A few weeks ago, my iPhone pulled a disappearing act worthy of Houdini.
I was taking an early 6:30 am shuttle flight from Boston to La Guardia. As the plane taxied away from the gate, I checked for any last email messages and then put my phone into airplane mode as instructed by the flight attendants. I then slipped my phone into my pocket, put on my noise canceling headphones, and settled in for a short nap.
I woke up about 40 minutes later when we touched down. As always I reached into my pocket for my phone and discovered to my surprise it wasn’t there! It was a shiny jet black iPhone 7, and from time to time it has slipped out of my pocket, so I wasn’t concerned. I felt around the seat, but it wasn’t there either.
I figured it must have slipped down between the seat and the cabin wall to the floor, so I started searching under the seat. No phone.
I then asked the woman behind me if it had slid back to her bag. “Oh, I heard something drop earlier! Let me look,” she said. But no phone.
I then asked the person in front me, but again, no phone.
I knew the phone had to be there somewhere, so I let the other passengers deplane and started a search. The black phone should have been easy to spot against the purple/blue rug, but it was nowhere. With everyone cleared out, it was easy to see under the seats for rows in all directions, but no luck.
The four flight attendants immediately pitched in to help, but it was nowhere. We looked in seat back pockets, and we removed the cushions from the seats themselves. The captain even went to ask at the gate whether someone had turned it in, but it was nowhere. There were no crevices for it to have slipped into. It had just vanished into thin air.
Naturally, they offered to try calling the phone for me. When I explained to them that it was in airplane mode, they gave me a look of surprise, as though they didn’t actually expect anyone to follow those instructions.
To this day, I am baffled about what happened to it. The most likely explanation at this point is that someone picked it up and pocketed it, but I still have a hard time believing this. It was a commuter flight from Boston to New York, and the iPhones can’t be wiped if they aren’t unlocked by the owner. What would be the point of stealing it?
Sadly, I had no choice but to walked into the Apple Store in Grand Central station and buy a new one. I couldn’t function traveling to New York for the day without a cell phone. Luckily, Apple has a great program for people in my situation – if you give them $800, they give you brand new phone! I opted for a the bright shiny red ones Apple had released just a few weeks earlier.
By lunch time, I had restored from the previous night’s iCloud backup and was back in business. Well, minus $800 and with a phone that had absolutely no new features beyond being the color red.
It was time, however, to reconsider one of my strongly held opinions – I don’t use a case for my phone. I really hate the bulk that cases add. When people complain that Apple doesn’t use a bigger battery and wonder who really cares that their phone is thin, the answer is me. I really want it to be as thin as possible. I had a case for a while on my old iPhone 6 Plus, but I hated it – especially when it wore out my jeans. I had switched to using a decal to add a bit more friction, but with the new styling on the 7, I wanted to show it off.
As much as I have liked the case-free look, it has had its drawbacks. A few months ago on a trip to Atlanta, I put my wallet, phone, keys, and bluetooth headset into a basket to go through the x-ray machine. When I got to the other side of the metal detector, I found the wallet and phone in the basket, but they keys and headset were missing. I slipped them in my pocket and searched around to see what had happened to my keys but couldn’t find them.
Then, another basked came out of the x-ray machine, which had my wallet, phone, keys and bluetooth headset. I had picked up someone else’s identical looking wallet and phone and nearly walked off with them!
And of course, there was this fresh incident of losing the whole phone and paying $800 to replace it. I liked the look, but I just hated how slippery the phone was. A few times the phone nearly slipped out of my hand. I wanted it to just be a little more “grippy”.
For about a week, I tried a case. It was a bumper case that still showed off the back of the phone, and the rubber edge made it easy to grab. My wife took one look at it and said, “You are going to hate that.” She has a case on her iPhone and prefers it that way, but she knows that I prefer the minimalist look.
And she was right. I hated it. I found the lip around the front the phone that is designed to prevent scratches to be uncomfortable to use, particularly when I needed to slide my fingers to the edge of the phone. Really what I wanted was just the rubber grip without the bulk.
After exhaustively searching for other cases, I started to look beyond cases, and I stumbled on just what I was looking for – Strip!
These are simple rubber strips you can apply to the edges and/or back of your phone to give it some more grip. They have two flavors – either a smooth rubber strip or a rough version with small bumps for even more friction.
I wasn’t sure which one would be best, so I ordered a combo pack that let me try both. With the $800 bill still fresh on my mind, I opted for the rough version for maximum grip.
The strips come in many different sizes allowing you to place them wherever you feel they would work best. I opted for medium ones on the size, and a pair of long ones on the back.
So far, they are giving me exactly what I wanted – more friction, without the bulk. I’ve been using them for a week, and they haven’t had issues coming of while rubbing against my pocket.
The real test will be when I take my next trip and we see if they slip out of my pocket again.
When I lost my phone in New York, my coworkers were quite sympathetic to my plight. However, once I was up and running, they proceeded to tease me mercilessly – which I probably deserve.
In the meantime, I think I am also done putting my phone into airplane mode when I fly.
Unless you’ve restricted Control Center to Touch ID/passcode, whoever finds it could turn Airplane mode off… no luck with Find My iPhone? At least you could set a Lock Screen message, “Reward, please call…”
If you’ve ever taken a photo out of an airplane window, you may have noticed that even though Airplane mode disables the WiFi and Bluetooth antennas, the GPS is always functional and will geotag your photos. Your iPhone always knows where it is, even if you don’t. (c.f. Edward Snowden)
Yeah, I did all that, but since I was traveling I needed a new phone immediately. When I restored from backup, it removed the original phone from Find My IPhone. So even if someone reconnects it to a network, it won’t hook up. Also, I had to transfer the number, so AT&T won’t provide service. It would only work with a previously known network.