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Summary:

[appreview] title=Caught You! image=http://gigapple.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/picture-115.png price=$2.99 url=http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=304886281&mt=8 rating=bronze [/appreview] Oh the sheer horror of it! I’m feeling uneasy at the very thought of my iPhone getting half inched. At the moment, my strongest defense against thieves seems to be keeping my iPhone within a 1-foot radius at […]

[appreview]
title=Caught You!
image=http://gigapple.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/picture-115.png
price=$2.99
url=http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=304886281&mt=8
rating=bronze
[/appreview]

Oh the sheer horror of it! I’m feeling uneasy at the very thought of my iPhone getting half inched. At the moment, my strongest defense against thieves seems to be keeping my iPhone within a 1-foot radius at all times.

Beyond simply keeping a keen eye on one’s iPhone, it would be much more appropriate to leverage some of the device’s actual technology in an effort to ensure its safety and, at the very least, assuage the owner’s simmering worry.

Caught You! is the first app to hit the store that has awoken the tiny gadget-loving Bond inside of me: the app utilizes the iPhone’s raft of connectivity features — specifically 3G/Edge and GPS — in a bid to combat theft.

The Honeypot

Once installed, Caught You! masquerades as a standard iPhone app called Bank Details. The idea is that when your phone is pilfered, the thief — unethical and prone to stealing things as they are — will be sifting through your apps, spy Bank Details and decide to load it up in a bid to access your precious savings.

bankdetails

The Bank Details app invites Mr. Thief to enter a pin number. The thing is, there is no pin number, and so while Mr. Thief is excitedly trying various combinations, the app is covertly mailing its location back to you.

It’s an ingenious concept, executed in an efficient way, putting the iPhone’s Q-esque feature-set to potentially good use. And it’s exciting to think you might catch the thieves at their own game, should that fateful day ever come.

Preparing The Ruse

The setup process is simple — it requests your email address — this initial configuration screen will, the app warns, never be seen again. After this, you simply have to close and open the app a few times — each time agreeing that the app is allowed to use your current location — in order to initialize it.

img_0010

A tip though: the address you use will be the one that future covert messages are sent to, so it’s best to set that to a rarely used email account, certainly not the email account that you have synced to your iPhone’s mail application.

After this quick setup process, the app will never again ask for permission to use your current location. To all intents and purposes it seems like an iPhone app designed for holding various bank details, account numbers and such.

The developer’s instructions don’t mention this, but if you manage to botch the setup process, by entering the wrong email address, simply delete the app and re-install it. Once freshly re-installed, the app is ready to be initialized.

In The Wild

After the setup period, I took to the streets of central London and tested out the Bank Details app several times. I was looking for speed and accuracy, in terms of the app locating me and firing off an email as fast as possible.

caughtyou-mail

While the app’s performance wasn’t perfect, it was admirable — locating me down to the nearest block. The alert email hit my account seconds after opening the app. The message itself containing activation time, latitude and longitude, plus a very handy Google Maps link.

caughtyou-map

Now there are of course some unmentioned caveats that may not be obvious to the average user. As discussed, the app needs to be initialized before use. In practice, when the app is activated, the iPhone will need to be able to locate itself quickly and it’ll need a data-connection signal in order to fire off the covert email.

Furthermore, standard practice once your mobile phone is stolen is to call your carrier to de-activate the SIM, contact the police to report the crime and call the insurance company. Delaying any of this might mean you’re ineligible for your insurance and will almost certainly give the individual who scampered off with your iPhone more time to rack up the bill.

Summing Up

Caught You! really does work, in so much as it accurately determines your location and consistently fires off emails to your chosen address. However, it’s unclear just how useful this app would really be. Where it shines is in its psychological comfort-value. It really feels good to know that there’s an extra degree of protection for such a valued possession.

Knowing which block, in which neighborhood, your kidnapped iPhone is on may not be so helpful in practice though. Furthermore, is this the kind of information the police could take seriously or act on? And, if not, surely it wouldn’t be advisable to go knocking on doors in a desperate bid to retrieve your stolen goods.

For worried iPhone-owners who fear that their device could be pinched at any moment, Caught You! is a worry-allaying app that you’ll hopefully never have to use. However, for the rest of us, the app’s prime-feature, while impressive, is vastly outweighed by its lack of practicality. As such, I just can’t see this being useful in a real-world iPhone-theft situation.

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  1. Although maybe not perfect for theft, it could be used for other things I would think. What about having the email going to a friend or spouse that you can use if you get into trouble. Or, let’s add to the bond-ness, if you are in the middle of a hold-up you could use it to warn someone. I don’t know, but it may be fun to think of other uses!

  2. Looks nice, but a great feature would be, while the thief is typing the pin, to also take a photo. Then include that in the email. So, you know who to look for in the location. It would need to do it without, the click sound, and without showing the camera or preview.

  3. @ECJ: It was also need to physically move the iPhone’s camera from the back of the camera to the front so it would take a picture of the person and not their feet. :)

  4. Hehe!

    ECJ and Kevin raise an interesting point though. The app could be developed to incorporate additional features or functionality. For instance, it could prioritise sending a location email, then – once done – start recording audio in 10 second increments.

  5. Shane McCafferty Friday, February 27, 2009

    Evenin’

    I’m the developer of the app. Thanks for the review Olly! :)

    I’ve committed to updating the app with a new ‘ruse’ periodically. So next month it might be a Big red button, or a personal diary icon. You can choose to upgrade to the new ruse or not.

    Re. the recording audio. Thats in the works ;)

    Again, ta for the review. Sales have been pitiful. Apps get buried so easily in the store these days.

  6. Shane, you’ve done a really good job with the app.

    I think changing the ruse periodically is an awesome idea, means the thieves can’t just look out for one specific app. Fantastic.

    And the app is staying on my phone by the way, like I said in the review, it’s the psychological comfort-factor that I find most valuable. It might, just might, come in useful, though I hope I never have to find out.

  7. This app sounds quite useful. I like the photo idea…even if the face is not photographed, it might get pics of the actual location the phone is at so that the owner could more closely pinpoint the location.

    Also, when chasing down your pilfered iPhone, start calling the phone and watching and listening for the person who answers it…. if you have a distinctive ringtone it makes it easier… maybe the app could also set the ringtone to something specific and LOUD so that it can be heard more easily?

  8. I would rather have an application which takes a picture every second or so and automatically emails the picture and the location data to either one, or a number of email addresses.

    No delay, just do it now.

    If I am about to be mugged, being able to tell someone that I have just emailed his picture to someone else may prevent the whole thing, or at least convince him to just take the money and leave me alone.

  9. @CurlyDave I understand your point. There are two issues though:

    – The iPhone camera is on the back of the device. As Josh mentioned earlier, the photo will probably be of the floor (as the iPhone will be in use when the photo is taken, so the user will be viewing the screen). The iPhone is also known for its low quality camera, taking poor, grainy photos and being especially useless in low light conditions.

    – The software can only do anything when it is open. It can’t run in the background. In its current form, the app will only hold someone’s attention for maybe 30 seconds tops. Now this is more than enough time to fire off the email with location data, probably enough time to grab a audio recording, compress it and mail it, but I just can’t see taking a picture every second being more useful (yet).

  10. Maybe once google latitude has been developed for the iphone this will perform in a similar way. On non-iphones it seems to automatically update every quarter of an hour or so, presumably not the case with Apple’s no-apps-running-without-being-open policy. However, it could activate either on opening Safari or Maps, which the thief is likely to use for more prolonged periods than “Caught You” (0000,1111,1234 oh I give up!)

    I would like to think the police would act on this information but I have my doubts, is a stolen phone a priority for man power and the quick response time needed? is it enough evidence to allow for random spot checks on everyone in a two block neighbourhood?

    Originally thinking this type of thing should be kept quiet so thieves are not informed when they see the app, I’ve come round to believing its best use is as a deterrent, the app (and potential clones/variations [sorry Shane]) should be known, sending out the message “don’t steal an iphone cos the owner can track you!”

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