While I was on a farm in Pitt Meadows in August shopping for boxes of blueberries for winter freezer storage, my phone reminded me that there was a good pass from an amateur radio satellite coming momentarily. Seeing that I had my satellite dish and radio available, I decided to take advantage of the flat location, with a clear view of the horizon to the south. I needed to see the satellite track on the phone, so I placed it on the only reasonably flat spot I could find, just below the car windshield, stuck against the wiper .
You can probably see the rest of the story.
You’ve heard stories, I’m sure, about cell phone withdrawal. How about stories involving lost phone, where you know exactly what happened to your phone? Only you can’t find it.
Twenty minutes after leaving the blueberry and only a block from my house, I realized what had become of my phone. I immediately walked back to the farm, looked for the spot in the gravel parking lot where I had used the phone, and asked if anyone had been able to find it. The people on the farm remembered that I had used it with the satellite dish, but that was about it.
I looked for where I had turned left on the main road from the farmhouse, a natural spot where the phone slipped out of the car. Nothing. I returned to the same route I had taken earlier, paying special attention to the places where I had turned left.
Back home, I made a key decision. I checked on Google’s Find My Device service knowing that this utility was running on my phone. It was there. On the map. Exactly where I thought he would have fallen out of the car, on that first left turn. There was 1% battery left. And he’d checked in for the last time a minute earlier.
And so began the effort to get my phone back, a nice, albeit slightly dated Samsung Note 8 housed in an OtterBox case and featuring a Ghost Armor screen protector. The Google service said the phone’s location was reliable within 16m. I immediately returned to the scene with my son, and we began a search. My son tested the service with his own device and found it a few feet away.
About five minutes after we started to search, we did find a phone, but concluded that it probably wasn’t mine. It was about a yard from the road, in the tall grass, and about a yard from a very deep ditch. He was essentially unrecognizable. Crushed on both sides. Probably hit by one or more vehicles. It said “Samsung” under the broken screen and had a barely intact screen protector. A sticker on the back had a still legible model number and IMEI number. About three meters beyond the phone, I found half of a S-pen of the type found in all Note phones.
Once located there, the phone was dead. There was no Otter Box case to be found. So much for this legendary protection. It looked a bit like my phone, but I was sure it was someone else’s. I even tried two experiments with the phone placed on the car like I had done stupidly earlier, to try to see where it might land, but in both tests the phone refused to move, maybe because it was now devoid of the smooth casing.
We continued to search for another 20 minutes, convinced that the device we found was not mine, despite the unlikely occurrence of finding another phone in a random, remote location where Google’s service said that my phone had stopped.
On bringing the phone into the house, I accidentally grabbed it in such a way that it powered on, albeit briefly. I placed it on its wireless charging base (this phone has never been charged via a cord) and it immediately started charging. At this point I used the ring phone option in the Find my device app and the phone started ringing. It was my phone!
About half of the screen turned on, albeit in an unusable format. The volume buttons worked. But that was about it. I couldn’t unlock the phone, either through the numeric keypad, which was invisible, or through facial recognition.
My son and I then spent several hours seeing if we could extract data from the damaged phone. The phone connected to my Windows computer via USB, but only to the point of recognizing the device. No file structure was visible. We tried remote installation of apps like Samsung Flow, but without access to the damaged phone screen there was no way to approve such installation.
Finally, after concluding that other measures were beyond our capabilities, I took the phone, as is, to Mobile Klinik, a chain of repair stores recently acquired by Telus. I expected the store to be laughed at when I showed the phone to one of the employees, but it was quite the opposite. Despite the deplorable condition of the device, the employee was completely confident that all data on the device would be recoverable.
Plus, he said it could be done for $ 90. The only question was where this data should be moved. I explained that I did not have a replacement phone yet. I told him my plan was to eventually get a late model Note phone, although there is some uncertainty about Samsung’s plans for its flagship line.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Mobile Klinik, in addition to repairing phones, sells refurbished phones from one to five years old. Having seen the price of these phones for sale through Facebook Marketplace before, I went with a model that was two years newer than my nearly defunct Note 8. This Note 9 had a new screen and new battery and doubled my storage. combined. After some negotiation, we agreed on a price, which I was surprised to learn, included the costs of data recovery and transfer.
Mobile Klinik cloned my Note 8, essentially attaching a new screen temporarily to the damaged body, then connecting that body to the replacement device so that after two hours the replacement Note 9 had the same configuration as it did. which I was used to. About 175 apps were in place and the Home screen was configured as it had been. Even seven days of unsaved photos on Google Photos were restored. All I had to do was log into my Gmail / Google account and wait a bit for all these applications to finish installing.
Oh, there were a couple of minor issues. The technician was unable to detach the SIM card from the damaged Note 8. I fixed the problem at a nearby Telus store, where I was given a new card at no cost.
And when I went to log into my Google account, I couldn’t complete the process. Google insisted on two-factor authentication due to the detection of a new device. This authentication was in the form of a notification sent to the phone. The problem was, Google pushed it towards the destroyed phone. For a moment, I thought I was sunk, but Google also sent the notice to an old Samsung tablet that by pure chance I had powered on that morning. Once I clicked on the review on the tablet, it was pretty much done.
It took an hour or two for all the phone apps to come to life, and I had to run two major Android updates.
One item that has not been restored, and which appears not to be restored, is autocomplete from the unit keypad. All phrases, unusual spellings, even foreign words “learned” by the previous phone died with this phone. The new phone must “learn” from scratch.
That aside, count me as an impressed, although hopefully not a loyal customer of Mobile Klinik. Recently, the business has grown to bring a wheeled repair center right to customers’ homes to fix issues like cracked screens, water damage, and broken speakers or microphones.