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Remotely locating an Android phone isn’t quite as simple as finding a stolen iPhone So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Here's What To Do So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Here's What To Do If your iPhone is no longer in your possession, you might never see it again but there are still a few things you can do. Read More . Android doesn’t prompt you to set up a find-my-phone feature when you set up your phone, as Apple does. But there are many good options for remotely locating your stolen phone, even if you never set anything up before you lost your phone. Even Google now provides their own lost-phone-finder.

Bear in mind that you can only remotely locate your Android phone if it’s powered on and has a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection. If it’s powered off because the battery died or it was placed into airplane mode, you won’t be able to remotely locate your device.

Android Device Manager

Google now offers an integrated find-my-Android feature Locate Your Misplaced (Or Stolen) Device With The Android Device Manager [Updates] Locate Your Misplaced (Or Stolen) Device With The Android Device Manager [Updates] The announcement of the Android Device Manager is sure to be good news for those of us who habitually lose or misplace our phones. Another little feature that allows you to securely wipe all the... Read More for all devices running Android 2.2 or newer. This service is useful because you can activate it without installing anything extra or creating any new accounts. If you lose your phone, you can just visit Google’s website and locate it with your Google account. This service will be the best option for most Android users.

To set this up, open the app drawer on your Android device and launch the Google Settings app. Tap Android Device Manager and enable the “Remotely locate this device” option. If you want the ability to remotely lock or factory-reset it, you can also enable this option.

android device manager setup

When you lose your device, you can visit the Android Device Manager website to find it on a map, ring it, lock it, or remotely erase it.

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android-device-manager

Android Lost

Lookout’s Plan B was an app you could install remotely on your phone or tablet to locate it, even if you didn’t set anything up ahead of time. However, Plan B only works with Android 2.0 to 2.3. If you have a phone running a version of Android released in the last few years, you’ll need a different solution.

This is where Android Lost comes in. You can install it on your phone remotely and activate it without needing access to your device. This is extremely useful if you lose your device before setting up a tracking solution.

To remotely locate your lost phone, follow the instructions on the Android Lost website. You’ll have to “push” the Android Lost app to your device via the Google Play website, and then activate it by texting a special message to your device. After you have, you can authenticate to the Android Lost website via your Google account and see its location on a map.

android-lost

Avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus

Antivirus apps aren’t generally necessary for Android devices because Android already has integrated malware-scanning features. But avast! Mobile Security is more than just an antivirus app. It also includes an excellent anti-theft feature. This is actually based on a powerful old anti-theft app known as Theft Aware, which avast! purchased and integrated into their app. Anti-theft protection is free, but avast! does now charge $15 per year for premium features such as remotely photographing a thief and capturing audio with the phone’s microphone.

To get started with avast! anti-theft, install the avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus app and open the Anti-theft pane. You’ll be given two different ways to install the anti-theft feature. In the normal way, you’ll simply download the anti-theft app from Google Play. It’s named “Update Agent” to disguise itself from thieves. In the advanced way, you’ll need root access FREE MANUAL! Take Control: The Android Rooting Guide FREE MANUAL! Take Control: The Android Rooting Guide Here's a guide for Android users that explains in detail everything you need to know about rooting your phone or tablet. Read More . With root access, avast! can install this anti-theft protection as a system app so that it remains active even if a device thief performs a factory reset.

avast-anti-theft

After installing anti-theft protection, you can go back into the avast! app to set up and configure it. Avast!’s anti-theft app contains a variety of advanced features — for example, you could set up “geofencing” and the device would be automatically marked as lost when you leave a certain geographical area.

To remotely locate your device or issue commands, use the My Avast! website after setting this up.

avast-my-device

Cerberus

Cerberus isn’t free, but it offers a week-long free trial and a lifetime license for just 2.99€ after that. Cerberus is a powerful app with a variety of additional features, such as the ability to remotely control your device, taking pictures, recording audio from the microphone, viewing information about its network, and viewing a list of calls sent and received. This gives you the ability to snoop on phone thieves more easily. If you really want these features, you should choose Cerberus — it’s much cheaper than avast! premium. However, if you don’t want these features, avast! is free while Cerberus is not.

Like avast!, Cerberus can be installed with root access to integrate itself deep into the system and persist even after standard factory resets.

cerberus-for-android-configuration

To use Cerberus, simply install the app and set up a Cerberus account. You can then visit the Cerberus website and to locate and remote-control your Android devices.

cerberus-website

Which is Best?

In summary, here are your options:

  • Android Device Manager: Google’s option is simple, integrated, and easy, but doesn’t offer many advanced features. This is the ideal option for most normal people and even geeks who don’t really want the advanced features.
  • Android Lost: If you’ve already lost your device, Android Lost is the app to use. If you have the luxury of setting up an anti-theft app ahead of time, you’ll want to choose one with a better interface.
  • Avast!, Cerberus, and Others: There are many other strong anti-theft apps, from avast! to Cerberus to Lookout. They generally offer advanced features like the ability to persist after factory resets via root access, take pictures, and capture audio. If you’re looking for something more advanced, any of these apps will serve you well.

Which Android anti-theft solution do you use on your phone? If you don’t already use one, you’ve essentially chosen Android Lost, which is more of a hassle. You should at least set up Android Device Manager ahead of time.

Image Credit: Blue Marble from NASA, Android Robot from Google

  1. raj salunke
    August 10, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Hi, Please help me out after doing erase data via android device manager my phone is still asking for password i.e privacy protection password...I am unable to use my phone..

  2. Ram Prakash
    May 2, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    My sell phone stolen any body Brand Intex model aqua y3

  3. Lo
    March 10, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    From the Android Lost FAQ page:

    " I have already lost my phone. Can I still register this app?
    No, unfortunately you will have to install and register this app before you lose it.

    You can install the app remotely from the Google play store but to register you will have to start the app and that can only be done on the phone. "

    So much for that.

  4. charles
    January 12, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    if someone stole my t mobile Samsung galaxy note 3, did a factory reset, placed their own sim card in it and activated it with their own account, had it unlocked, can i still track it? I did not activate any anti-theft services on it while i had it. any help with this would be great

  5. Dolp
    January 12, 2014 at 12:59 am

    I hate those thieves.
    I agree with krish, it doesn't make sense if the thief can do it. Useless security.

  6. charles
    January 10, 2014 at 5:53 am

    if someone steals my phone then puts there own sim in and also does a factory rest on it can i track it then? or can they use it?

  7. kihara
    December 5, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Great article Chris!

  8. Krishnakumar Tandel
    December 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I am using android devices from last 3 years and came across so many anti theft softwares on Android. Most of them always works on Internet only and some of them also works with SMS that is a good feature when you lost your phone you can just send the command you have kept for locating and other function for your devices. Now in the same manner i would say two software now i always use are Prey and Norton AntiVirus (inbuilt Antitheft and purchased version). Prey is open source anti theft and free to register and download in common features but they also have more features for paid people and its good that it takes the picture from the front camera and you get each and every interval you have registered to get info from your device. Even norton does have the same features capturing the image from front camera but it states in UK that it cannot take as it has some privacy rules.
    Now talking about the Anti Theft devices, if my phone is lost or stolen how would i know that person is only having that device. Now they can directly format my phone using USB cables or even they use factory format keys to format the whole phones and remove all the anti theft softwares. Even Android Device Manager will not be able to locate it as Google ID will be removed when we format to factory settings. Google should make a anti theft that even some format the phone they will integrate IMEI number to their Device Manger so even factory formatted phones can be located . Or Android should also give password for using the Factory settings features so the person cannot format the phone without the password on the factory settings menu. Like Samsung Galaxy S4 if i i will press Upper Volume Key with Home button and keep holding and start my phone with the power key it will directly lead me to the Factory settings options and update centre, so i can format from there the whole phone and the whole Anti Theft software will not work and even the Google ID will be removed. So the person can now easily use it.

  9. Debbie
    November 28, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Yes, I've seen 'prey' also and have installed the app. Hope to never use it. By activating it, all 'data' will be removed from the phone, which is a good thing if it truly is lost or stolen, but not so good if you just misplaced it. (Very time consuming to re enter everything.)
    There's also 'where's my droid,' I have that one, too; and again, hope to never need it. That one will only erase data if you remotely tell it to.

  10. Ashok K
    November 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Today everybody needs a app for this purpose. Thnanx

  11. Prey Fan
    November 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

    What about Prey?

  12. Jatin
    November 28, 2013 at 8:27 am

    one of them is also theftspy. I love it

  13. Kamil K
    November 27, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Cool, I wasn't aware of any programs that could do it AFTER you lost your phone - until Android Lost! Thanks! :)

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