Apple to launch new Find My Phone app, MobileMe updates

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Apple's MobileMe site is reporting that the system will undergo scheduled maintenance from 10PM PDT to Midnight tonight, Thursday June 17. The site is expected to reopen tomorrow with a finalized Mail update (now in beta), other interface improvements, and alongside a new iOS app that exposes "Find My iPhone" functions for the company's mobile users.

The "Find My iPhone" feature of MobileMe was introduced last year as a way for users to login to the web and locate and message an iPhone or iPod touch, sound its alarm, and remotely lock or wiped the device. The feature works on any iOS 3.x device linked to the user's MobileMe account, providing a unique level of secure remote administration usually only available for corporations with a centralized device management infrastructure. There is no similar consumer-level remote administration service available for Android, BlackBerry, Palm, Symbian, or Windows Mobile devices.

MobileMe users have had to access the feature via the web. Somewhat ironically, Apple blocks mobile iPhone and iPod touch users from visiting the standard MobileMe website, despite marketing the iPhone as begin able to browse the full Internet. However, Apple has subsequently exposed the Find My Phone feature to iPad users who login to, although the iPad presentation is a customized web app, and not the same interface that desktop users get when visiting the MobileMe site.

New rumors indicate Apple will soon release a Universal iOS app for both iPhone and iPad users that will enable them to access the remote lookup features right from their mobile device. The new app would join others Apple has recently released, including its iTunes Mobile Connect app for developers, which allows them to monitor App Store sales, and the new Apple Store app for creating appointments and looking up retail locations.

In addition to the new remote admin app, Apple is also expected to make a series of improvements to MobileMe, including a new app switcher to replace the current button bar for Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery, iDisk, Find MyPhone and Settings modules. The current beta of the enhanced Mail module presents a cloud icon that replaces the button bar, but clicking on the cloud simply dumps the user back to the previous user interface within Contacts. The revised Mail beta appears to style MobileMe more in harmony with the company's iPad look and feel, with simpler icons in a minimal web app presentation, but with more content visible.