How to find a lost mobile phone
We’ve all experienced the existential panic of losing our smartphone, even temporarily. The sensation of dread goes way beyond losing a wallet or house keys, as, in addition to your smartphone’s monetary value, it also packs critical and private information about you and your family in one place. The idea of a stranger accessing this personal information is chilling.
There are plenty of ways to find your lost iPhone or Android device because your smartphone or tablet running iOS or Android already has the software needed to hunt it down. There are also a variety of third-party apps you can install to track your smartphone.
Finding lost smartphones
If you happen to lose track of your iOS or Android smartphone, both Apple and Google feature built-in phone retrieval technology as part of the native software package that works via your device account — Google for your Android account and iCloud for your iPhone. Both allow you to remotely lock and wipe your phone, make it ring, and set up special messages to alert whoever finds it. These features work great as long your phone’s battery holds up.
Exercise caution when communicating with anyone who has found your smartphone. Avoid revealing personal information, such as your home address, until you know you’re dealing with someone you can trust. Stick with sending phone numbers or email addresses to communicate how a finder can return your phone. Here’s our guide on how to find a lost phone or a similar device for each operating system. The following example uses Android 10.
How to find a lost Android phone
The easiest way to locate a lost Android handset is to use the Find My Device feature, which is built into your Android smartphone through Google Play Services — it also can be used in a browser or downloaded from the Google Play Store. Most devices running Android 2.3 or later can use this feature.
Always enable Find My Device on your Android smartphone. Using the feature is as easy as searching for, “Where is my phone?” in Google, which will prompt the service to search for your phone. We’ve covered Find My Device and its ability to call you, set up a new password, and make your phone ring from afar, along with a variety of other notification functions. While you can configure Find My Device ahead of time, the service should be available if you lose or misplace your phone by using Wi-Fi or GPS to help you hunt down your device.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Google.
Step 2: Tap Find my device. Alternately, you can also open Settings and type “find my device” in the search box. When the setting appears, tap on it.
Step 3: Toggle on the Find My Device setting. It should always be on. Then, tap to open either the web app or a phone or tablet app. These utilities will show you where your phone is on a map.
Step 4: See your device location pinpointed on a map.
Prepare before theft or loss
If you can’t recover your smartphone, you can always wipe it to prevent sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands. Your device will need an internet connection and enough juice to communicate with you.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google introduced Factory Reset Protection (FRP). It’s designed to prevent thieves from using or selling a stolen phone. If you factory reset a phone with FRP enabled and someone tries to set it up as a new phone, they will be prompted to enter the username and password for the last Google account registered on the device. If they can’t, then the phone remains locked with your data protected.