A smartphone is more than just a device that makes calls. For many, it’s an indispensable part of our daily lives, containing calendars, financial information and treasured photos – things that aren’t easily replaced when a phone is lost or stolen. Fortunately, most smartphones are now equipped with GPS, allowing you to locate them and (if retrieval isn’t possible) remotely wipe your sensitive information. Although options are limited once your phone is gone, a little foresight goes a long way. Installing a phone-locator app now can save a lot of time and worry in the future.
Find Your iPhone
For iPhone users, the Find My iPhone app is a must-have. Although it debuted as part of Apple’s Mobile Me subscription service, the iOS 4.2 update it made it free for current-generation devices. With Find My iPhone, you can see the approximate location of your phone on a map, send a message to it (even if it’s turned off), change the password and lock the device to keep intruders from accessing your personal data, and reset the phone to factory settings (removing all of your personal information, photos and videos) if you don’t think you’ll be able to get it back. Setup is pretty easy – just tap “Settings,” then “Mail, Contacts, Calendars,” then “iCloud.” Tap “Account” and sign in with your Apple ID; after signing in, tap the switch next to “Find My iPhone” and toggle it on. If your phone ever goes missing, log in to iCloud.com and click “Find My iPhone” to get started.
You know the saying “Hindsight is 20/20”? If you’ve lost your phone without activating a tracking app, you’re probably very familiar with it. Fortunately for Android users, you have multiple “locator” apps to choose from, and not all require planning and foresight. Plan B, developed by Locator Labs, is a phone-finder that you can install after your phone goes missing. Android phones offer a nifty “over the air” installation option that lets you push apps to your phone directly from the Google Play website. All you have to do is install Plan B from Google Play to the phone you’re trying to locate, then check your Gmail – the app will send you an email containing the location in approximately 10 minutes, and you’ll get an email every ten minutes with the location, whether it’s on the go or in the same place. You can also text “Locate” to your phone from any other cellphone to receive an SMS message with the address.
Bye-bye, BlackBerry? Not so fast.
As a recovering crack(berry) addict, I know too well the feeling of digging frantically through purses, couch cushions and car seats only to realize I’ve left my phone in a cab a restaurant. Fortunately, apps like BlackBerry Protect exist. BlackBerry Protect, available from the BlackBerry App World, allows you to locate, message and remotely wipe a missing phone. It also allows you to wirelessly back up the vital information on your BlackBerry – text messages, contacts, calendar and bookmarks – on a regular basis, making it easy to transfer your data to a new phone.
If you’re using an older phone not compatible with the above services, you’re not entirely out of luck. Major carriers like AT&T (AT&T FamilyMap), Sprint (Family Locator) and Verizon (Family Locator) also offer location services that can help you locate a missing cellphone for an additional monthly fee. Although not as accurate as GPS, these services may offer some assistance if you’re desperate to find your lost phone.