How to Find a Lost Smartphone
With the preamble out of the way, here's what you need to do to track your iPhone, Android phone, or Windows Phone when it goes missing.
Find Lost iOS Devices
Tap Settings, then iCloud, then scroll down to the bottom and turn on Find My Phone. Also turn on Send Last Location to minimize the chances that your efforts to find a missing phone will be thwarted by a dead battery.
When you select Lost Mode, a wizard will prompt you to enter a message and contact number to display on your phone's screen. When you complete the wizard, the phone locks and displays your message. While the phone is in Lost Mode, the map will automatically update if the phone's location changes (but still show you where it's been).
Figure 2: On iOS devices you will find (or download) a Find My Phone app. It lets you use a borrowed phone to find your missing one.
If you decide to pull the trigger on Erase iPhone, you'll need to enter your iCloud password to confirm. Also be advised that you'll most likely receive a confirmation email from Apple when you first log in to iCloud and each time you perform any of the steps described above.
By the way, if you don't have a computer handy but do have an iPhone-owning colleague, friend, or family member nearby, you can use the Find My Phone app from their phone to hunt yours down. The app is built into recent versions of iOS, and you can also download it from the app store.
Find Lost Android Devices
To turn on phone tracking for an Android phone, open the Google Settings app (please note this is different from the standard Settings app), then tap Location. Put a check next to Access location, and then turn on both Location Reporting and Location History. Next tap the back arrow, then Security, and finally, put checks next to Remotely locate this device and Allow remote lock and erase.
To find a missing phone, log into Android Device Manager; once the phone's location is displayed on screen, the Ring, Lock, and Erase buttons will appear along with it.
There are a number of third-party phone tracking apps available in the Google Play store that you can use in lieu of Android Device Manager, including Lookout and Where's My Droid. Both are available in a free version, but both also charge extra for the ability to remotely lock and/or wipe your phone.
Figure 3: To turn on location tracking via Android Device Manager, use the Google Settings app (not the standard Settings app).
Lookout charges $3 per month (though it's a full- featured security app, so you get a lot more than just phone lock/wipe for fee), and Where's My Droid charges a flat $3.99 and includes some extra features you don't get with either Android Device Manager or Lookout, including the ability to take and view remote pictures from the phone.
Find Lost Windows Phones
On a Windows Phone, tap Settings, and then scroll (way) down to find my phone. Here you'll find two options to check, and you should check both of them. The second option—Save my phone's location periodically and before the battery runs out to make it easier to find is pretty much self-explanatory, but the first option, Send apps to my phone using push notifications (not SMS), is also important.
If you don't select it, Microsoft's Find My Phone service will use SMS (i.e. texts) messages to communicate with your phone, and it can only send 15 such messages over a 72-hour period. While that's likely to be enough for most situations, it's not hard to envision one where you might find yourself re-checking your phone's location repeatedly within in a short period of time. If you left it on a bus or in a cab, for example.
Figure 4: Log into the WindowsPhone website to see your smartphone's location on a map, or to ring, lock, or wipe its contents.
Once you've enabled Find My Phone on your device, head over to WindowsPhone.com and choose Find My Phone from the "Explore" pull-down menu at the upper-right. Sign in with your Microsoft account, click on the Find My Phone button, and before long you should be looking at your phone's location on the map. You can also avail yourself of the adjacent Ring, Lock, and Erase buttons if necessary.
There you have it. A lost phone need not be a catastrophe, as long as you know what to do before the phone goes missing and what to do once it does.
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.
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