Smartphones are the gateway to the world for billions of people around the world, with the latest estimates showing that 45% of the planet now owns a handheld device with an Internet connection.
Many young people rarely leave their phones out of sight, so the thought of not knowing where your device has been for a long time is especially scary.
Luckily, help can be found, but you’ll have to prepare in advance, as well as keep location services on. In addition to giving you an idea of where it is, this will also allow you to lock or erase it remotely.
This makes it dependent on the phone’s battery life, so if it runs out of battery, you might be out of luck. The first step we recommend is to back up all your data, in case you can’t get it back. This is our guide above
how to backup android and
how to backup iPhone.
Below, we’ll take a look at the options built into each of the major mobile operating systems to explain how to track down your lost or stolen phone. For each of these, you’ll need to sign in to your Google or Apple account on your phone before you begin.
Several third-party options are also available. Prey is a particularly popular option, not only for mobile devices but also Windows, OS X, and Ubuntu laptops. If you have several devices that span multiple platforms, you should consider an option like this one that allows you to track them all from a single interface. Read more about how to track lost laptops and smartphones with Prey.
How to find a lost Android phone
Find My Device, formerly known as Device Manager, provides the easiest way to track Android phones. This is a free download from the Google Play Store and you can also access the service from any browser by going to google.com/android/find if your device is lost.
Find My Device provides options to ring, lock, or erase your device if it’s out of reach.
Another option, if your phone is turned off, is to check your location history for the last reported location. You can do this by going to myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols and tapping Manage Activity under Location History.
You will now see a map of all the places where your device reported its location for a period of time that you specified. The last known location is where Google last saw it before the battery died, and if you’re lucky it might still be there.
Note that location history uses Wi-Fi and cellular signals instead of GPS, so it won’t be as accurate as Android Device Manager.
How to find lost iPhone
To locate your lost Apple device, you need Find My iPhone – but before you lose your iPhone, you need to make sure it’s set up on your device. Just tap Settings, iCloud, then scroll down and turn on Find My iPhone. Also, enable the option below, which will send your last known location right before your battery runs out.
Find My iPhone also requires location services to work, which you will find in Settings, Privacy, Location Services.
After setting up Find My iPhone, you have two ways to track down a lost device. First, you can use the free Find My iPhone app on another Apple device to track your phone.
Alternatively, you can sign in to your account on a desktop browser at iCloud.com, then tap Find My iPhone.
If you have multiple Apple devices, select the misplaced device.
After selecting your phone, Find My iPhone will show you on a map its last known location and provide options to sound the alarm, lock it, or erase its contents.
For a more thorough guide to Find My iPhone, check out our sister site Macworld: How to Use Find My iPhone.
While a 2016 patent suggests Apple will add location tracking capabilities even when the device is turned off, there’s no official line on its inclusion yet.
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