Prior to Apple’s 3.0 firmware update that was released back in June, iPhone users had little incentive to sign up for the relatively expensive organizer tool known as MobileMe. The service was advertised as a way to sync the clients mail, contacts, and calendar events between the iPhone and a Mac or Pc. This software used the same push technology commonly associated with push email servers using SMTP protocol. Included in the package was also a photo gallery application and an “iDisk” drive (basically another online storage server.) All of these features were already accessible through an assortment of free applications offered by other software developers.
Not until Apple released the July 17th update package, which included several key enhancements to the MobileMe internet service, could iPhone users justify paying the $99/yr subscription fee. With the release of the highly anticipated GPS tracking software, officially known as “Find My iPhone”, the MobileMe service was transformed into a phone “recovery service” as the previous features became overshadowed by this new utility.
To enable this service, MobileMe users must sign into their Me.com account where they are greeted with a map interface that shows the approximate location of the missing iPhone (assuming it is turned on and can locate a GPS or WiFi/cell tower triangulation.) Once the phone has been located, the user can choose one of three options:
– The phone can be tracked using the mapping interface on the Me.com website until it is within hearing distance. At this point the iPhone can be remotely activated through the website, forcing it to play an alarm that can ideally be heard by the owner.
– The owner can elect to display a customizable message on the Home screen with instructions on how the phone can be returned
– If the two procedures listed above fail to work, the user can then issue a Remote Wipe Out command which will reset the phone to factory settings. This is intended to protect any personal information that could potentially be accessed if the phone has been found or stolen. If by chance the phone does eventually make it back to the original owner, all data can be restored using the Me.com website.
There have been similar GPS enabled applications in the past, such as Google Latitude, which was introduced as a social networking tool that had the ability to track the GPS location of a given user. But the MobileMe software is able to set itself aside from similar applications by offering quality security benefits. The linking feature of MobileMe is based on Apple’s “Back to My Mac” program, which provides GPS coordinates that can only be accessed by the linked account. This means that users don’t have to worry about unwanted third parties having the ability to track their location.
Although there were a few initial bugs to work out when the update was first released, the application is now much more stable. Success stories of recovered iPhones can be found in numerous articles on the internet. There are clear benefits of subscribing to the MobleMe internet service. Although high subscription rates are still somewhat of a drawback, these fees can be quickly justified in the event that an otherwise lost iPhone gets returned to the original owner.