Many of us will have experienced that sense of dread when we realise that we no longer have our phone on us. Scenarios play through our minds where thieves have possession of our private data or our treasure device is sitting in a gutter in the rain. Chances are that the phone is in a logical location and all will be fine. But, what should you do if the phone is nowhere to be seen within the local vicinity? There are tools available for iPhone and Android users that find themselves in this situation. While some of these solutions aren’t always perfect, they could help you to find lost phone devices and retrieve your data.
Don’t Panic If You Think Your Phone Is Lost
First of all, stay calm and don’t panic. Yes, it may seem as though your whole life is on that phone and you can’t be without it. This is understandable when it is full of messages from loved ones, precious photos, work schedules and other personal details. However, there are ways of getting it back and it may not have gone far. Before you get too worried about its location, rule out the most obvious explanations. Consider the chance that it has fallen down the back of the couch or is in a pocket in the closet.
If possible, get someone else to call the phone. Use a housemate or relative’s phone to make the call and track down the ringing noise. Send them a message on social media, online chat or Skype to get someone to make the phone ring. Now, this may seem like a solution that is easier said than done – and perhaps a little long-winded. You might not get an immediate response. Also, the phone may not be close enough to be heard. Thankfully, there are other tools that can make the process a lot easier for smartphone owners.
Apple and Android Phones Are Usually Tracked
Log into your Apple or Google account to track the location of the phone.
The good news for most smartphone owners is that it isn’t too difficult to find your phone when it goes missing completely. The intelligence and complexity of the tech go far beyond all those clever apps and a vaguely assistive AI. Your iPhone or Android device should have some form of location system on board so that the company – Apple or Google – can find the device. They know where the device is at all times. While some people may worry about what this means for personal privacy and data, at least you know that your lost phone isn’t completely lost.
The easy solution here is to log into your account. If you have an Android phone then this means heading your Google account. If it is an iPhone, go to your iCloud account. Once you are online and verified you can use the system to find out where the phone is. One option here is to make the phone ring. This is great if you are in the situation highlighted above with no other phone to make that call. It is also quicker to log into a personal account than it is to get a response on IM or Skype. You can also send a message to the phone in case it has been found by someone else. The problem here is that this assumes that the finder is a kind soul with good intentions – not someone that will steal the phone, ignore the message and replace the SIM card.
Lost Phone Apps
An alternative way to find a lost phone is to use a dedicated app.
Both Apple and Google have phone location apps that come built-into their phones. This means that you already have some of the tools at your fingertips but perhaps weren’t aware. These apps use simple tools to pinpoint the current location of the phone and provide helpful alerts. In the right situation, this can be a quick and easy solution. These compatible apps are as follows:
Find My Device App
This app automatically goes to the phone in question – which may seem a little pointless – as well as to laptop or tablet using the same operating system. Therefore, you can log in on that secondary device and locate your phone in no time. The app interface has a clear GPS locator with a map to pinpoint the location of the device. Users can see the device, send alerts and use the system to manipulate the security settings and data.
Find My iPhone
There are some clear pros and cons to this Apple application. On the plus side, you can be sure that the data gathered is correct and it can help to use an Apple system to find an Apple device. There are also clear alerts and a helpful tracking system that looks great on a tablet. However, you do need a strong internet connection on the lost device in order for this to work.
Alternative Apps To Find A Lost Phone
Other app developers are here to help too.
You don’t have to rely on the app of your phone’s manufacturer and nothing else. There are some great apps from independent developers that can offer a great result. Also, these 3rd party apps sometimes have even more features that could be of benefit to smartphone owners. A great example of this is Cerberus Anti-theft. It seems that the designers of these apps want to compete with the major players and do so by adding additional functions. This includes the ability to stop thieves from turning the device off, remotely accessing the camera to take photos and additional notifications.
There are clear advantages and disadvantages to using an app to find lost phone devices.
One of the other benefits of downloading an app like this is that it provides a chance to improve the security of your phone. For example, once the phone has been lost, you can set up a new password to stop other people from accessing the data. This is ideal if you think that a friend or an ex has potentially “borrowed” the phone to look at messages, steal information or delete photos. In some cases, you may be able to wipe the phone completely if you think it is definitely in the wrong hands and you may not get it back. The only problem here is that the device needs to be connected to the internet and have enough battery left.
This is where this system falls down. There are so many caveats about the status of the lost device. The phone must be switched on with enough battery power. It must be connected to the internet in a way that it is visible. For an Android phone, this means being detectable on Google Play and signed into the Google Account. The likelihood of this isn’t all that high in some situations. If you lost the phone the previous day then it might be dead by now. If it fell out a bag in the middle of nowhere then a strong connection is unlikely.
Think about the treasured memories and data that is on your phone right now. What would you do if you lost all of that? How many family photos and holiday snaps are currently on that phone? If the idea fills you with dread, get one of these apps set up onto your phone and your laptop or tablet. This is the sort of app that you should never need to use, but just having it there can offer some peace of mind. Setting up an account now can also let you use all those great safeguarding measures in case the worst does happen.
There are lots of things that you can do to protect your phone and data here. Set up security alerts for the phone in case of theft. Register the phone in as many networks as possible. Also, keep a note of the IMEI number of the device. This can be very helpful when trying to find lost phone devices.
Should You Wipe Your Phone?
You will see many apps talking about the ability to erase the phone straight away if it falls in the wrong hands. This means that the system will wipe everything of importance from the phone if it is stolen. The thief will have a shiny new device but there won’t be any sensitive data or personal images on there. You may see this and think that this is a drastic last resort. Once you commit to this then everything you have on there is gone. This can be devastating if you have a massive gallery of images.
That is why it is important to have some form of back up system in place in case you need to find lost phone photos. Don’t keep all of those memories and images solely on your phone. Make regular efforts to transfer them to a laptop or external hard drive where they can be safe. You may also want to set up a cloud storage account where you can keep images safe away from the device. These back-ups make it much easier to erase the phone if it is stolen.
What To Do If Your Phone Has Been Stolen
Finding a lost iPhone or Android phone is easier than ever. The difficulty can come in retrieving it when you find it. If the apps and location services direct you to your workplace, a friend’s house or another familiar, safe location then it might be fine. You can leave a message on the phone in case an acquaintance finds and pick it up when convenient. If it is in the pocket or car of a thief then you have a new problem on your hands. There are options available here, however, so don’t give up hope just yet.
Should You Notify The Police?
Go to your nearest station, inform them of the situation and show them the data on the app. Don’t call on the emergency number. As much as you may think that this is an emergency, they aren’t going to agree. When you report the crime you will also get an incident/ number, which can be very helpful when dealing with any insurance issues or deactivating the SIM. This can also be where those 3rd party apps have the edge as a location tool. For example, the photos remotely taken by the camera via the app could be of use to the police. They may use these unintentional selfies like a modern-day E-fit poster. The images may also give an idea of the location of the thief.
If this seems like a lost cause, or you don’t have enough data for them, you could try and take the situation into your own hands. Send a text to the phone explaining who you are and how much you will give for a reward. This might be more than the thief expected to make so they may negotiate with you. Just be careful about where and when you meet them. Take a friend or partner for protection.
How to recover your phone in the safest, most relaxed way possible.
The idea of confronting a thief is one that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. This is the last resort for dealing with cooperative kids that regret their actions, not dangerous criminals. With the right location tools and preventative measures, you shouldn’t get to this point. Calmly try to call the phone and locate in the immediate vicinity, then use the locator apps to pinpoint the location on a map. If it is in a familiar, safe place you can retrieve it at your convenience. If it is stolen, use the data and your IMEI to create a case with the police. Plan for this worst-case scenario now. Download the app, find the numbers, set up security measures and back up all of your data. The more prepared you are when you do need to find a lost phone, the easier it will be.