Find My iPhone (Or Not)
So why couldn't Apple track this thing down? Apple's choices at this point were a lot like any other iPhone owner's would have been:
Call or text: Our sourced used the phone software for a very short time. He didn't check the messages or call history, but said there was no notification box indicating a text or missed call. The phone was found dead in the morning, meaning that someone could have text or called during the night.
Find My iPhone: But what about the phone's GPS? Apple has a consumer product that lets you find lost phones, and shut them down remotely. It's called MobileMe. It works pretty well! Except, it's broken in the latest version of iPhone OS.
Why Apple Couldn't Get the Lost iPhone Back
It's basically a given that the phone was running a test version of Apple's iPhone software, called OS 4. We've tested the software, which will presumably launch with the next version of the iPhone hardware, on current iPhone hardware. One thing we didn't notice, though, is that MobileMe's Find My iPhone feature, which lets you find your lost phone on an online map in a matter of seconds, doesn't work in OS 4yet. In other words, Apple likely couldn't track this phone because of a beta software bug.
Shut it down: Another MobileMe feature that doesn't yet work with OS 4 is remote wipe, but the iPhone's Exchange Server integration includes its own support for remote wipe, which means that Apple would have been more than able to nuke the iPhone from afar, anyway. Evidently, that's exactly what they did.
And of course, Apple could have an entirely different tracking service, or even a different build of the OS in which Find My iPhone works fine. But assuming the phone was running something resembling the iPhone OS 4 beta many people have been using for the last few weeks, the pieces fit. And since it was running the new, unreleased operating system, these decisions make even more sense.