Modern mobile phones pose an interesting dilemma. As our most important tool, ingrained into every aspect of our lives, they are stared at and handled more than the Princess Leias at Comic Con. Unfortunately, sometimes we lose and leave our fancy devices in mysterious places.
Fortunately, there are ways you can track down your lost phone. Here's how.
Before we get started, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First of all, be aware that these methods all require you to have your location services turned on. Your phone will also need to be connected to the internet.
Also: safety first. Remember that if you suspect any trouble when tracking your lost device, contact the police and hand your information to them. It's not worth putting yourself in a dangerous situation over a phone.
Apple has a pretty ingenious toolset that will aid you in the quest to retrieve your phone. Of course there are downloadable apps that can be useful too but these native tools are better.
One of my very lovely work colleagues once left her phone in a cab after being at showing. All her pictures and interviews were on the device, so it would have been catastrophic had she lost it. We managed to get it back within half an hour using the following steps and tools available at www.icloud.com.
Find My iPhone
Many people may not consider using the Find My iPhone application after losing their device because they simply haven’t set it up. You’ll be happy to know that, as long as you have a passcode set on your phone, Find My iPhone is automatically set up.
Visit icloud.com and login using your Apple ID. These are the same credentials you would use to purchase things on iTunes or to download apps. Click on Find My iPhone in the top right hand corner.
You’ll be presented with a map and a drop down menu with all the devices associated with that Apple ID. Select the device you are trying to locate.
Once you've done that, you'll see a map that tracks the current or last active location of your phone. You'll also see a menu screen with three options, Play Sound, Lost Mode and Erase iPhone.
Put Your Phone Into Lost Mode
Do this before you do anything else. After clicking on Lost Mode, you'll be asked to enter a phone number that you can be reached on.
You'll then be asked to enter a message. Both the message and the number will appear on the lock screen of your phone. If a Good Samaritan should find your phone, they'll be able to reach you.
Once you get your phone back, simply type in your passcode and it will unlock and be good as new!
Follow Your Phone On The Map
If you've left your phone in a cab, on a bus or on a train, you'll be able to see it moving on the map. Keep your cab receipt or transport ticket, it will tell you the exact cab or bus/train that you were on. Call the bus/cab/train company and explain your situation, giving the number of the vehicle. Public transport companies will allow you to pick it up from the depot. With cabs, you can arrange to have it dropped back to your location for a fee. The same goes for Uber.
If you've dropped it or left it at a restaurant, it should appear to be stationary on the map and this tracking system will allow you to retrace your steps and pin-point exactly where you may have lost your precious device. So after you've put it into Lost Mode, you’re able to physically hunt it down.
Remember: don't put yourself in danger. If you feel someone has stolen your phone, hand the location over to police rather than put yourself in a potentially hazardous situation.
You've looked on the map and realised you've left your phone in a coffee shop, but on returning to the coffee shop, you still can't find it. This is where the Play Sound feature comes in handy. Even if your phone is on silent, the Play Sound function will make your phone play a looped sound so you can find it even if it’s wedged in a couch somewhere.
This is also pretty handy if you’ve misplaced your phone at a party/at work/in your bedsheets during a Netflix marathon. Log into icloud.com and then click "play sound". It’s a lifesaver.
And if you’re worried about this sound draining your limited battery, the Find My iPhone menu shows you exactly how much battery you have left – that way you can weigh your options.
Should the worst happen and you simply can’t retrieve your phone, Find My iPhone gives you the final option to remotely erase your phone. This isn't necessary for everyone, but if you've got credit card details, banking information, passwords or sexy photos stored on your phone, you may not want those falling into the wrong hands. Click "erase iPhone" and follow the prompts.
You have permission to cry, as your device is now lost forever.
It's worth keeping in mind that if you're prone to losing things like expensive iPhones, you should regularly back up your device to iCloud. That way you can restore it if and when you buy a new one.
Alternative Tracking Apps
iCloud and Find My iPhone are the best tools available to find a lost iPhone. As mentioned, I have used these tools and successfully retrieved a lost device within half an hour. But if you want to use something else, here are a few apps for iOS devices that are also quite good.
Finding your lost Android phone is easy, just Google it!
That's right, you can Google where your phone is. This is a new-ish feature of the Android Device Manager. As long as your phone is linked to your Gmail account and you’re logged into Gmail in your browser, you can just Google the phrase "where is my phone" to find your device.
Android Device Manager
First of all, make sure that you are signed into your Google account in your browser. These are the credentials that you use to purchase apps from the Google Play store and also log into your Gmail. Once you’ve signed in, open a new Google search and type in the phrase "where is my phone." A map will appear at the top of the search results page. Click on it.
You’ll be directed to a larger map with a menu box in the top left-hand corner. Click on the drop down device list to make sure that you have selected the correct gadget to track. Once you have done that, the map should show you the current or most recent tracked location of your phone. The menu box will also tell you how accurate the tracked location is and also the last time your phone was tracked.
The first thing you should do is lock your phone.
In the menu box you should see a Lock option. Click on it. You’ll then be asked to enter a Lock password. Many of you will have already set a lock code on your phones. This feature will override that and lock your phone to a new password.
Type in a password of your choice and try to make this a difficult one. Should your phone fall into the wrong hands, you will regret using a simple password. You'll also be asked to enter a short recovery message and a phone number where you can be reached. The message should be something akin to "Lost phone. Please return to Mia. Thank you!"
Now if anyone should pick it up, this message will appear on the Lock screen and they will be able to contact you. It will also ensure that you keep prying eyes out of your personal data.
Follow Your Phone On The Map
The next few steps are very similar to the steps for finding an iPhone, which is great! If you need to help a distressed friend who is on a different platform to you, be rest assured that method and functions are extremely similar.
Now that you've locked your phone, it’s time to pay attention to the map — if you've left your phone in a cab or on public transport, you'll be able to see it moving on the map.
Keep your cab receipt or transport ticket, it will tell you the exact cab or bus/train that you were on. Call the bus/cab/train company and explain your situation giving the number of the vehicle. Public transport will allow you to pick it up from the depot. With a cabs, you can arrange to have it dropped back to your location for a fee.
If you’ve simply dropped it somewhere, it should appear stationary on the map. The map tracking system will allow you to retrace your steps and pin-point exactly where you may have lost your precious device. But keep in mind the location accuracy in the menu box eg. Accurate to 21 metres. This means that you will have to search a 21 metre radius for your abandoned device.
Since the location of your phone on the map is not a pin-point location but a radial area, the Ring function offered by Android Device Manager is especially helpful. By clicking on the Ring icon, your phone will begin to ring as it normally would and you’ll be able to follow the sound — even if it’s on silent.
Android Device Manager also offers an option to remotely wipe your phone. In the instance that you are unable to retrieve your phone, you will want to consider erasing the data stored on your device. You don't want random people being able to look through your folder of selfies or gain access to your banking apps. To erase your phone, simply click on the icon and follow the prompts.
So long, pretty Android.
Alternative Tracking Apps
Google's native toolset is the best way to find a lost Droid. But if you're looking for other tools, here are some other very reliable and efficient Android tracking apps.
Find My Mobile (Samsung devices only)