Pro tip: never, ever leave your smartphone on top of your car. I know that sounds obvious, but don’t even set it there for a second. Trust me. I’ve done that at least four times now: first with my iPhone 4, and more recently with my iPhone 5.
The first time this happened, I forgot my iPhone 4 on the roof of my Jetta wagon, near the rear hatch door, where it lodged in the seam between the door and the frame. I realized a few minutes down the road that I didn’t have the thing in my pocket, but the car’s Bluetooth system indicated it was present somewhere in the vehicle, so I pulled over, popped the rear hatch (not realizing where the phone was) and poked around in the trunk, then gave up, dropped the hatch, and bam, there it was, now cradled in one heck of a dent in the frame, thanks to my brainless torquing. The iPhone was fine, with nary a scratch or screen crack. Lucky me.
My luck finally ran out yesterday, after going for a run, using my iPhone 5 to listen to my favorite games podcast (and, at one point, to phone park rangers after chancing on a guy who’d tragically tumbled from his bike, dislocated his arm and shaved off enough skin and muscle to expose bone). In the parking lot, I set the phone on top of my car so I could strap my 13-month-old into his seat and load our dog into the back. The next time I saw it, an hour or so later, it was lying on a highway shoulder, its screen spider-cracked — presumably run over, though miraculously still working.
When I’d arrived home from the park, after realizing the phone was missing, I grabbed my wife’s iPhone 5 and brought up the Find My Friends app, Apple’s freebie iOS-device-to-iOS-device differential GPS locator tool (Find My iPhone would have worked, too, but Find My Friends was closer at hand). We’d used it earlier at the park to keep tabs on each other — me going for the run, her strolling with our child and dog. Sure enough, there was my iPhone in Apple Maps, a tiny pink dot blinking from the middle of a highway a mile or so from the park. How it held to the roof of my Honda Fit that far is anyone’s guess.
Driving back to retrieve it, I worried the app wouldn’t be precise enough to isolate an object the size of a cigarette pack (and the black version, sitting on a roadway covered in bits of dark debris). I parked my car a fifth of a mile away so I could walk off the area. But sure enough, the phone turned up right where the app said it was, almost down to the meter. It even indicated which side of the road the phone was sitting on. And it was somehow still working — the only thing wrong with it, as far as I can tell, is the broken front screen.
It turns out Apple offers an out-of-warranty accidental damage straight hardware swap for $229: you bring in your phone, they give you an identical one. I’m off to do that now, and just grateful for Find My Friends’ pinpoint accuracy. Needless to say, I’ll never place another object — phone or otherwise — on top of a car again.