim he doesn't like the phone or service, and cancel them up to 30 days later.

    Plan works as intended and results in the exact same situation as if he didn't do the bizarre and paranoid thing (movers tell you they'll be at the destination at one time, but come at another).

    Guy expresses shock that setting a phone up to report its location to a web service results in --gasp!-- the phone reporting its location to a web service!!! Notes that if you don't keep your web password or your phone secured, your security could be compromised!

    Finishes by admitting he likes the phone, which is a relief because this isn't a story so much about hardware, but someone's lack of honesty and willingness to rip companies off in order to do a bizarre and paranoid thing.

    • by Renraku (518261)

      Oh, come off it.

      People should be exactly as honest to companies, as the companies are to them. If the company said, "Look, this phone is $200, and you can pay for it now, or you can pay half of it now, and we can lock you into an agreement for two years and recoup the cost tenfold" it might be fine, but they instead say, "Look, this phone is $600, and you can pay for it now, or we can give you $500 off the retail price*."

      Cell phone companies make it clear that it's just about the mighty dollar, and why sho

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gravyface (592485)

      I don't understand the point of this entire exercise. Where did he think the truck was going, on a Ferris Bueller-esque "joy ride" across the country?

      He had his dates mixed up as well: movers were scheduled to come in at 8am on the 5th, Best Buy was open at 10am on the 5th, and after buying the phone, he says the movers are coming the next morning, which would would've been the 6th.

      I don't have an iPhone, but would it get a signal while packed in a cardboard box while in a fully-enclosed metal container?

    • Maybe for a machine, but it's pretty normal for us mere humans to worry about where our stuff is.

  • These are remarkably common gadgets and can be had surprisingly cheap. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_pg_2/103-3580931-0563800?ie=UTF8&rs=&keywords=gps%20tracker&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Agps%20tracker&page=2 [amazon.com]

    Plenty of choice, and some for even about half the price, and in theory do a better job than the iPhone with more battery life.
  • You have all missed the point of the article. It's not that you couldn't have done this 10 years ago with any GPS-enabled tracking device. It's that iPhone users are *doing it now*, and they are *smarter* and *cooler* than you.

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