Phones and tablets have transited from the traditional roles of being just a tool for communication to multipurpose devices with variable functions and capacities.
What we do with our devices apart from the traditional functions, spans a wide variety of online and offline functions including storage of sensitive personal data.
Due to the above, and other reasons, it becomes imperative to locate a lost phone or tablet before the information in the device enters the wrong hands.
Losing a phone or tablet is usually associated with a lot of anxiety, starting from the moment we notice that the device is missing.
The natural response is to search your pocket, bag and other places you may have dropped the device.
Sometimes, you may find the device, however other times you may not be able to find the device especially if it was dropped off mistakenly while in transit or stolen.
The ability to locate the phone will depend on the circumstance surrounding the loss of the device and the type of device.
Sometimes calling the device or sending a text to the device may be all that is needed to locate the device.
To prevent unauthorised access to your phone or prevent it from being hacked, it is important that you secure the phone via the phone’s inbuilt security features.
Create a secure lock screen by simply turning on the passcode, pattern and/or fingerprint authentication. Facial recognition can also be set up, however, this may be easily tricked by using your picture depending on the operating system and version of the device.
How to locate a lost phone or tablet
- Find my phone with a Google account
One of the simple ways to locate a lost phone or tablet is via your Google account. Simply type find my device on your web browser, and the first query result will be Find My Device-google, click on it and it will show you all the devices linked to your account and their locations on a map.
Alternatively, you can also go to Google’s Find My Device page or download the Find My device App on another device, sign in, and search from there.
If the device’s present location is not available it will show you the last place the device was seen.
If the device was switched off, you will not be able to track it. But once the device is turned back on Google will send you a mail once it locates the device. It will also give you three options, which include playing sound, securing the device, and erasing the contents of the device.
The option you choose will depend on the circumstance, for instance, if your phone was located in your house according to the map you can choose the play sound option which will make the phone ring out. This will help you easily locate the lost phone.
Secondly, if the location of the phone is an unsecured environment, then it is best to choose the second option which entails securing the phone to prevent unauthorised access to your data. This will involve the use of a passcode, pattern or fingerprint to lock the device remotely.
Furthermore, if you cannot retrieve the phone or if the phone was stolen, you can use the last option as the last resort, which entails erasing all the data from the phone’s memory.
After erasing the data, it may not be possible to track the device via google. Also, note that the content of your SD card will not be erased. Consequently, it may be safer to store sensitive information in your phone memory or alternatively encrypt your SD card to limit unauthorized access.
If you wish to locate a lost phone or tablet in the future following an event of a lost device, then you need to sign in to your Google account with the device. Once you sign in, the Find My Device option is automatically turned on.
However, there is a need to double-check. To check if Find My Device is enabled on your device navigate to phone settings, click on Security and location and ensure that Find My Device is on otherwise slide it on.
- Locate a lost phone using the manufacturer
You can still effectively locate a lost phone if you don’t have a google account or the google account was not signed in to the device.
Some device manufacturers have their own tracking mechanism, for instance, Samsung Andriod phones have a feature called Find My Mobile which works in a similar way as Google’s Find My Device.
If this feature is on in your Samsung phone then in an event of device loss, you can track your phone online through their website.
The Samsung Find My Mobile has some added features when compared with google such as backing up your lost device remotely in case you are unable to recover it.
To locate a lost phone using the above feature, navigate to the Samsung phone setting, go to Biometrics and Security, and then enable Find My Mobile. This feature will automatically be on once you sign in to your Samsung account.
Furthermore, Samsung released a new feature called SmartThings. The new feature works in a similar way to Apple’s Find My app by crowdsourcing the location of a lost phone via any nearby Galaxy Bluetooth signal and reporting the location of the lost phone when located.
The above feature works even when the device is offline. The device needs to be running on Android eight or a newer version to use this feature.
To find a lost phone in the feature using this option, you will need to navigate to the Galaxy play store and update SmartThings. Once you are running the latest version, the main page of the SmartThings app will be showing the last/current location of your device.
When you locate a lost phone using SmartThings, there is a More Options button that will lead you to Samsung’s Find My Mobile service where you can lock your Samsung device, back the device up or erase the contents.
SmartThings also allows you to monitor the location of your household in real-time by sharing and receiving the location of their devices.
- Locate a lost phone using the IMEI number
IMEI number [International Mobile Equipment Identity number]. It is a unique set of fifteen-digit numbers used to identify each device. It is found in the about section of the device or the phone pack.
You can locate a lost phone with its International Mobile Equipment Identity number using available online applications.
This feature can be used even when the sim card has been swapped. However, this number can be modified with the aid of computer software in cases of theft which will make it impossible to locate a lost phone or tablet using the International Mobile Equipment Identity number.
To locate a lost phone using the International Mobile Equipment Identity number, navigate to the google play store. Download, install and open IMEI tracker-Find my device in another device. Carefully read the instructions & fill in all the needed details.
Using the phone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity number, its location can be tracked easily and will appear on the screen.
This feature can be used by some law enforcement agencies to locate a lost phone if the incident was reported. Additionally, you can block the International Mobile Equipment Identity number so that no one else will be able to register the phone.
Other third-party apps that can be used to locate a lost phone using the IMEI number include Avast Mobile Security, Prey Anti-Theft, Where’s My Droid, Cerberus, Lost Android, and Life360 Family Locator.
- Locate a lost phone with a third-party app
In addition to the methods stated above, A third-party application can also be used to locate a lost phone.
One common third-party app is the Life360 app. You can download the app on your device and that of every member of your household. The GPS locator will track your household in real-time and will also locate any of your household devices if misplaced.
Another app with a lot of features is AndroidLost. The web application is owned by Google and you have to sign in with your Google account to use it.
AndriodLost has a whole range of unique remote features which include reading messages, remote alarm control, viewing location on the map, sending an SMS from your PC remotely, Lock the phone, wiping the phone, forwarding your calls to another device, detecting the battery level, display your IMEI, sim card ID, erase SD card contents, take pictures with the front-facing camera [only on android 2.3 operating system and above], test to speech[ meaning the device can be made to say I was stolen find me], browse contents of the phone remotely.
From the above features, you will agree with me that AndriodLost is very versatile and has the ability to retrieve contents from a stolen phone remotely before deleting it permanently.
In Addition, it can wipe the contents of your SD card thus protecting the sensitive information in the phone memory and SD card in case the device is stolen.
Furthermore, it can take pictures remotely from the front camera which can capture the environment where the phone is or the face of a thief in case the device is stolen.
Another third-party app is Where’s My Droid. it has similar unique features to AndriodLost. when you upgrade to the premium version[Elite version], You can also locate a lost phone, take pictures remotely, rest the device to factory setting, and erase the phone memory and SD card contents remotely.
To locate a lost phone with a third-party application, the application must have been installed in the device before it was stolen or misplaced.
Losing one’s device is not a pleasant experience. However, by deploying the measures stated above one can locate a lost phone.
Once the device is located, it can be retrieved or at least the contents of the device can be permanently erased remotely to avoid unauthorised access to personal information.
When you effectively locate a lost phone or device using any of the methods stated above, it is advisable to seek the assistance of security agencies to help you retrieve the phone to avoid unnecessary injury and possible loss of human life.