From scandalous liaisons to mundane carelessness, a common theme emerges in all the stories we've heard in response to our recent reader poll, When Good Gadgets Go Missing: Where Is The Strangest Place You've Ever Left Your Mobile Device.
Enterprises take note: With a surprisingly few smart exceptions, most respondents to our informal November 2009 reader poll did not have any kind of backup or encryption in place to protect and restore the data that was contained on the lost device.
Herewith, our favorites among the many stories submitted. We'll start with the most mundane -- do keep reading, we've kept the best for last.
- Cellphone left in a bathroom stall. In this particular incident, the cellphone in question was left behind in an airport bathroom stall. The lucky owner realized it was missing and returned to the stall to find the device waiting unscatched.
- Handheld computer left in the seatback pocket of a commercial airplane. The data on this device was protected by screenlock password. Two weeks later, the airline baggage lost-and-found contacted the owner and the device was returned.
- Cellphone left behind at a rental car return. The data on this device was unprotected and the owner never got it back.
- Cellphone left in the pocket of a sweater, which then went into the washing machine, and never made it through the spin cycle!
- Smartphone dropped in a gallon of Latex housepaint. Needless to say it did not survive.
- BlackBerry dropped during nightly dog walk. As this owner relates, "Somewhere between the parking lot of my apartment building and my neighbor's yard (where my dynamic Al and Dude dog team left their marks) and me stooping down to pick up...well you get the idea. My BlackBerry Storm somehow quietly fell out of its leather case and I didn't realize that it was missing until the following morning. Needless to say, walking the same route the next morning did not prove fruitful in recovering the device. Al and Dude however, left another mark!"
- Cellphone case came loose from where it was tethered and it fell from the car sometime during the Walt Disney World "Space Mountain" ride. For those who have never been on it, this particular ride is conducted completely inside and in darkness. While no data was lost, other than phone numbers and favorites, the device was never seen again.
- BlackBerry was dropped in a stream that its owner was crossing during a hike. Was the device recoverd? "No," says the owner. "I saw the splash and looked around, but didn't recover it.." Fortunately, all of this BlackBerry owner's data was backed up on his corporate server.
- Smartphone slipped out of a pocket at a movie theater. While the device was never returned to the owner, all of the data on it was enterprise-server encrypted.
- Here's a blast from the past: "I was in intensive care at the time, in a small town hospital on the Tawoomba Hwy outside of Brisbane, Australia. The Queensland Police brought my Kaypro 2000 (as mobile as anything got in the 1980s) back to me after searching the roadside brush for 2 days. The laptop had spun out of the trunk during a head-on collision with a combined speed of about 140mph, sending my Holden Commodore over an embankment. Nevertheless, after a single reset, MS-DOS booted right up!" Ah, those were the days.
- This smartphone owner says, rather delicately, that the gadget was lost "in the cushions during a 'dance' -- and I don't mean my couch cushions at home." Since this is a family-friendly publication, we'll refrain from letting our imaginations run wild. But we can't help wonder whether the device was lost because the owner needed to beat a hasty retreat from said "cushions." At any rate, the person never did recover the device. Was the data protected? Nope. "Company policy now requires and enforces passwords and remote wipe on any mobile devices, all thanks to me," says this chagrined smartphone owner.
Real-World Rugged: Never Underestimate What Your Field Workers Will Do To Their Mobile Devices