Your phone should not be your life

I had my phone stolen from me yesterday. A couple of guys on a motorbike drove up to me, deftly snatched it out of my hand, and drove off. It was so well done that I almost didn’t realize what had happened. I spent a couple of hours with police, in phone shops getting a replacement sim, blacklisting the phone, and calling my insurers.

That was all pretty smooth, but, feeling a little drained, I went home instead of to my networking meeting, and shared on Facebook and elsewhere, looking for a little gentle sympathy from my friends. I got that, but I also got something I wasn’t expecting; my friends were concerned that I might have lost phone numbers, contact details, photographs – personal and emotionally important stuff.

Initially, this bewildered me. I’m very geeky – when I got home I rummaged in a drawer for my spare Samsung to replace the stolen Lumia, expecting to have a spare current generation phone. But is astonished me that anyone would react as though their life might be on a phone.

It’s just a physical device. Nothing that is on it should be irreplaceable. But there are people who are less geeky than me, so this is for them:

  • Your email, diary, and address book should sync to a provider – Officeanyplace (natch), Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, or many others – and if your email provider doesn’t provide this, get another one.
  • Never save numbers to the phone. Faffing with SIM cards is horrible, unreliable, and, if stolen, impossible. Always save into your mail account.
  • Photos should be saved to the Cloud – Microsoft Skydrive gives you 7GB, which should be plenty, for free. If you don’t like Microsoft, with a bit of work you can get Dropbox up to the same amount without it costing you anything. Failing that, Google and Apple provide similar, and you can (and should) auto-upload your photos. In January, Officeanyplace will be launching a similar service.
  • Notes should be saved to Evernote or OneNote.
  • If you must keep passwords on your phone, make sure that they are password-protected, and backed up. But don’t, anyway – you are asking for trouble, not from a thief but from a friend/partner/colleague who just can’t resist.
  • You should be able to wipe your phone remotely. Some providers give you this as part of the package, but you should know how to do it quickly and easily. We had sent the wipe command within 5 minutes of the phone leaving my hands.
  • Don’t worry about privacy – if you really must take that sort of photo, use Snapchat to send it, then delete it straight away. The staff at Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Officeanyplace, are both better trained, and have better things to do with their time than rifle through a kazillion files in the hopes of finding something cool, valuable, or sexy. You’re not that important.
  • You can track your phone too – again, know how to do it in advance so you can help the police.

Essentially, if you only have anything digital in only one place, it will some day find a way to get lost. You don’t need to.