For better or for worse, our smartphones have really become invaluable extensions of our lives. Indeed, we’ve come to rely on our smartphones to manage just about everything that we do. They have all of our contacts. They have our calendar. They have our emails. They have our photos. It’s all in there, which is why it’s absolutely horrible when you misplace that precious handset. Thankfully, there are ways to find your stolen or lost Android phone. You may not have been able to recover your old Motorola StarTAC or your Nokia 3310, but technology is coming to the rescue of your Nexus 5, HTC One or Galaxy S5.
Android Device Manager
As great as third-party solutions may be, there are certainly advantages to using a service that’s officially supported and backed by Google itself. That’s why it helps to use the native Gmail app, for example, or the native Hangouts app. And to find your lost Android phone, you’ll want to take advantage of the Android Device Manager.
The locator service was launched in 2013 and it ties in with your existing Google account. From your Android smartphone, go into the Google Settings and select the Android Device Manager. The ability to remotely locate your device is active by default and you can optionally select the ability to do a remote factory reset too. Once you’re setup, you go to the Android Device Manager website on your computer, accept the permission requests, and you’ll be shown a map.
It can take a few minutes for Google to locate your phone, but once it does, the map will generally be accurate to within 20 to 30 meters or so. Below that, you’ll find buttons to remotely ring your phone (it’ll ring at the highest volume for five minutes, even if the phone is on silent), remotely lock your phone (so the thief can’t use it) or, as a worst case scenario, remotely erase your device. It may not delete the contents of your SD card, though.
Find My Phone
As great as the Android Device Manager may be, it’s hardly a terrible idea to have a few backup solutions in place. One way to locate your lost Android phone is to use the suitably named Find My Phone app from Family Safety Production. As long as the location app is running, you’ll be able to get a highly accurate location and navigation assistance to lead you back to your lost or stolen phone.
What’s neat is that you can use another phone to track your lost phone without having to turn to a “real” computer the way you would with the Android Device Manager. The authorization approval is performed via a text message to the target phone, making it easy to track the phones of your family members too. The free plan includes up to three locations, while the $4.99/month premium plan provides an unlimited number of locations.
Lookout for Android
We’ve written before about the Lookout Mobile Security app for Android, but did you know that it also comes with a missing device feature too? You can use this to find your lost Android phone on a map, remotely sound an alarm, remotely lock your phone or remotely wipe your phone’s data.
Naturally, the location feature only works when the phone is on, but there’s a “signal flare” feature where Lookout will save the device’s last known location when the battery is low. And if a thief keeps trying to get past your lock screen, the Lookout app can take a picture of the user when an incorrect password is entered three times. Lookout has a free plan for individuals, as well as a $3/month premium plan for all the features.
When You Can’t Recover Your Lost Android Phone
Sometimes, no matter what you try, you just can’t find your lost Android phone again. It’s a very unfortunate situation, but there are measures you can take both before and after your phone is lost or stolen. First, make sure you keep up-to-date backups of your data, syncing your contacts and other data via Google and cloud storage solutions. This will make it easier to setup your replacement device. Second, take advantage of the remote lock and remote wipe features of the solutions described above. This way, even if the thief has your phone, he won’t be able to access your data, which is even more valuable that your Android smartphone itself.
Image credit: Rob Bulmahn / Flickr