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So, I have this iphone that my parents found. I need some advice on how to find the owner. It's a puzzler though.

It was dead and I'm an android user so I couldn't power it up to find the owners info. So, I took it to the Apple store assuming that since I thought Apple was all about service, they would just take care of it.

No such luck. They said they couldn't help me. They did let me charge it up though. Might I point out that it's really stupid how long you have to wait for usability when plugging in a dead iPhone.

Anyway, when it finally became usable (20 minutes of standing foolishly in the Apple store later), it immediately popped up a little message saying it had no sim installed and when touched it just displayed a lock screen. The store employee told me there was nothing that could be done with that except a wipe.

I doubt a carrier would be helpful since there is no sim. I was under the impression that the sim couldn't be removed from an iphone though. Is that inaccurate?

Anyway, it also said the date was December 31st and my parents just found it a little over a week ago so I'm assuming it was sitting in that location for quite some time, which isn't all that surprising considering where it was. I guess maybe the clock isn't updating due to the lack of a sim... Just a guess though.

So now the only thing I really have to link it to it's original owner is the background pic on the phone which isn't much to go on at all. ;) Especially since it's half covered by the missing sim message.

Any ideas? You would think in this connected world that this wouldn't be that hard. Unfortunately I think it might be.

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I would escalate the matter with Apple. When purchasing a new device (be it iPod, iPhone, or Mac) a registration process usually follows. Most devices get registered with Apple. I don't see why they couldn't cross reference their database and send the owner a friendly email. And I'm surprised the store didn't offer that to you. Like I said, call 1-800-my-apple and ask them for help. If you don't receive any, ask to speak to a supervisor. Your kind heart and dedication shouldn't go unnoticed and I would expect Apple to do whatever they could to help you return the phone. What model is it? –  cksum Oct 5 '11 at 1:35
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5 Answers 5

Your best bet is to just place an ad on Craigslist and in the paper in the lost and found sections. If someone tries to claim the phone, have them identify the picture on the lock screen.

I used to work at an Apple Store Genius Bar. We were not allowed to give out any information from our system ever. If you're located in the US and the phone has a SIM, it probably has AT&T as a carrier. They will not be able to give you any info on the phone either.

Just to provide some insight as far as why Apple can't help you contact the whoever might be listed in their system, remember that a computer or iPhone is a transferrable device. We would frequently have customers bring in a device for repair that was purchased secondhand and the original owner's information was still in our system.

Let's say Tommy buys a MacBook Pro and registers it. Later, Tommy sells his MacBook Pro to Kate because he's broke. Kate purchases the MacBook Pro but does not update the registration. A month later, she leaves the computer in an airport and you find it. You take it to the Apple store and they say, "Oh, here is all of Tommy's info. We'll just call up Tommy and he can come get his MacBook back."

Tommy is not a very scrupulous person, and he fails to mention that he sold the MacBook Pro a month ago. He comes and picks it up and now he has Kate's money and his old computer back. Sweet deal, right? So you can see why this isn't something that Apple would be willing to do.

The Apple employee you talked to was not trying to be obstructive when he wouldn't help you out, but there's a lot of liability things at stake here. They were pretty committed to the idea of protecting customer data, sometimes to the point of idiocy when I worked there, so they're pretty much a dead end as far as returning the phone.

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I'm not sure why you can't just press the "OK" button under the No SIM message.

If there's no passcode go into > Settings > General > About you can view the phone's IMEI.

If the owner has reported it missing to the police they should be able to reference the IMEI (their cell carrier should hold that info if the owner doesn't have it themselves.)

So far I'm guessing you haven't contacted the police, I'd recommend you turn it into the police station nearest the location your parents found it.

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As I said, when you touch the screen, you get a lock screen asking for a code. I suppose I could do that but since it's been missing for months I doubt that would get it back to its owner and if it's not going to get back to its owner I would rather give it to a cell phone charity or something than have it sit in a police locker for a while and then get trashed. –  Telarian Oct 5 '11 at 0:26
    
I just thought there might be some option for finding the owner that I hadn't thought of. –  Telarian Oct 5 '11 at 0:26
    
Thing is, if the owner tries to recover it, they'd ask the police first. But infer what you will from the lack of sim card and then decide what to do. The other thing is, at this stage you don't know if it's stolen, giving it to a charity just causes problems for someone else down the line, if that's the situation. –  Slomojo Oct 5 '11 at 1:02
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@cksum It's company policy at Apple to not provide customer information, regardless of the stated intent by the person requesting it.

The best one can do is put out an ad about the phone being lost with some identifiable information from the phone (ie. serial number off the SIM tray). iPhones also do not take 20 minutes to charge under normal operating health, so there may be some damage or it could be age. At this point, it's your call what to do with it. If no one claims it, it is ultimately yours.

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I never expected Apple to readily dish out customer information. Which is why is said, "I don't see why they couldn't cross reference their database and send the owner a friendly email." I don't see why Apple can't contact the owner directly with a friendly notice that they have their device. Surely that doesn't violate any privacy issues or confidentiality agreements. I found a wallet and called MasterCard, which actually called the owner and put us in touch via a conference call right then and there. Not that hard to do really. –  cksum Nov 4 '11 at 4:56
    
@cksum, they don't always have that information. You can skip the registration process on an iOS device entirely after the phone is activated. After that, if the person never syncs their phone to iTunes (and lots of people don't), they will never be prompted to register the device again. –  amy Jan 4 '12 at 9:17
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Pop the sim out, and see if there is one. Take that to a cell carrier, and see if they can help.

If you're in the US, and it's Verizon, then no luck there.

Depends somewhat on which country you're in, but I suspect the carrier might have more info than Apple. Apple just sells the device. The carriers have to maintain the contract.

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As stated in the question, there is no sim. –  Telarian Dec 6 '11 at 0:07
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You can use this page on Apples website to find out what version the phone is, and what carrier it was using if you are in the US due to verizion and ADT using separate cellular networks.

You could then hand it into to the network provider.

Failing that you should hand it in to the nearest police station to where it was found.

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