How to find a lost smartphone
You love your smartphone. You never go anywhere without it and you have steadily loaded it up with more and more of your personal data. You have dozens of the latest and greatest apps, and you constantly reach for your phone to play video games, enjoy your favorite TV shows, and occasionally watch a full-length movie.
And then suddenly the unthinkable happens: Your smartphone is lost. Maybe you left it in the back of a taxi cab, or maybe it slipped out of your bag when you were checking in at the airport. Whatever happened, it’s now gone and your indispensable electronic friend has been replaced by a feeling of rising panic and the inevitable question: ‘What do I do now?’
Luckily, several apps have been developed for the sole purpose of finding lost cell phones. You no longer have to wait and hope that someone will find your phone, go through your address book and call up a friend. Now, you can be pro-active and start the search yourself. Here are just a few of the apps that can help:
Find My iPhone is a custom iPhone locator app, which is built into iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system. You go to Settings, tap iCloud, and enable Find My iPhone. Then if you misplace your phone, you can sign in to iCloud from any computer or web-enabled device. The approximate location of your iPhone will be displayed on a map.
With last week’s release of iOS 6, Find My iPhone now includes Lost Mode, which further helps locate and secure a lost device. If your iPhone is missing, you can immediately lock your phone with a 4-digit passcode and send a message that will display a contact number on the home screen of your phone. This enables anyone finding the phone to call you from your locked screen without accessing any other data. While in Lost Mode, the device will also keep track of where it’s been and report back to you anytime you check in with the Find My iPhone app.
Find My iPhone also has security features that will allow you to lock or “wipe” your iPhone if you think it has been stolen or if your efforts to recover it have been unsuccessful. Initiating a remote wipe restores the phone to its factory settings. If you eventually find the phone, then you can recover your contacts and data using the iCloud backup.
Keep in mind that Find My iPhone and Lost Mode will only work if the phone is turned on and connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi network.
While there is no custom Google app to help track down a missing Android phone, there are plenty of third-party apps that can do the same job. Perhaps the most comprehensive are two security apps. The first is Lookout, which allows you to track your phone online via GPS, and also remotely lock and wipe your phone if you believe it’s stolen or permanently missing. Lookout Premium (which is the version with the lock and wipe features) is a subscription-based app, which costs $2.99 a month or $29.99 a year. It also comes with backup features and a certain level of virus protection. (There is also a Lookout app for the iPhone.)
The other security app is WaveSecure from McAfee, which offers location and SIM card tracking, backup and restore, and lock and wipe. WaveSecure costs $19.90 a year after a 7 day free trial.
SeekDroid ($2.99) is another app that offers a slew of features for tracking down a lost or stolen Android phone. You can access a web site to locate your device via GPS, set off the phone’s alarm, lock it, and remote wipe it. SeekDroid even works if a thief swaps the SIM card. Phone Locator Pro ($3.99) and Where’s My Droid (Free) are also well-regarded Android phone recovery apps.
Windows Phone 7
Microsoft offers a free phone location service with its Windows Phone 7 operating system called Find My Phone. Like Apple’s Find My iPhone, Find My Phone is activated through the phone’s Settings page. It allows you to map the location of your missing phone, make it ring, remotely lock it, or erase data. The Find My Phone features are accessed through the Windows “Find My Phone” web page.