The devices we use on a daily basis are getting smaller, more expensive, more powerful, more portable, and, did I mention more expensive?  Just walking around in the gym in the morning, I see people wearing Fitbits or Apple Watches to track their workouts.  Wired headphones are now Bluetooth with new versions completely wire free, think Air Pods or Bose SoundSports.  The prices of these portable devices are roughly $150 to over $500.

But what happens if you lose one?  What are the chances you can get it back?

My wife and I just returned from vacation in Charleston, South Carolina, the Isle of Palms, to be exact.  We spent almost the entire time at the Wild Dunes Resort. The resort is over 1,600 acres and a mix of different type of villas, condos, townhomes, single family homes, and hotels.  For some people, it is a permanent residence, but for most, it is a getaway. There are different management companies that run various parts of the resort.

We went to the beach daily and had roughly the same spot each day.  On Thursday, as I was packing up, I found an Apple Watch Series 4, which is the newest one. I almost stepped on it.  We asked the people around us if it was their watch and they called other family members, but it didn’t belong to anyone in the vicinity around us.

I use an iPhone but have been a Fitbit user for years, so I didn’t know a lot about the Apple Watches.  I did know that you could put the watch in Lost Mode if it was connected to the internet, a message could be displayed to call if found.  Unfortunately, the battery in the watch that I found was dead.

There was no one to turn the watch into.  After reading online forums, it was clear not to waste time calling Apple.  Yes, they know exactly who’s device it is by matching the serial number to the online account, but they do not use that information to track lost devices.  For security purposes they won’t give you the contact info, which is great, but then again, you also can’t send it to Apple to forward on to the owner. Which, in my case, this turned out to be not so great.  

When we got home, I bought a charger for it, thinking that if I could get it online, the owner would be able to activate the lost notification.  That’s when I discovered that the Apple Watch requires its owner’s paired iPhone to connect to a new internet connection. Even if you reset it, which I tried, it will only connect to wireless networks it’s been on previously.

If you find an Apple Watch and do a hard reset to delete the data, the phone is still tied to the owner’s ICloud account,  and you can only see a partial of the email address.  Again, a great security feature and total deterrent for would-be thieves, but not so great when I want to send this $400+ device back to the owner.  

Side Note:  If you buy a used Apple watch (or other product), ensure the original owner has deactivated the device in their iCloud account.

I totally agree with keeping the lost devices locked to an iCloud account, but I needed a way to get it connected to a new internet connection to allow the owner at least an opportunity to put it in Lost Mode.

I have discussed at length in this column on how everything we do is tracked.   Companies know who bought what product and where it is at any given time. Since the devices are smaller and more expensive, what role do they have in helping lost products get back to their owners?


John Barker President at Barker Management Consulting. He can be reached at  or

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