Apple absolutely needs to put this awesome ‘Good Samaritan’ feature into iOS

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With iOS 7, Apple already has the best anti-theft software protection of any smartphone in the business. If you lose your iPhone, or it’s stolen, you can easily use Find My iPhone to see where it’s last reported coordinates are, and send a beep and a message to the device. And thanks to Activation Lock, unless someone knows your pin, they can’t even wipe the phone, effectively meaning that thieves who steal iPhones can’t do anything with it except strip it for parts.

But while iOS gives great protection to owners from thieves, it also inadvertently “protects” them from the good Samaritans who might want to return a lost or stolen device to its proper owner. That’s not the way it has to be, though, as this excellent ‘Good Samaritan’ concept proves.

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Originally posted on Medium, concept designer Dana O’Dell has imagined an iOS feature that would allow good Samaritans to easily get in touch with the owners of a lost iPhone.

The idea is pretty simple. If an iPhone is lost, a good Samaritan could simply hit a ‘Report’ button on the lockscreen to get in contact with the owner by phone, email, or iMessage. Each of these options would be entered by an iPhone’s owner when they first set-up their device, and would be very limited in scope, preventing a thief, for example, from racking up a load of phone calls by abusing the ‘Report by phone’ option. It would even have Siri support built in.

Personally, I love it, and see absolutely no reason why Apple shouldn’t build this into a future version of iOS. It’s probably too late to cram it into iOS 8, but maybe for iOS 8.1, or iOS 9. Any idea that can reunite more people with their iPhones is one Apple should consider.

  • tornacious

    Here’s an idea, don’t lose your phone!

    • EKIMMMMM

      how has no one thought of this

  • Marcos

    Sorry but that would be very easy to exploit. First person steals, second person sends message, requests ransom. Best thing a person does with a lost phone is hand over to a credible public place, like airport lost and found or such places nearby, where there is no chance a shameless clerk could get it lost again.

    • lesposen

      On my iPad, my desktop screen has the message “if found, please ring xyz”, my iPhone number. On my iPhone, it’s my partner’s number. It assumes people who find either have access to a phone.

    • LordQuad

      Ransom? Two people conspiring to gain monetary value with an iPhone? Some criminals are dumb but that would take it to a brand new level. First person (thief) is track-able. Second person, your ‘ransom demander’ is also traceable. AT&T can lock it down. This is a brilliant idea (article) but ransom? Seriously? That made me laugh. Apple’s iOS security is second to none (I’ve also owned Android from the beginning as my business line. Currently own 5s & Note3. There’s no comparison. Security on iOS is awesome…and has already considerably decreased phone theft in NYC. That’s pretty amazing.

      • Football4Life

        yep I totally agree with you LordQuad plus who deals in absolute scenarios in real world thinking anyway..good grief…

  • ShawnHyde

    If you find a phone, can’t you just call the ICE contact and ask them for the right contact information?

  • Solowalker

    How is this any different or better than iCloud’s Lost Mode where you can lock the phone (if it’s not already locked), track its location, and put a message on screen with your contact info and phone number?

    • Football4Life

      Did you not read the “Good Samaritan” part? That is the difference….

  • nicho

    You can do it now. From the lock screen, hold down the home button until Siri asks what you want. Say “Send me an email.” Siri will confirm the email address and ask for the subject line. You can say “Found your phone.” Then Siri will ask for the content and you can enter contact information. I just did it, and it works. Of course, it assumes that the owner of the phone is another source to receive email, as most people do.

  • justme

    would be awesome if there’s a tweak that DON’T LET the robbers can turn off your cell phone after stealing, that will requires your password or make a “FAKE-turn off” then your iPhone will have signal and internet access that will gives you time to call the police, report and track him.

    • lucascott

      if a theft really really wants to turn off your phone they will do it. it’s not that hard to find a driver to turn those screws, especially when places like fixit.com are selling them dirt cheap. open it and disconnect the battery.

      or put it into airplane mode/put it in a shielded bag to prevent tracking and wait for the battery to run down on its down. Your fake off mode isn’t going to magically charge the phone for forever, nor will that password.

      and if someone is dumb enough not to have a passcode and control center on the lock screen disabled then it’s cake to get into the phone. 99% of folks have the email they use for iCloud on their phone so it’s easy as pie to do a password reset and turn off find my iPhone. And then enjoy that new phone

  • lucascott

    no they do NOT absolutely must do anything.

  • Joe Cassara

    I’d never use this feature. Finders keepers, baby.

  • http://thepaisano.com/ Paisano®

    We have many patented Good sam features with our SafeCrowd app… http://www.safecrowd.net.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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