It's 2 AM. Do you know where your iPhone is?
Well, maybe you do, thanks to MobileMe's "Find my iPhone," but what if you're not a MobileMe subscriber? What if you want an app devoted to recovering a stolen iPhone or iPod Touch—one that has a few more tricks up its sleeve?
That's exactly what Orbicule's Undercover for iPhone is. We've already covered this app and its Mac OS X cousin, back when push notifications were little more than a bullet point on a wish list, but times have changed. Our iPhones are now smarter, faster, stronger, better, and able to let third-party apps do more than ever.
Back in the 1.0 days, when Undercover was just a wee lad, you had to fool your iPhone's captor into launching the app before it was able to transmit its location. Not an easy task: Thanks to App Store policy, apps cannot change their names or icons, and I'm guessing that all but the thickest criminals knew better than to launch an application called “Undercover.”
Now you have the ability to send push notifications with any message of your choosing directly to the iPhone—yes, just like MobileMe. But the comparisons end there. You can make the messages as enticing as you want—say, by having them pretend to be a notification from your bank account.
If the crook chooses to view the push notification, Undercover will launch, disguised either as a game that's taking its sweet time to load or loading any Website of your choosing, such as the aforementioned bank's. While the thief is distracted, Undercover will be happy to save the device's GPS coordinates and IP address to Orbicule's Website. Each time that Undercover launches, it will save a new set of coordinates that you can view in Google Maps. They'll also be sent directly to any police officer you've contacted to work on the case and registered in Orbicule's Undercover Center.
Orbicule has made a video to demonstrate this killer feature. It looks as though this app could be used not only as an alternative to Find My iPhone, but a nice companion app as well. You could use Find My iPhone to collect live GPS information from MobileMe and log a record of GPS coordinates via Orbicule, submitting it all to the police.
It's still far from perfect, at least until (or unless) Apple can be made to change their iPhone app policies to let third-party apps like Undercover do a little more. Undercover for the iPhone costs $5 and works on all iPhones and iPod touches. It requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later.