What To Do If You’ve Lost Your Smartphone

Date Tue, June 20 2017

I am fortunate to never have had lost my phone or have it stolen. Knock on wood. But I recognize that it only has to happen once to wreak havoc on your life. And I’m prepared to deal with it should happen.

Chances are, you’re here because the worst (or what seems like the worst for the moment) has happened. Your phone is lost — or stolen. But it doesn’t need to be a catastrophe.

If your phone has already been lost or stolen, the next bit of advice probably won’t help you. However, the key to finding your lost phone is to set up protections before it becomes lost. This is pretty easy.

Google Device Manager options

Google Device Manager options

Android

Head to Android Device Manager and sign in with your Google account. Click to enable remote phone locating. This will enable a few features that I’ll discuss below.

You’ll also be able to select “Enable Lock and Erase”. This is an extra security measure that I recommend. Once you enable it, you’ll be able to lock your device, set a new password and even enter a phone number where a finder can reach you (if a kind bystander happens to come across it, of course).

Lost Android?

Simply head back to the Android Device Manager (there’s also a Find My Device app if you prefer to access from another device and not your browser) There, you’ll see the location of your phone as well as battery level and if it’s connected to a network! I’m at home as I type this, so I see it located on the map.

In fact, you don’t even need to go there. A simple Google search for “Find My Phone” shows me the same information as long as I’m signed into my Google Account. But there are a few features of the device manager that are pretty handy.

Let’s say the Device Manager thinks your phone is at home, but you can’t find it. What can you do? From the device manager, you can turn on your ringer, even if your phone is set to silent. 

Now, this function requires a few things: that your phone be powered on, connected to a network, location services enables and “Find My Device” enabled.

One last ditch option is to track your device history from this page. It may direct you to the last place you had your phone.

Lock and Erase a Stolen or Lost Android Phone

As long as you’ve got Lock and Erase enabled, you can rest assured that the contents of your device will be safe, even if you never see the device again. You can log in to the device manager to lock your phone if you have hope of its return.

If you suspect that your phone has fallen into nefarious hands or even if it contains data that is sensitive (think phones used for work or any phone with banking/financial information on it), then erasing is the only option you might have. Unfortunately, you’ll lose access to any data including apps, contacts, photos, videos and messages on your phone. But no one else will have it, either.

Erasing is a last-ditch attempt to secure your privacy, so make sure you’ve exhausted other options before using it.

Locating a Lost iPhone

Find your iPhone

Find, lock or erase your lost iPhone or Apple device

Apple has a similar setup to Google should you lose your device, and it doesn’t just work for an iPhone. Your iPad and iPod Touch will also benefit from this feature.

You must first enable it by opening Settings > iCloud > Find my iPhone. 

You can log in to icloud.com/find to find a lost device once this is enabled. You’ll see its location and also be able to play an alert to help find it.

Apple’s version of locking is Lost Mode. Lost Mode locks your phone so others cannot access it and enables you to enter a phone number where people can reach you if they find your phone. Lost Mode also prevents Apple Pay payments from your account.

The final option from this site (or the Find my iPhone app) is the ability to erase your iPhone just like you can an Android device.

If your device is turned off or not connected to a network, setting it to Lose Mode will activate as soon as it’s powered on again.

As you can see, these functions are of limited use if you haven’t enabled them or even if you have but your phone is dead. But they can be a lifesaver in the event that they’re turned on and your phone has power!

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