Australian police use chopper to track stolen iPhone

It seems that when an iPhone is stolen in suburban Australia, no effort is spared in returning the gadget to its owner.

AAP reports that when a thief stole a woman's iPhone from a hospital northeast of the city of Melbourne, police not only made the theft a priority, but tasked a helicopter, which had been operating in the area, to hunt down the culprit and retrieve the phone.

Using the device's GPS and presumably the MobileMe service which allows the tracking of a missing iPhone, police located the phone in a nearby suburb and soon spotted the thief on a stolen bicycle. Apple last month made the tracking service available for free - previously it had only been available to paid MobileMe subscribers.

After perhaps realising he had attracted a little more attention than he had expected, the 16-year-old thief ditched the bike and attempted to escape by tram, but was apprehended by police on the ground. He is expected to be charged burglary, theft, possessing cannabis and handling the proceeds of crime.

The ability to track a stolen iPhone has proved useful to authorities - in July, San Francisco police took just nine minutes to find a thief who stole a woman's iPhone out of her hand. The woman had been testing a GPS tracking application for her Mountain View, California-based employer. Just days later, an Australian woman used MobileMe to track down her phone after she left it in the back of a taxi following a big night out.

The taxi driver initially denied having the phone and attempted to escape with the device still in his car, forcing the woman and her mother to pursue the car, using Mobile Me to keep track of the fleeing cab. The pair eventually confronted the taxi driver, who announced he had ''found'' the phone in his taxi.

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