User experience is one of my absolute favorite things to geek out on. Every day we go through life touching hundreds of different products and it’s my belief that some of them could work a little better. This post will be the beginning of a series of posts where I try to illustrate great user experiences, or user experiences that could use some work. To kick things off, I’ll start with the latter and talk about a feature of Apple’s iCloud, “Find my iPhone”.
To some including myself, Find my iPhone is an invaluable feature of the iPhone, iPad and OS X Lion. It makes it easy to identify and hopefully recover a lost or stolen device. In my case, after leaving an iPhone in a taxi in a foreign country, I was able to send a message to the device after which the cabbie in question kindly returned the device (don’t worry, I gave him a healthy reward). But some people aren’t so lucky such as Cabel Sasser of Panic Software, as seen below.
When my phone was stolen in SF last year, they immediately powered it down to stop Find My iPhone. Settings idea: “Shutdown Requires PIN”?— Cabel Maxﬁeld Sasser (@Cabel) June 17, 2012
Cabel points out an extremely big flaw in the way that Find my iPhone works: when the device is turned off, it obviously removes the ability to locate and recover the device. A smart thief steals the device and immediately afterwards turns it off so it can’t be found. His solution is simple and elegant:
Apple should add a setting where a password is required to turn off the phone.
There’s really no harm here. I barely turn off my phone and even if I did more often, the added time required to turn it off would be appreciated for the added security. Some might suggest that a hard reset (holding the power and home buttons at the same time) wouldn’t work because it’s used to solve software issues most of the time. They’re right. But at the same time, if it’s a hard reset, eventually the phone will be back on and the Find My iPhone feature, restored.
But what if they remove the SIM?
Another interesting argument. A savvy thief would turn off the device, while an even smarter one would remove the SIM altogether. How could Apple possibly locate the device if it’s not broadcasting by cellular? Simple: the user could flag the device as “stolen” and Apple could identify it whenever it hits an internet connection. Going further, a setting could be enabled whereby if the SIM was removed while the phone was on, it would aggressively try to find an open internet connection via WiFi. In the event that the WiFi was found, it would tell Apple its current location.
Further still, while bouncing between WiFi networks (and GPS if available) it could still keep track of not just where it’s at currently, but also where it’s been. This could aid in the recovery of the device.
Apple has a really interesting value-add with their devices in the form of this recovery feature. But it’s entirely negated by something as simple as turning the device off. As the thiefs that steal these devices get smarter, so should Apple in its circumvention of these efforts. The simple addition of a few features could dramatically improve this situation. While working on new features and ideas, sometimes the most effective way to break a feature or product can be the simplest. Usually it can help to think a little more deeply about these more common use cases.