Once in a while, we misplace our phones. When this happens, we start panicking, either because of the information the lost phone contains or the money you spent on it. But, with technology, you can always track the phone, well, in some situations. This also applies to phones that have been stolen.
The easiest way to locate a misplaced item is to trace back your steps. If you misplace your Android phone, common sense dictates that you do the same. However, when your memory fails you, plan B is to call the phone and locate it through your ringtone.
Suppose plan B fails or your phone was in silent mode, what do you do next?
Android phones today come with a “Find My Device” app (formerly Android Device Manager) which will track your phone’s location automatically should you fail to find it. This service can simply be accessed by using a web browser from any device, visiting this website and signing in with your Google credentials (just like you do when checking your email). This leads you to the Find My Device menu that gives you the following 3 options;
– Play a sound; this feature will trigger your phone to make a loud sound so you can easily locate it. The feature produces a sound even with phones that were previously in silent mode.
– Lock the screen; this feature helps a smartphone owner who hadn’t previously secured their device with a password to do so. If the device is already secured, you can change the screen-unlock password.
– Erase all data; a feature that allows you to erase everything from your misplaced phone so it can’t be accessed by someone else.
– Disable features in keyguard.
The entire process of the “Find My Device” app relies on an internet connection being currently present on the missing device and the device has to have been setup to be found before it goes missing.
To activate your device, Launch Settings and tap Security, visit the Device administrators option and check Find My Device so that a mark appears in the checkbox.
Go back to the main settings menu and tap Location settings. Click to turn on the location setting and tap Mode and ensure High accuracy mode is selected, go back to the previous menu options and click on Google Location History and tap to turn on the Use location history setting. Your phone should now be setup for tracking.
Other third party apps that can be used to find your phone are Family locator, Cerberus anti-theft, Prey anti-theft, lost Android, Where’s My Droid, etc.
Should you fail to locate your phone via the above methods, it becomes a stolen phone and chances are high that it has already been sold off to another user.
Recovering a stolen phone
Every phone manufactured is identified by a unique International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI) number that is tagged to it by its maker. Dual sim devices have two IMEIs for each sim slot. This IMEI is what one uses to track their phones in case they get stolen or misplaced.
Before losing your phone, it is a good practice to find out your IMEI number and have it stored somewhere as a precaution. To view this IMEI number, simply dial *#06# on your phone and note this number somewhere. (As mentioned earlier dual sim phones will give you 2 numbers attached to each sim slot which should both be recorded and carefully kept hidden somewhere)
After losing your phone, the IMEI number you recorded should be handed over to police to handle the tracking for you. In absence of police, any official tracking company you have an idea about can get the job done as well.
For Android users, if you lose your phone before recording your IMEI number or can’t seem to find where you had it stored, you can simply head to the Google dashboard at https://www.google.com/settings/dashboard (assuming you have used any Google tool on that stolen device before) to retrieve it. Google always stores information such as model number, manufacturer, carrier, last activity, IMEI and other details each time you use your Android device on the internet and have a google account linked to the device.
Once you reach the “Settings – Dashboard” in the link above, sign in if you haven’t already. This should now lead you to a number of Google services (e.g. Gmail, Analytics, AdSense, etc.) provided. From this list, locate and click on “Android”.
This will lead you to a dashboard of all the devices you have used before linked to that Google account. Look for the missing device by name and model number and its unique IMEI will be displayed alongside all its other related details, including the last date you used it to access your Google account.
You can then proceed to the police to have your phone tracked.
What the police or tracking service provider does
The police or any other tracking company has the ability to request details from telecom service providers on calls/SMS/etc., linked to that specific IMEI and can further request details on the current phone number linked to that IMEI, as well as the location of the last tower connected to by that device. This is because the device connects to a tower of a service provider each time you use a service. The service provider then stores the devices’ information which includes both the sim card number and IMEI of the device housing it.
The police can also get access to the documents submitted while buying the current sim card linked to your phone.
This entire process relies on you knowing your IMEI number and the fact that service providers always store your IMEI and other details each time the device is used.
Finding a lost iPhone
To use the feature, simply log into iCloud and open the Find my iPhone feature. The Apple service will locate your phone on a map and give you the option to play a sound on your device, send a message to your phone with “lost mode,” or erase its contents. All of this can be done without any additional configuration.
Find my iPhone is also able to locate your Mac, iPod, and iPad. It’s an incredibly effective tool for tracking down just about any iOS device. Don’t believe us? Check out this story about cops apprehending a criminal by using the app. This is just one of many similar stories where phone-tracking software helped save the day.
Apple also employs another form of security, known as Activation Lock, to keep your iPhone safe from theft. Activation Lock requires you to enter your Apple ID and password before you can disable Find My iPhone, wipe your device, or reactivate it.
How to find a lost Windows Phone
Windows Phone owners, don’t fret. If you’ve misplaced your smartphone, you too can recover it with the help of Microsoft’s built-in service. The company has built a lost phone feature directly into Windows Phone 8.1 and later iterations thereof, allowing you to easily find the location of your phone or activate its ringer remotely. It doesn’t require additional configuration after you add your Microsoft account either, though it will only work if your device has power and is connected to the internet.
All you need to do is go to Microsoft’s devices page. There, you should see all your phones and tablets, which you can then locate through the service. You can even add devices that are not currently on the list, remotely lock your devices, and wipe devices you think might have fallen into the wrong hands.
The information on tracking an iPhone and a Windows phone was obtained from DigitalTrends.
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