iPhone Tracking

Pursuing iPhone Thief, Officer Knew Right Buttons to Push is a cute little tale of a thief’s comeuppance and a perfect microcosm of the tradeoffs between security and privacy. The article relates how a New York City cop used the Find My iPhone app to locate and recover a stolen iPhone (and arrest the thief) in less than 30 minutes. The app is free to download and install and simple to use: enter the Apple ID and Apple Store password of the target phone in the app’s search screen, select Go, and the phone’s location pops up on Google Maps. You can track the phone as its location changes, lock it, and play a submarine-sonar beeping sound or send and display a message on it. All that’s required is that the target phone be signed into and have Track My Phone enabled on Apple’s iCloud.

And that’s where one trades privacy for security. Once activated anyone who knows the owner’s Apple ID and password can track the phone’s location. My wife left the house early this morning to play tennis. After reading the article I checked her location–indeed she was at the tennis facility. (Current iPhone technology does not allow me to verify that she was indeed “playing tennis” there.)

Comforting, or creepy?


My iPhone 3GS works fine, and I make and receive few calls I decided to buy the iPhone 4G
I hate shopping, crowds, and crowded shops I went to the Apple Store yesterday
Apple Store salespeople remind me of cult members, like Moonies or followers of EST I stood in line to talk to an Apple Store salesperson
The 60-ish women who helped me was annoyingly enthusiastic and frantically energetic I told the saleswoman “I want to upgrade to the new iPhone”
The Apple Store had no new iPhones in stock I said I’d put my name on the waiting list for a new shipment
The saleswoman brandished an iPod Touch to record my name and email address; after three tries it didn’t work and she went into the back to get another I waited for her to find a working iPod touch.
After recording my contact information she said the Store would email me when the phone came in, but that I would have to respond quickly or I would lost the phone. I said “Got it.  I snooze, I lose.”
It’s common wisdom that ATT’s network is barely, at best, up to the task of handling the iPhone. As soon as I returned home I logged on to the ATT website to upgrade my phone
There’s no reason to believe I’ll receive the phone faster from ATT than I will from the Apple Store I ordered a iPhone 4G
Consumer Reports recently refused to recommend the iPhone 4G because when held a certain way it drops calls I don’t care
My iPhone 3GS works fine, and I make and receive few calls I look forward to getting my new phone

More on the iPhone

A former student emailed a helpful response to one part of the iPhone post:

[Y]ou asked if unlocking it violated the DMCA. It looks like the answer is no. The DMCA provides an exception (since Nov. 06) to phone owners who unlock their phone in order to use it on another network. From what I have read, this was to allow customers to use their phones for their intended purpose, regardless of network. Apparently even ATT will give unlock codes to customers after 90 days. However, they will not give such a code for the iPhone, and claim not to have access to one . . . Check out this link. In general “Know Your Rights” is a very good series discussing copyright and DMCA issues. I think they have done another post about ringtones, which shouldn’t be hard to find. http://www.engadget.com/2007/08/24/know-your-rights-is-it-illegal-to-unlock-my-iphone/

And another former student sent this story: iPhone owner sues Apple for $1 million.

SAN JOSE, California (AP) — A New York woman is so angry at Apple Inc. for lopping $200 off the price of the iPhone that she’s filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages. Dongmei Li of Queens, New York, claimed the company violated price discrimination laws when it slashed the price of the 8-gigabyte iPhone by a third, from $599 to $399, within two months of the gadget’s June debut.

Maybe I can join in. I’m still bitter that Apple stopped supporting the IIGS six months after I bought one in the late 1980s.

Thanks to Mike and JesseR.

Apple Apostasy

A month ago the media was filled with stories about the New Jersey teenager who hacked the iPhone to work on cell carriers other than AT&T. Not one of the dozen or so articles I read then addressed the most obvious questions: Won’t this hack invalidate the iPhone’s warranty? Isn’t this hack vulnerable to an Apple counter-hack? Doesn’t it violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions? Last week, after Apple issued a software update that turned hacked iPhones into $400 paperweights, the media was filled with headlines such as this from the New York Times: Altered iPhones Freeze Up

Duh. Without reading the iPhone’s Terms of Use I know that Apple’s contract specifically prohibits the carrier-switch hack and disclaims liability for user installation of non-approved software on the iPhone. I know because such provisions are boilerplate in retail tech products licenses and contracts and Apple is as PC–programatically correct–as any tech company. Exhibit 1 is iTunes, which is easy and intuitive and countenances almost no user modification of how it chooses to organize your music on your hard drive. Which makes statements like this from an editor of Gizmodo just silly: “[Disabling a phone] instead of just relocking it . . . is going way too far; I’d call it uncharacteristically evil.” Irritating, annoying, consumer-unfriendly, reason not to buy another Apple product, maybe, but since when does naked pursuit of economic self-interest upset techies? Maybe this is a corollary of last week’s a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested: “a consumer advocate is a techie whose hacked iPhone has been bricked.”

Steve Jobs to Cisco: “Like iCare”

This week Apple unveiled its long-awaited iPhone which, like all exciting new phones today, is a digital organizer, home entertainment center, game platform, camera, and close personal companion. It even makes phone calls. The name “iPhone” is a natural fit, joining iPod, iTunes, and iMac. It also belongs to Cisco, which, according to The Wall Street Journal today, registered the iPhone trademark in 2000. (The iPhone mark, Serial# 75076573, was actually registered on March 20, 1996 by Infogear Technology Corporation. Infogear assigned the mark to Cisco on June 5, 2000.) News articles about Apple’s iPhone release reported Cisco’s ownership of the mark and the fact that Cisco and Apple were negotiating terms for Apple’s use of the name. It is not a surprise, then, that Cisco countered iPhone’s debut by suing Apple for trademark infringement. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for Steve Jobs’ internal discussions about unveiling the phone with its rights to the mark unresolved. I wonder: how much is Apple willing to pay Cisco for exclusive rights to the name, and how much has Apple budgeted for legal fees?