Cell Phone Courtesies: Apple Seeks to Aid or Foil iPhone Burglars

I put a password on my iPhone. When the phone isn’t used for five minutes, Bang! You’re out. You have to re-enter the four-digit password to get yourself back in. And it’s cute. If you press the four digits and one is wrong, when you press ENTER it shakes its little screen no. Try again.

When I first started messing with my password, I thought this was really good protection for all my data in case a burglar steals my cell phone. He’s out. I have a complex password. He can’t get in. He sneaks back to wherever he stole the phone from and puts it back.

But then I noticed something odd. There were certain things he COULD do while locked outside. For example, right next to where it says “Swipe to Unlock,” which takes you to the screen where you type in the password, there’s the camera icon on the lower right. At first I thought this was just the shortcut for me if I saw something real quick and wanted to take its picture fast. A special bird flies overhead. I aim the phone, swipe the icon and click. Done. Got him.

This is much faster than the eight seconds it takes, at the very fastest, to enter my password, hit enter, wait for it to load and then press the camera icon. By that time, the bird is long gone. Now, with this thing outside the password, look out. I can now photograph speeding trains.

As for a burglar who has not been able to figure out my password to get in, maybe he would be stupid enough to take a picture, which would show where he is, or he could press the reverse button and take a picture of himself. There he is. Let’s get him. I thought, “Well, that’s good, there’s one thing you can do without getting in, and all it is is trouble for the burglar.”

But then, at a dark restaurant, somebody dropped an earring on the floor, and I watched as a friend, who has an iPhone with a password, got down under the table, flicked a tab up on his password screen, and there was a whole tray of icons he could use, including a flashlight icon. He pressed it. Bright light shines out. There’s the earring. It took just one second.

I asked him about this. It’s just this small bar on the bottom you can see when you are outside, that you flick. Up comes this tray. And there, as I saw, was this whole world of stuff that a burglar could use if he wanted to without typing in the password. All he needed to know was to slide up the bar, which it occurred to me was probably the very first thing a chief burglar would tell him to do.

And so, armed with this information about the camera and the flashlight, I began to inspect what else any burglar might be able to do and why. And also, I thought there must have been a time when the people at Apple sat down around a table for maybe months and months, trying to think of things that might tempt a burglar to either give himself away or get him to turn himself in.

For example, there is the DO NOT DISTURB button. Those crafty folks at Apple put that there, I think, to prevent a burglar from finding out how close the police were to arresting him. He gets no new information when he presses this button.

There’s the Portrait Orientation Lock. Press this, and when you turn the phone sideways, the image will not turn sideways to make things slightly larger. A burglar might think the phone is broken if he presses it. It won’t turn. Bad iPhone.

There’s Bluetooth mode. If he presses this while wearing a Bluetooth device in his ear, he can hear the police shout at him, “Come out with your hands up.” They can also hear him. I think.

He has a calculator. He can add and subtract and multiply and divide. This has been put there so the police can get him to be busy doing something like calculating his percentage of the take while they swoop in to arrest him.

There’s an app he can push which will turn the Wi-Fi off. This is a terrible mistake for Apple to have put there. How can they locate the iPhone if it’s not sending out its locator signal? They make it easy for them. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

There’s an app with a silhouette of an airplane on it. Even I don’t know quite what this does. Is this to suggest to the burglar he can’t take it on an airplane? Another mistake. It makes him think to flee farther away.

And I think the flashlight is another mistake. He blinds the cops when they come in. What the hell.

And then there are other things in the tray. He can press a button and the phone will suddenly begin to play the last song you played on your iTunes when you last had it. Is this to amuse a burglar? Or maybe it is a good idea. He’s in a library and he sneaks it out of his pocket to begin to check it out. Suddenly out comes Bill Haley and his Comets singing “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”

And now it turns out that there’s still another bar you can swipe without having to type in the password. It’s at the top of the screen when you turn it on, and whereas you swipe the bar on the bottom of the screen up, this one you swipe down.

In big letters, it tells you the day and the date. So you know they are on to you. Below that’s the weather. I just tried mine. It reads, “Cloudly currently, the high will be 43°. Mostly cloudy tonight with a low of 12°.” And then under that, it gives out all your appointments. Not HIS appointments, MINE. Mine says, “Your calendar is double-booked at 6 p.m.” And then it TELLS THE BURGLAR EXACTLY WHERE YOU WILL BE AT 6 p.m. In my case, it names the restaurant.

I figure that if a burglar has swiped my cell phone earlier in the day, all I have to do is go to the restaurant at 6 p.m. and he will show up, apologize for all the bother, and hand it to me.

I’m going to call up Apple and thank them for all these brilliant ways that they are enabling me to catch the burglar, confuse him, blind him, get him to take a picture of himself and be told exactly where I will be.

Now where is my iPhone?

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