Modern Justice

Chasing an iPhone Through the Big City

A tale of trials, triumph and an incredible journey.
iphone lost  map  Chasing an iPhone Through the Big City

"The purple dot is where I first lost my phone, the green dot is where we started Find My iPhone and the red is where we found my phone. Wild." -Mr. Mersereau

Everyone pitches in when a lost iPhone is involved. Here’s a story of how two friends, a stranger, and a legion of police officers tracked down a rogue iPhone yesterday in New York City. A pair of friends who planned to meet for lunch ended up going on adventure instead, and they sent in this third-person account.

12:15 p.m.: The time Davis Mersereau & Christopher Kennedy were supposed to meet at local noodle house favorite, Ippudo, for lunch and a catch-up on all the latest tech news. Davis cofounded and helps run art startup Galleray and Kennedy cofounded the newly popular iPhone restaurant inspection app, Grade Spotter.

12:15 p.m.: Kennedy sends Davis a quick email to say he’s running late.

12:20 p.m.: Kennedy arrives at Ippudo, and sends Davis another email letting him know that he is there. No response from Davis to either.

12:30 p.m.: Davis arrives at Ippudo NY sweating and a bit shaken up. The incredibly polite hostess, Rebecca, grabs him a cold ice water.

12:32 p.m.: Davis explains to Kennedy that his iPhone 4 fell out of his pocket while darting through traffic on 9th and that he was running late because he tried to retrace his path to find it, up-traffic. He was unable to locate it.

12:35 p.m. Kennedy shares his new iPhone 4S with Davis. He calls and texts the phone. No answer.

12:36 p.m.: Genius strikes. Kennedy remembers the “Find My iPhone” app. Davis enters in his Apple ID information and the two wait for the phone to be located. The following message is also sent:

“Just dropped on street! Please help- call 843-xxx-xxx if found. Thank you!!”

Suddenly, the phone appears on the map – 43rd & Park. Then 44th & Park. “It’s on the move!” they exclaim. The two decide “screw lunch, let’s get your iPhone back.”

12:37 p.m.: Lunch turns into a Tech Mission.

12:40 p.m.: Davis and Kennedy hop in a cab and tell the driver 46th & Park. They go a few blocks and get stuck in some typical traffic. The pair figure the subway would be much faster and head to the Uptown 6 on 28th & Park.

12:50 p.m.: The pair get out of the cab and head down the stairs—damn, just missed the train. They stand as close as possible to the turnstiles in order to follow the GPS updates. The phone is heading north and its carrier is now on 62th and Lexington. The boys figured they’ll cut him off and get off at the 68th street exit. The train finally comes and the two head uptown.

1:05 p.m.: The train stops and the boys run up the stairs trying to get service as quick as possible. The GPS updates the location to 60th and Lexington. They start jogging that way.

1:15 p.m.: Kennedy and Davis are now on the corner of 60th and Lexington and the GPS says they are right on top of the phone, which appears to be in a building. They sound the alarm and try calling it to see if anyone answers and duck in and out of a few shops. No luck. The phone is on the move again. This time headed for the main entrance of Central Park on 59th and 5th.

1:20 p.m.: Kennedy and Davis start running toward the location and Kennedy gets a notice that his iPhone is now at 5 percent battery. They are running out of time.

1:25 p.m.: They rush into the park. The phone’s GPS is updating much quicker, for the most part, and they can see the pin moving on the map. Kennedy’s iPhone is on 1 percent.

1:27: Kennedy’s phone dies. Hope seems lost. The only person around is a guy in a white T-shirt speed-walking.

1:30 p.m.: Kennedy and Davis stop the guy and kindly ask him if he found an iPhone and happened to pick it up (you never know). He responds with “no.” They explain the story to him and ask if they can borrow his iPhone for a few seconds to update the location. At first he was hesitant, but then he agreed. Davis logs into “Find My iPhone” and it states that it is at West 66th and Central Park West. After talking with the stranger for a few more seconds, he offers to jog with the lost iPhone hunters up there. The trio gets to the location and updates the GPS again.

[It later turns out that this man is also involved in the tech scene - an iPad developer]

1:45 p.m.: The iPhone is still in the area. All three are looking around and asking random people if they happened to pick up a lost iPhone. No luck.

1:50 p.m.: The GPS updates and says West 72nd and Central Park West. At this point the trio is out of breath and the third guy says he has to leave for a meeting. So Kennedy and Davis decide to get the cops involved, “which we should have done from the beginning.”

1:55 p.m.: The boys locate a cop car in Central Park and flag it down, explain to the officer the whole story; of course he wants to help. Kennedy and Davis go to hop in the back seat, then turn to look at the good samaritan and thank him for his help, but they understand if he cannot continue. He says he’s gone this far, and wants to go the rest of the way.

The three continue their mission, now with the help of the NYPD. They head north on Central Park West.

2:00 p.m.: The GPS is updating the location very quickly and it says 86th and Central Park west. This guy is moving quick. “We suspect a bike.” The trio are sitting in the back seat giving the officer updates on the location. The lost phone is climbing street blocks like crazy. Sometimes in the park, and others not. Sometimes in buildings, it seems.

The new friend is constantly pressing reload on his iPhone for map updates.

2:05 p.m.: The GPS tells us the iPhone is staying put around 105th street and Central Park West. At the location, they find a man behind a brick wall looking at an iPhone. The officer decides to question the guy and see if that was the iPhone. It was not.

2:10 p.m.: While the officer is questioning the guy, two other undercover cop cars show up to help out. The group notices that the missing iPhone is headed West on 105th Street. All the cop cars take off to track it down.

2:20 p.m.: Traveling west along 105th from Park West to Broadway, the group spots a messenger on a bicycle; they’ve seen him a number of times in the general area, but didn’t take notice.

2:21 p.m.: Right behind the biker at a red light stop on 105th & Broadway, the cops request one more update.

“Phone is on 105th & Broadway.” Updated 2 seconds ago.

2:22 p.m.:  The cops decide to make the move and question the messenger. Davis calls his phone and a ring is heard inside the messenger’s bag. It’s the lost phone.

2:23 p.m.: The messenger explains he found it on 9th and 38th after seeing a car run it over. The back-glass is broken but the phone works perfectly; all the messages and missed calls are there. He explains that he was planning on finding the person whose it was at the end of day. He appeared happy that it was returned to its owner, but also wanted a reward.

2:30 p.m.: No charges are filed and everyone is thanked for all their help. Everyone involved deserves a reward. The NYPD couldn’t have been any more helpful, responsive or on top of their communication with one another.

2:31 p.m.: Davis and Kennedy start on their way back downtown through Central Park. They stop for a vendor hot dog and two waters. Lunch of the year.

3:05 p.m.: At the intersection of 30th & 8th Ave, Davis bikes past the same messenger that had his iPhone just one hour before.

photo 10 Chasing an iPhone Through the Big City

The phone, post recovery.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com