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Stolen Car Recovered on Christmas Day Thanks to iPhone’s ‘Find my iPhone’ App

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With smartphones increasingly replacing a variety of gadgets that we tote around, from cameras to GPS and PDAs, we can add another service that smartphones can begin to encroach on: LoJack. Thanks to smartphone tracking services, like Apple’s Find my iPhone available via the company’s Mobile Me service, smartphones like the iPhone can can be tracked online, thanks to its built-in GPS chips and integrated wireless modem.

9 to 5 Mac” target=”_blank”>9 to 5 Mac reports that a Wichita Falls, Texas iPhone user who had placed his iPhone “in between the seats and [had the device] turned on” did exactly just that when his Range Rover was stolen. The user was able to geo-locate his phone conspicuously hidden in the vehicle, much like how LoJack is promised to work, and collaborated with local law enforcement authorities to pinpoint his thieves in the hopes of recovering his vehicle.

Pretty amazing Christmas Story! Early this morning my 2005 Land Rover was stolen from the Marriott in Wichita Falls TX. The local police put me on hold, transferred me around and did nothing. My iPhone was in the car in between the seats and turned on. I tracked it using MobileMe Find My Phone to HWY 287 on the way to Decatur. When they exited the highway and headed on a Farm road for Justin TX a few miles away, I contacted the Justin Police and with the help of a very savvy operator we pinpointed the car at a Sonic. While I was on the phone with her, she said the officer sees your car and is going to make the arrest. A few minutes later she frantically calls me to start tracking the car again. The officer had handcuffed the suspects, sat one down on the curb while putting the other in the back seat. When he got back, the guy had Houdini’d the cuffs from behind his back to the front, fought with the officer and jumped in my car, dragged him and ran over him. I followed the car on the iPhone and directed the Highway Patrol to where he was – high speed chase ending with him flipping the Land Rover several times. The policeman is going to be fine – he is at the hospital with multiple bruises etc. The screenshot is where the car thieves ran over the policeman and escaped. I am just so thankful the policeman was not seriously hurt – I could care less about the car or the crook.

Fortunately, though, the officer who was injured in pursuit will make a recovery, though it looks like the car didn’t fare so well. At least the criminals are caught and a simple smartphone technology was able to assist.

There is also now a video of the incident, though the report incorrectly cites OnStar as the technology that was used; the correct credit should be given to the victim’s smartphone and the corresponding tracking service.

Though, with the price of an iPhone at around $200-$300 subsidized with a two-year contract, and the required corresponding voice ($40 per month minimum) and data plan ($25 for 2 GB monthly allocation), using a separate, dedicated iPhone with AT&T’s requirements as a vehicle tracking device and an alternative to OnStar and LoJack would still be an expensive solution today. However, if luck is working with you, and you just happen to have your phone strategically hidden in your car when your vehicle’s being stolen, you may be able to get find some added value to your data plan.

Tech enthusiast in Silicon Valley enjoying the possibilities of ubiquitous connectivity, information sharing, and collaboration enabled by mobile broadband. You can contact Chuong on Twitter @chuongvision or search +chuongvision on Google+.

3 Comments

  1. Synergi

    12/28/2010 at 1:01 am

    Wow, that was amazing.

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