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Undercover helps recover lost, stolen iPhones

It's not quite on par with MobileMe, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper and offers much of the same functionality. Indeed, for five bucks, how can you go wrong?

What's worse than a lost or stolen iPhone? Uh, hello? Nothing! That's why Apple invented Find My iPhone--and charges $99 per year for it as part of the MobileMe service.

If you're not willing to spend that much but want some kind of insurance against an iPhone that goes missing, check out Orbicule's Undercover.

This $4.99 app covertly transmits your phone's location and IP information to your browser-based Undercover account (free), thus allowing you to bust in on the thief and, guns blazing, take back your precious.

By which I mean, of course, work with local authorities to recover your iPhone in a safe and law-abiding fashion. Of course.

You can learn a lot more in the above video. However, there are a couple caveats that aren't mentioned.

For one thing, your iPhone won't transmit its location unless the finder/thief runs the Undercover app or its companion Found app, or taps any of the push notifications you send. (I love the fake bank-account message Orbicule uses to entice thieves.)

Also, unlike MobileMe, Undercover offers no way to remotely lock or wipe your iPhone.

And let's not forget that all such recovery methods are dependent on your iPhone having a charged battery. If it's outta juice, you're outta luck.

That's why I recommend supplementing an option like this with an analog solution like a StuffBak sticker, which at least will help an honest person track you down.

That said, Undercover may not be perfect, and it offers no guarantees, but for five bucks it's almost a no-brainer for anyone looking for cheap insurance. I'm sold.