Last Friday I lost my mobile phone and despite our family’s optimistic outlook towards losing gadgets, it has not come back and I have started to lose hope of recovering it.
Unlike previous lost gadgets in my family, where the device remained contactable many hours after being lost, this time my phone was turned off by whoever “found it” almost as soon as I lost it. We were able to ring it a couple of times when we realized it was lost but within minutes of those first couple of rings, it had been obviously turned off and the subscriber could no longer be reached.
I suspect the phone fell out of the pocket of my shorts while I was getting out of the car to get something at a relative’s home. Whoever found it on the roadside must’ve thought it was his or her lucky day. Anyway, that lucky finder is now the proud owner of a brick because after about 24 hours of hoping, I gave up and activated the erase phone feature that would kill the lost phone as soon as it becomes connected to a network.
That unlucky morning, the only time I was in public was when I parked outside my tita’s house. There was no one around me then, and I went straight inside her home from the car. That was the only time I could’ve lost the phone. I am certain the phone was picked up by somebody because the tracking software showed that it was about 2 kilometers away before it was ultimately turned off. According to the tracking and location data and outgoing call logs, there was a 10-15 minute window when I could’ve lost the phone. The time that elapsed between the phone still ringing and no longer reachable was around 5-10 minutes. Whoever took it didn’t want to give it back. At this point, I’m reduced to hoping that the “finder’s” conscience kicks in, the promise of a cash reward changes their mind, especially when the phone is bricked. If not, all I can count on is for Apple’s black list system to work as advertised.
It’s been 3 days but I still look at the tracking website to see if my lost phone has been activated but it seems that it has not yet been introduced to a network since being lost. Either the “finder” likes bricked gadgets or he has skilled hacker friends who have found a way to circumvent the security features that have supposedly been baked into iPhones.
If there was one lesson I learned from losing my phone, aside from wearing shorts with deeper pockets, it is the importance of backups and the hassle of managed passwords.
As a person who has never lost a mobile phone before, I have become a wee bit overconfident when it comes to backups. I backup only when it’s phone replacement time, so I can transfer my data and apps from the old to the new. The phone that I lost was almost 2 years old and I had no plans to get a new one until at least another year of use so I had no recent backups available. To make matters worse, I was preparing our home computers for online learning so I lost my old backups during the formatting process. If it’s any consolation, our phones are so smart these days that even the non-backup chumps don’t lose everything. It turns out my contacts, notes, photos and calendars were automatically backed up. But I now have to reinstall and set up every important app and sometimes you don’t even know how valuable an app is until you cannot log in anymore. So learn my lesson, kids. Enable the automatic backup function of your phones because that’s our only insurance policy.
My next biggest problem was having a password manager app and two factor authentication. First of all, my dependence on a password manager app meant that I remembered zero passwords. In a world where everything requires a password, remembering zero passwords can be disastrous. I couldn’t log into Messenger, Viber, email, and banking. I couldn’t reset the password app because I didn’t have two factor authentication because my phone was lost. Keeping passwords “secure” by using a password manager is ok but if you use one, always make sure you have a backup of those passwords and know how to access that backup in case something happens. My password manager was app based so I had a very tough time getting access to my locked out passwords.
I didn’t want to deactivate my sim yet and get a new sim because I was hoping that the “finder” would turn the phone on, connect to the network, and broadcast its location to my wife’s phone. This meant I had no access to two factor authentication and I could not reset any of my passwords to log in.
My only saving grace was that I was still logged into my laptop. I remained connected to Gmail, Viber, and Messenger there so I still existed in the digital world and could be semi-productive. This desk-bound connection gave me the confidence to try giving the finder at least 24 hours before having my old sim deactivated and getting a new one.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I gave up after 24 hours, when my lost number gave my wife a call but didn’t answer and then promptly became unreachable again when we tried calling back. Upon checking the tracker app, my phone remained offline so we guess the sim must’ve been taken out already. Whoever took my phone was obviously in no mood to claim our cash reward and would rather own a brick. I got a new sim and as soon as I got home, commenced the erase lost phone procedure. If and when my lost phone finds a network, it will hopefully be bricked forever.
Losing the phone may have been an expensive lesson, but it was not the most painful part. The pain will come when I get a replacement phone and painstakingly try to reconstruct my digital life. For the first time in more than 10 years, I will be dealing with a fresh install phone and getting all the apps that I have become used to will be one helluva challenge.*