Tis the season…for parties! Company parties, family parties, or just plain parties – perhaps with some mistletoe or a dash of New Year confetti. Whatever the occasion, parties offer a unique opportunity for many things, such as losing your phone. One moment you’re taking a picture of yourself with some friends, and the next moment it’s gone.
Normally you’d be able to turn over couch cushions or survey the floor, but not now. Now it’s time to rely on your inner geek.
Alert Your Phone Using A Call Or SMS
Your first step when attempting to find a lost phone is to try and locate it immediately using the oldest trick in the book – calling it. However, calling your phone has limitations. You have to constantly re-dial, and what if your phone is on silent or vibrate? You might be able to hear the buzz when you’re at home, but you won’t at even the lamest party.
That’s where apps come in, and Where’s My Droid is the gold standard for finding a lost phone. You can text your phone a pre-designated code word in order to activate Where’s My Droid, which will then cause your phone to ring even if it’s on silent or vibrate.
Track It With GPS
If you haven’t been able to locate your phone by activating its ringtone, then your phone may not have been lost in the area you originally thought. It’s even possible you left it at home, or someone carried it off, either accidently or not.
That’s where GPS tracking comes in. Almost all modern phones have a GPS device built in, which can then report location remotely. Apps like Where’s My Droid and Lookout Security & Antivirus offer this feature, as do most free or paid mobile security apps. Some mobile security apps (including Lookout) can provide a rough location even when a phone’s GPS is turned off.
If you did not have the foresight to install a security app beforehand, you can try something like Lookout’s Plan B. This works by installing through the Android Web Market. Your phone will have to have mobile data reception and at least Android 2.0 for this to work.
Don’t count on GPS as a miracle worker. With a phone it is accurate to within a few feet if you’re using it outside, under a blue sky, without any large structures to interfere. Change those conditions and it becomes less accurate. Indoors, under a couch, it may have some trouble. The results should at least be accurate enough to tell you if your phone has left the building, however.
Wipe The Phone & Reset Passwords
You’ve tried ringing your device, and you’ve tried to track it with GPS. Still, no dice. Maybe it ran out of battery, or maybe a thief took it and was smart enough to turn it off and let it sit for a few days or weeks. Either way, your phone’s gone and you don’t know who has it.
In this grim situation you’ll want to wipe data so that your phone can’t be used as an avenue for ID theft or harassment, two rare but troubling possibilities. Most paid security apps, like Lookout Security, will allow for remote wiping of data from your phone.
However, there’s some doubt as to how well this feature works. In a recent AV-Comparatives test researchers were able to recover some or all data from mobile phones after they were allegedly wiped. It it was also possible to access Google Mail account data after the wipe. Only successfully protected Google Mail in the test, which is one of the reasons I’ve been recommending it despite a $9.99 price tag.
There’s always the chance that someone might be able to snatch data before you wipe your phone, however – or they could disable the phone’s networking capabilities, rendering wipe attempts invalid. As such, you should treat the loss of a phone the same as the loss of a computer. Reset all passwords that were stored on the device as soon as possible.
It might also be wise to send an SMS or email to friends and family letting them know your phone is no longer in your possession, as well. They can be on the look for it, and treat any calls or texts allegedly from you with suspicion.
Despite the advanced features in modern smartphones, there’s still only so much you can do to find your phone. Most options rely on preemptive measures. Attempting to locate a phone without a phone-finding or security app is extremely difficult, so don’t doddle. Install Where’s My Droid or a security app as soon as possible.
Have you lost your Android phone before? If so, how did you locate it? With one of the above apps or with another? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.