When David Pogue lost his phone, he turned to 1.4 million Twitter users to help him find it.
In this day and age, losing your phone is as bad as (if not worse than) losing your wallet. With access to your email, social networks, photos and a host of other services, these devices aren't something you want to fall into the wrong hands. However, they wouldn't be called smartphones if they didn't also have some kind of feature to help protect owners in the event their phone is stolen or lost.
New York Times journalist David Pogue misplaced his iPhone this week. Pogue says he was on his way home from a shoot in Philadelphia when his phone was stolen. He realized it was missing when he got to his stop in Connecticut and attempts to phone it revealed that it had been switched off. Pogue tweeted about the theft of his phone on Thursday, when Apple's Find My iPhone service finally emailed him to say his phone had been switched on and the device's location had been pinpointed.
"My iPhone was stolen. Find My iPhone shows it in MD. Anyone want to help me track it down? ADVENTURE!" Pogue tweeted at his nearly 1.5 million followers Thursday morning.
Pogue obviously wasn't expecting what happened next. "To my astonishment, the 'find Pogue's phone' quest went instantly viral," he wrote in a post to the New York Times' tech section. "Gizmodo.com investigated the area and posted street photos of the house. Local twitterites contacted the Prince George's County police department themselves."
Not too long after Pogue's tweet went up, Gizmodo wrote about the incident, and continued to post updates throughout the day. The site was eventually contacted by a police officer in the area where the phone was apparently located. He offered to go knock on the door and ask for it back, stating that it would probably be a lot easier to get the phone back (for a multitude of reasons) if Mr. Pogue decided he didn't want to press charges. Up until that point, police had appeared unwilling to go looking for the phone based on nothing more than a tweet. Gizmodo said that when they contacted the Prince George's Police Department earlier on Thursday, they were told they couldn't report the theft of someone else's iPhone from out of state with a screenshot of where it might be. They were then directed to the Maryland State Police.
It's not clear what happened then. Either the police officer that contacted Giz came through or the Prince George's Police Department decided to do something anyway. Two and a half hours after Gizmodo posted the police officer's offer to go to the location of the iPhone, the Prince George's County PD tweeted the following:
"@Pogue The Prince George's County Police Dept has recovered your iPhone. @Gizmodo#poguephoneseriousemergency."
A picture of his phone followed soon after:
According to Pogue (via Find My iPhone and Google Street View), the phone sat somebody's driveway for most of the day but would move inside the house every now and again. The police arrived at the house and looked for an hour, with David on the phone pinging his iPhone the entire time. They didn't find it and eventually the phone went offline. However, after an exhaustive search of the house Find My iPhone had pinpointed, as well as the backyard, the house next door and the driveway, it was finally found in the grass in the backyard.
David's tweet went up at roughly 11:30am yesterday. The power of social media and some good old fashioned police work had it back less than 24 hours later.
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