Losing your phone, whether at home or outside, is a pretty common situation. Even with smartphones seemingly getting bigger every year, we still manage to misplace and forget about them on a regular basis, which often results in you having no clue where you left it and becoming desperate to find it. There is also the situation of your phone simply getting stolen, which leaves you panicking and not knowing what to do next. Today, we’ll show you how you can easily find your phone, whether it has been lost or stolen, using nothing but the tools provided by Google in the Android OS, and what you should do to get it back.
As we mentioned, in order to do this, you will only need what Google itself provides you with, no special third-party apps or features. Instead, we’ll use Android Device Manager, a free service and dashboard for your current Android devices provided by Google, which you can find by clicking this link. Using this tool, you will be able to track your phone using GPS, make it ring, wipe it remotely or lock it down. The first thing you have to do is log in using the same account you use on your phone.
This is where a small warning is due. If you use 2-factor authentication (that is, if you set up your Google account so that you need to confirm with a special code every time you log in), this will likely cause a lot of trouble, because usually the code is sent through an SMS or a call, and you presumably don’t have your device around. To get around this issue, Google allows you to print and use backup codes to authenticate, which you can find an explanation about how to use by clicking here. Make sure you do this beforehand if you’re using 2-factor authentication. Anyway, once you log in and confirm, you’ll have access to a bunch of tools provided to you by the Android Device Manager.
If You Lost Your Phone
With this tool, you’ll be able to easily find your lost phone by making it so that it rings at max volume. This way, if your device slipped between the cushions, is under the sheets, or you left it outside, you will be able to hear it loud and clear:
In order to stop the ringing, you’ll have to press the power button on your phone. Using this feature, you should be able to find the phone if it’s nearby or, if you lost it somewhere else, draw attention to it by making it ring at full volume while you search. Another useful feature that you can use if you lost the device and are hoping that someone else picks it up and brings it back to you is, curiously, the “Lock” feature:
Using this feature you will be able to change the current lockscreen pincode in order to access the device, but that’s not the feature I’m talking about. Instead, I’m talking about the ability to leave a message in the lockscreen – this way, you can leave your info and details in the lockscreen and anyone that finds it can bring it back to you. Android Device Manager will even let you include a phone number which will appear on the device as a button which anyone that finds the device can tap to call you back right away:
There is another, easier way to see where your phone currently is – just google “find my phone” and it will appear in the results right away, provided you’re logged in:
If Your Phone Was Stolen
If the device was actually stolen, that’s where things start to get tricky. While Android Device Manager can help you out a bit here, all that it can do is assure you that the thief will not have access to your data. Sure, it will give you the current location of the phone, but you should not engage with the thief directly – instead, you should report it to the police. Still, once stolen, there are a couple of things you can do to be proactive. Once you start using Android Device Manager to locate your device, a notification will appear, so the thief will know you’re trying to do something:
At this point, you should also lock the device by setting up a new pincode. Make sure to leave a message with your details as well, if the thief has a change of heart, but the important thing is locking him out of your apps and data with a fresh pincode, which may prevent him from doing further harm:
Lastly, if you have private information on your phone (as we all do) and are worried about it falling on the wrong hands, Google allows you to request a direct wipe of the device, deleting your information and bringing it back to factory reset state. This, of course, should be used as a last measure when you’re sure that you won’t be able to recover your device and have no further use for the location features:
As you may have realized, this is Google’s alternative to Apple’s “Find My iPhone”, which you can also use to track down your iOS devices. While Google’s solution is not as elegant, it certainly is well-integrated into the overall OS, and is provided to the users for free. There are other apps around that do the same thing, like Cerberus, which offers more comprehensive options and can even resist the device being wiped or factory reset, which you can check out over here. However, for most users, this is will be more than enough to find and protect their devices.