My iPhone Search & Rescue Saga...

With all the travel I've been doing, sooner or later, it was bound to happen. I lost my iPhone.

I was returning from Monterey, CA, and I set it on the seat beside me (black phone case, black vinyl seat -- I know better). When they announced boarding, I dutifully stood up, grabbed my rolling bag, and marched onto the plane. We hadn't even pulled away from the gate when I realized what I had done. I left my phone on the seat in the waiting area!

If you have ever wondered how it would feel to lose your iPhone, and what it takes to retrieve it, I'm here to tell you... 

First of all, it feels TERRIBLE... Your first reaction is shock and if I'm honest, PANIC -- that's the adrenalin kicking in -- followed by an almost instant nausea, as you say to yourself, "GEEZE... way to go Einstein!!" 

I knew better than to wallow in self-pity, (thank you, Gwen Shamblin). I needed to press into action:

  • First a quick arrow prayer: "Oh Lord, please help me find my iPhone"
  • Next, since I was sitting in the front row, I leaned forward and informed the pilots
  • They alerted the gate crew and asked them to please check the seating area
  • The gate crew radioed back, "The phone was nowhere to be found." Pinched!

Then I remembered I had installed the Find My iPhone app on both my iPhone and iPad. I asked the flight attendant if I could please access my stowed carry-on, to retrieve my iPad. She agreed and asked the flight crew if they could please wait one more minute...

I flipped open my iPad and fired it up with Ninja skill, determined to catch a thief, when I realized the app was missing! 

That's right. When I upgraded my iPad to the new OS, weeks earlier, lots of apps mysteriously disappeared from both my iPad and iTunes (don't get me started, about the whole iTunes sync process). I thought I had reinstalled everything, but obviously, I had missed the Find My iPhone app... No time to futz around, so the pilots politely told me they had to push back.  I would have to resume my search from LAX.

I spent the next hour praying and planning my counter attack. I pre-wrote the following text message, and copied it into my iPad's memory, so it would be readily available to paste into the Find My iPhone alert message:

Please RETURN this iPhone to Steve Lomas. Call 866-346-1105 and leave message or email

I then navigated to the iPad settings screen, and waited for our plane to land...

The thought crossed my mind that my phone could easily have been picked up by another passenger on my flight. If I could download the Find My iPhone app and install it quickly enough, and trigger the audible alarm feature, I might be able to catch the culprit red handed! After all, EVERYONE on the plane had to pass by me, to exit! "Oh, this ought to be interesting!". 

As the first wheel of our plane hit the Tarmac, I flipped on the iPad and turned off Airplane Mode; ready to pounce the instant I had a connection. Several minutes later I was still staring at the word "Searching..." Asd most AT&T subscribers already know, getting a 3G connection at a busy hub, like LAX can be hit or miss

So as I waited, the flight attendant brought me my bag. Thje finally, as everyone prepared to exit, my iPad found the network. Tap, tap tap and I was downloading the app -- or so I thought. The progress bar said, "Waiting..."

Meanwhile, moments later, with carry-on in one hand and my iPad in the other, I led a parade of passengers off the plane. "Drat!!! The crook is going to escape, before I can expose them!"

The flight between Monterey and LAX is a commuter flight, which means my rolling bag was gate-checked in Monterey, and I had to pick it up on the Tarmac at LAX. As I waited for my bag, I monitored the progress of the downloading app: slowly, but surely. 

As the baggage cart rolled up, the app finished installing.

I grabbed my bag and stepped out of traffic. Launching the app, I caught a break: All my settings had been remembered! I only needed to log in. As the app started searching, I prayed...

Suddenly, there on the screen, was the location of my iPhone was. It was still in the Monterey, in the airport boarding are, but some distance from where I left it. I made a bee-line to the American Airlines Admirals Club, where I am a member. The Admiral's Club desk agents are top notch, and I knew they could help me. Within seconds of my arriving at the front desk and explaining my dilemma to the agent, she had Monterey Airport Operations on the line -- I couldn't have done that. Could you?

The operations person in Monterey told us they had already looked everywhere, and couldn't find it. My AA desk agent said, "It's not there."  I responded, "Yes, it is," and I showed her my iPad. She told operations, "He has the Mobile Me, Find My iPhone app on his iPhone. We're looking on his iPad. We can see that it's still at the Airport." I was impressed. Then she whispered to me, "My kids have that app on their iPhones and iPods." Smart!

The person in airport operations, again said, "It's not there. We looked." the agent shared this with me and I said, "Please tell them there is an audible alarm, which I will trigger again right now!" I did and then an amazing thing happened... The phone icon jumped on the map back to the original proximity where I left it. The desk agent shouted into the phone, "It's moving! We can see it moving!" We begged, the operations person, "Please send someone to the gate area! You should be able to hear it. It's beeping!!" the message came back, "Security is on it's way."

At that moment I hastily modified the alert message and resent the alarm trigger one more time, with this message:

Please turn into American Airlines!!! We are monitoring. RETURN this iPhone to Steve Lomas. Call 866-346-1105 and leave message or email

Moments later, the operations person reported, "We found it beeping in the snack bar!" By this time, several folks were following along at the Admiral's Club front desk, and a cheer went out as we heard the news! One might have guessed we had just talked a non-pilot through their first airplane landing! My first words were, "Praise God!"  I'm pretty sure I caught a smile and a wink from the desk agent...

She handed me the phone and the airport operations person said she would hold my iPhone for pick up. The desk agent, asked if I needed a phone, to make arrangements, and I told her, "No". It seemed only fitting to me, that I wrap this up on my iPad, which had saved the day... I placed a quick call, via Skype, from my iPad, to my friend and co-worker, who I had just left in Monterey, asking him if he could please pick up my phone and FedEx to me. (Thanks, Chipp!)

Well that's my story. I'm writing this from 35,000 feet on my way home to Nashville. At this moment, I don't know for sure if my phone was retrieved, by my friend. I sure hope so, because one of the last images I saw from the Find My iPhone app, clearly showed my iPhone located in the Airport parking lot. So I re-sent the above message, and minutes later, it was back in the airport. Hmmm... Maybe that was a GPS glitch, maybe not... I guess I will know soon... 

---- Thirty minutes later ---

Happy days! Chipp grabbed my phone and it's on it's way!! Yay, God!  :-)

Steve Lomas
Web Consultant, Idea Mechanic

Sent from my iPad...