It looks like Apple's the biggest winner from my stolen iPhone 6 - Rusty Compass travel blog

It looks like Apple's the biggest winner from my stolen iPhone 6

| 01 Nov 2015
, 0 Comment
01 Nov 2015

If your iPhone gets stolen while travelling in Vietnam, as mine did recently, there’s a good chance the biggest winner won’t be the thief, or the new owner. It’ll be Apple, the world’s most profitable company.

Apple’s a company that goes to pretty serious lengths to protect its intellectual property. So after having an iPhone 6 plus stolen in a Saigon cafe a few weeks ago, I’m a little surprised to discover how flippant the world’s most profitable company is about protecting the property of its customers.

After long discussions with a number of Apple’s Australian based support staff last week, it’s most likely that my stolen phone has now been sold, and is in the hands of a proud new owner in Hanoi (you can read about the iPhone theft here).

The thief’s happy, the proud new owner of a heavily discounted near new phone, is happy too. But Apple is the biggest winner by far.

How so?

The day after my phone was stolen, I bought a new one. Apple made another $1000USD.  The thief did Apple another favour too. He provided an efficient mechanism for reaching the competitive low-cost phone market in Vietnam where Apple is less successful. My stolen phone gets Apple a new customer for its apps, iTunes and anything else it wants to sell.

Crime scene. Pretty easy to feel secure here.
Photo: Mark Bowyer Crime scene. Pretty easy to feel secure here.

iPhone theft is an industrial scale enterprise in Vietnam, so this is a nice little earner for the winners - most of all Apple.

The whole theft was captured on camera. Check out this guy’s skills.

When I first posted about my stolen phone, friends contacted me to assure me that all would be fine. Find My iPhone, which I had activated, would enable me to recover the phone if someone ever tried to use it. And Apple security would ensure that the phone could never be re-used.

Prior to having my phone stolen, I understood that iPhone security was top notch too.

But we were all wrong.

Find My iPhone is a wonderful idea. It enables users to track a lost phone while it’s turned on. The problem is, that it’s premised on the idea that phones are benignly lost (left in the garage, lost under the bed or forgotten in the office).

Strangely, there is no “my iPhone has been stolen” option in the Find My iPhone settings.

Why might that be? Has Apple not realised that iPhones get stolen? The issues around a stolen phone are entirely different to those around a phone that's fallen between the couch cushions. Apple seems not to have worked this out.

When I realised my phone had been stolen, I opened the Find My iPhone app on my Macbook. The phone was locked when it was taken. But the thief had already turned it off by the time I tried to track it.

I was faced with two options; wipe all the data from my phone, or, leave the phone in order and hope that Apple’s security prevails. It's a choice iPhone users shouldn't need to make.

If your phone is stolen, it’s reasonable to assume that you won’t see it again. So it seems sensible to wipe all your personal data from that phone. I keep backups anyway so wiping the phone seemed like an obvious prudent step. My guess is that most victims of theft will think first about protecting their data.

Then I discovered the first silly flaw in Find My iPhone. When you follow your instinct to delete your data, you also disable the Find My iPhone feature. A phone that’s had its data deleted can’t be tracked anymore.

Victory number one for the thief.

Even more ridiculous though, wiping your phone, to use the words of an Apple representative I spoke with last week, renders it brand new, “just like out of the box”.

So, by following your natural instinct to wipe your phone when it’s stolen, you eliminate any prospect of finding it. And you also do the thief the service of making the phone ready for resale.

It’s a regrettable alignment of the thief’s and Apple’s commercial interests. Not a great look for the world’s most profitable company.

If you don’t wipe the phone and the thief has no way of hacking into your account, theoretically at least, your phone will not be useable any more. But that requires that you take on trust that the thief can’t somehow break into your phone.

I’m sure it must have occurred to Apple’s geniuses to create a “My iPhone’s been stolen” button that wipes all core data except whatever is required to track the phone. The same function would also render the phone permanently unusable except by the owner. I wonder why it’s never happened? How did a company as clever and as profitable as Apple come up with such a flawed product? 

And how can it be that in 2015, the top of the line Apple phone cannot be completely disabled and rendered useless after a theft?

Every phone has a unique ID, so customers shouldn't have to make a choice between wiping a stolen phone clean, keeping Find My iPhone activated and preventing the phone's resale. Until owners can lock and track stolen phones and erase personal data, expect carrying an iPhone to be a major risk while travelling in Vietnam and many other countries. And the world's most profitable company to be the biggest beneficiary of this dodgy trade.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
Support Rusty Compass
Rusty Compass is an independent travel guide. We’re focused on providing you with quality, unbiased, travel information. That means we don't receive payments in exchange for listings and mostly pay our own way. We’d like tourism to be a positive economic, environmental and cultural force and we believe travellers deserve disclosure from publishers. Spread the word about Rusty Compass, and if you're in Saigon, pop in to The Old Compass Cafe and say hi. It’s our home right downtown on Pasteur St. You can also check out our unique tours of Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney at Make a financial contribution using the link below. Even small amounts make a difference. Thanks and travel well!

  • Previous
  • Next

There are no comments yet.