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Verizon rolls out smartphone recovery app, similar to iPhone’s Find My Phone

by Phil Hornshaw

Sometimes smart phones disappear.

The trouble with these phones is they tend to be small, expensive, and full of personal information, since they carry so many different apps, programs, and abilities. So in response to the fact that phones fall out of pockets in taxis and couches, Verizon has launched a free app for its Android and Blackberry phones to help in their recovery. Check out the list of phones with which the app is compatible.

The app is part of Verizon’s Total Equipment Recovery plan. That basically means it’s included in Verizon’s phone insurance package, which costs about $10 a month and appears on your regular bill. Paying ten bucks a month sounds like a pain, until you factor it against the cost of a replacement phone – which can run the gamut of prices and be especially sobering if you’re not buying one with a plan.

Verizon’s recovery app is pretty nifty. Once you set it up, it runs in the background. When your phone disappears behind enemy lines, you can hit the Internet and track it using its GPS. If the phone has been stolen, you can lock it remotely from any computer. If you don’t think there’s any chance of a successful rescue, you can choose to wipe the phone of your sensitive information. Oh, and if it really is just lost between the cushions, the app can activate an alarm to help in narrowing down the piece of furniture in which it has become lodged.

Similar app already on the iPhone

Apple fans might not know it, but the iPhone has a similar capability. Find My Phone is a free app that functions almost exactly the same way the Verizon app does. It includes all the same locking, tracking and erasing features.

Find My Phone uses Apple’s MobileMe service to work, and technically, the app isn’t strictly necessary for it to work. The catch is, MobileMe costs about $99 a year. Paying that rate makes the rest of the MobileMe available to you – which includes things like online disc space, file-sharing, and syncing contacts.

It’s nice to have the option to send your phone what is essentially a self-destruct code, but for both Verizon and Apple, it’ll cost you. And as far as the iPhone is concerned, there really isn’t a viable alternative to Apple’s Find My Phone.

Sure, the App Store features a lot of other phone GPS trackers and many tout to be useful if your phone is stolen, but they all have one fatal flaw – the perp would have to turn the app on in order for it to track him.

Apple doesn’t allow third-party applications to run in the background on an iPhone. Consequently, you can’t just leave a GPS tracker on all the time, and therefore, you can’t just fire up a web browser to figure out exactly where your phone is. The person using the phone would have to do you the favor of opening the GPS tracker app.

The same is true for any iPhone remote wipe apps. There are a few out there, but just like the GPS trackers, they won’t save an MIA phone unless someone is kind enough to open the app. You’re better off saving your money.

If a smart phone carries important information and its owner is paranoid about loss, the best solution is to pony up and let Apple or Verizon take care of it. Apple’s MobileMe has a lot of other cool features, and Verizon’s doubles as phone insurance in case the missing mobile can’t be saved.