Nobody wants to think about their phone getting stolen, but the truth is that it could happen to anybody. As such, it’s always a good idea to have some sort of anti-theft app on your device.
Google offers a built-in option called Find My Device that can a missing phone, but there are also some great third-party options available. Let’s take a look.
1. Find My Device
Find My Device is Google’s native anti-theft app, and part of all Android phones. It lets you remotely lock your phone, sign out of your device, and wipe its content. You can also see your phone’s location on a map and call it via the accompanying app.
If you lock your phone remotely, you can write a lock screen message that your device will display permanently until you disable it.
The Find My Device feature is enabled by default, but it’s wise to check that you haven’t accidentally turned it off. To check the status of Find My Device, go to Settings > Google > Security and tap on Find My Device. Slide the toggle at the top of the window into the On position if the feature is not active.
There are two ways to access Find My Device features—via the Find My Device web app or smartphone app.
Download: Find My Device (Free)
Cerberus is well-established as the leading third-party anti-theft app for Android. It has a rich feature set that its competitors struggle to live up to.
The three main ways that Cerberus protects your device are remote control via the web portal, remote control via text message, and automatic alerts.
The app can locate and track your phone, lock your device, start an alarm on your phone, upload call logs, and wipe both internal and external memory.
Cerberus will also help ensure anyone who steals your phone ends up in trouble with the law. It can secretly take photos and record videos of anyone who has your device, then upload them to the cloud for you to see. You can even record audio from your phone’s mic.
The app also supports automatic actions. For example, you can make the phone lock itself if the SIM card is changed, or instantly receive a photo if someone enters the wrong PIN.
You can enjoy a seven-day free trial. After that, you need to sign up for the $5 per year pro version.
Download: Cerberus (Free trial, subscription required)
3. Anti-Theft Alarm
At the other end of the complexity scale is Anti-Theft Alarm. It’s a theft deterrent; it does not have post-theft features like phone locating and remote wiping.
As the name suggests, the app will sound a loud alarm in certain circumstances. For example, you can make it go off if someone unplugs your phone while it’s charging, if someone moves your phone from where you left it, if you drop your phone, or if someone changes the SIM card. You can also activate the alarm remotely if you realize someone has stolen it.
The alarm can sound even if your device is on silent. Once activated, the noise won’t stop without a password; changing the battery or SIM will not have any effect.
Download: Anti-Theft Alarm (Free)
4. Avast Mobile Security
Avast Mobile Security is one of the best security suites for Android. We’ve recommended it in the past.
However, here we’re only interested in the Avast Anti-Theft feature. It used to be a standalone app, but Avast has since bundled it into a holistic security package. The app has the usual array of alarms, maps, and remote controls, but there are a couple of features that warrant a special mention.
First is remote listening. You can make your stolen device call you on another number and listen to its surroundings. Your phone’s screen will remain black so the thief has no idea that there’s an active call.
Second, you can receive a low battery notification. This notification serves two purposes: It will give you a clue about whether someone is charging and using your device. And it lets you reduce the number of alarms, sirens, and photos you request so you can conserve energy as long as possible.
While Avast’s Android app is free, you’ll need to subscribe to get access to all the anti-theft features.
Download: Avast Mobile Security (Free, subscription available)
AppLock is another basic app. It lets you password-protect any app on your phone. It’s not going to help you get your phone back if someone does steal it, but at least the app will leave you safe knowing that your data is secure if the worst happens.
AppLock can also hide videos and pictures and restrict calls. It means a thief won’t be able to see your private life or rack up massive bills on your account. The app is ad-supported.
Download: AppLock (Free, subscription available)
Prey is a cross-platform solution that can track phones, laptops, tablets, and all sorts of other devices.
There is a free and a premium version. The free version lets you set geo-fencing areas (and receive an alert when the perimeter is breached), see your phone’s GPS location, take photographs of thieves, and activate remote locking. This limits you to three devices per account.
The premium version—which costs $10—offers unlimited devices and adds remote data wiping and remote file retrieval.
We looked at Prey in more detail when we discussed easy ways to recover a stolen Android device.
Download: Prey (Free, premium version available)
7. Where’s My Droid
Where’s My Droid offers a free version along with two paid plans. In the free version, you can locate the device, ring it, set a passcode, and send an alert when someone changes the SIM.
The Pro plan adds more features such as taking photos, locking and wiping the device, and hiding the app icon. It costs a one-time payment of $4.
Lastly, the Elite version ($1 a month or $9 a year) includes geofencing, location history, device stats, and more.
Download: Where’s My Droid (Free, subscription version available)
Bonus: Carrier and Manufacturer Apps
Most network carriers offer an anti-theft app. In the US, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint all have their own version.
The notable downside to carrier apps is cost—you’ll typically see a small extra charge on your bill every month. On the upside, you’ll be able to call your carrier and force them to help you in case a criminal does steal your device.
Several manufacturers also offer an equivalent anti-theft app. They are often built into OEM skins; both Samsung and HTC devices have the feature. Unlike the carrier versions, the manufacturer versions are free to use.
Other Ways to Protect Your Android Device
Anti-theft apps are just one part of keeping your Android device secure.