MobileMe's Find My iPhone service is alive and ready for anyone using iPhone OS 3.0. Using it allows you to locate your iPhone or iPod Touch on a map, send a message along with a sound to the device, or wipe your device remotely if its been misplaced, lost, or, stolen.
Here is the location screen for an iPhone (iPod Touch is similar in all cases below) in the Account settings section at me.com.
The location screen supports the following actions:
Press the Update Location button and MobileMe will attempt to query your iPhone and display an updated map showing its location.
Press the Display a Message... button, and MobileMe will send a text message to your phone that displays with an optional sound playing for up to 2 minutes. You'll be prompted to enter your message and check the box to include the sound.
The message then appears on your iPhone like this:
Next, you get a confirmation e-mail that your message was sent, received, and displayed on your missing iPhone.
Press the Remote Wipe... button and MobileMe will remotely erase your iPhone. According to Apple:
This will permanently delete all media and data on your iPhone, restoring it to factory settings. This will not suspend your wireless service. Once wiped, your iPhone will no longer be able to display messages or be located. Learn more.
You'll be prompted to erase your device with a warning that you cannot undo this process once it has started.
If the iPhone is eventually recovered, users can restore their data by enabling their MobileMe account on the iPhone or syncing with their computer. It's unfortunate that the iPhone cannot be completely disabled, but at least you have a chance of destroying your personal data if it lands in the wrong hands.
The system isn't foolproof, however. One problem with Find My iPhone, according to Jonathan Zdziarski in a Twitter post, is that, "There's a magic button on every iPhone a thief can use to disable remote wipe and LocateMe; it's called the SIM eject button."
Given that loophole, you should act as quickly as possible when sending the remote wipe command, since it takes only a few short seconds to pop the SIM out of your iPhone or to put it into recovery mode for forensic data recovery. This flaw also drives home how important apps that support data encryption are, and that physically safeguarding your phone is the wisest idea.
Limiting physical access to the phone is key and far better than relying on MobileMe. So the bottom line is that this new MobileMe service is nice, but not perfect, and definitely not completely fool proof, yet it is better than nothing at all.
A year-long subscription to MobileMe costs $99 after a free trial. For more on the cloud-based Internet service, visit http://www.apple.com/mobileme/.
Follow David Martin on Twitter.