Does Your Phone's Remote Lock Feature Actually Work? - InformationWeek

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12:05 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry

Does Your Phone's Remote Lock Feature Actually Work?

One of the features that most smartphones support is the ability to remote lock and remote wipe your device in the event it was stolen or lost. Just because your phone has that feature though doesn't mean it actually works.

One of the features that most smartphones support is the ability to remote lock and remote wipe your device in the event it was stolen or lost. Just because your phone has that feature though doesn't mean it actually works.With an dumb phone, if you had your phone stolen, the worst that could happen is someone would get some phone numbers and use your phone. You could call the carrier up and they could cut the device off from the network, leaving them with a glorified rolodex of your frequent contacts.

Today though, we store a lot of info on our smartphones. Personal pictures, sometimes very personal, financial information, personal emails, corporate data and much more. For years corporations have had remote lock and remote wipe tools built into products like Exchange Server or Blackberry Enterprise Server. Not long after Apple and Microsoft rolled out similar tools in products like MobileMe and My Phone. Today it is generally a given a new smartphone supports this.

Just because it claims to support it though doesn't mean it works. The Consumerist has a tale of woe from a consumer who was mugged and had her HTC phone stolen. The bulk of HTC's volume today is Android so I am assuming that is the platform. Had it been a Windows Phone, everything would run through the My Phone service and not as the article describes.

She locked the phone from the site and thought all was ok. The police later found her phone and it was returned to her. Unlocked. The web site was still showing it was locked though. In fact, she cannot unlock it on the web site, which isn't a problem since the checkbox is apparently for show.

Upon contacting HTC to complain about this, customer service responded with the typical "we are taking this very seriously" language.

"I understand you are not able to use all the features of with your device. Due to greater than anticipated demand for the services, some of our customers are experiencing stability and reliability issues that are unacceptable. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused; please be assured that HTC treats this as a very important issue and we are working hard to improve the experience for everyone. We hope to have improvements to the service out in the very near future to help some of these issues and we will continue to communicate with our customers throughout the process. Thank you for your patience."

What? The service is so popular it doesn't work? If you are counting on the remote lock feature of your phone to protect your data, you should verify it works, especially if it is an HTC device. If it doesn't, consider changing the timeout on your phone's locking mechanism to just a few minutes. That way, if you get mugged, just chase the mugger for a minute or two. They will be focused on running and not trying to get to your picture repository. Once the phone locks you can rest assured your data is safe. Chasing the mugger will also show HTC you are taking the matter more seriously than they are.

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