Whether the device is accidentally left on a bus or unknowingly slips out of a pocket, it's easy to misplace your smart device. The issue isn't uncommon either – since 2007, it's estimated that 98 million mobile phones have been lost in the UK.
Phones cost a lot of money to replace, so it's likely that you will want to try and retrieve your device rather than buy a new one straight away. You will also want to make sure that the private information on your phone is safe so that it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
We know how important mobile phones can be, so we've compiled this guide with various ways that you can find your lost smart device.
There are several apps that you can download onto your phone that will help you track your phone if you misplace it or it gets stolen. These apps require another smart device (such as a tablet or smartwatch) or computer to track your phone. Some iOS and Android devices also feature in-built software that allows you to track your phone or view its last known location on a virtual map.
These types of apps and software have additional security features that can help protect your lost mobile phone. You may be able to set off an alarm on the phone remotely, which can help you locate the device if it's hidden amongst shrubbery or another obstacle. The alarm could also unnerve a thief and encourage them to leave the phone so that they don't draw attention to themselves.
You should be wary about trying to retrieve the phone yourself if you don't recognise the area. The tracking information that you gather could be used to help police find your missing device. It's important that your report the phone to the police if you know or suspect that it has been stolen.
Below is a breakdown of some of the best apps that you can download onto your smart device so that you can track their location.
Find My Device by Google
One of the most popular apps for finding lost phones is Find My Device by Google. This app allows you to track multiple devices, including your mobile phone, tablet and watch on a virtual map. You can also view the device's location on indoor maps if you are in a public building such as an airport or shopping centre.
Once you have signed into your Google account, the app can give you directions to help you to navigate towards your device. You can also remotely start an alarm on the device, which will play for five minutes (even if the phone was on silent or vibrate). If you can't find your phone or think that it has been stolen, you can remotely lock the lost device or erase the data. This will stop anyone else from accessing your personal information on the device.
As well as showing your device's location, the app also shows its battery and network status. The app will stop tracking your lost iPhone if it loses battery or is turned off, but it will show the device's last known location.
Find My iPhone by Apple
Apple's tracking app is Find My iPhone, which can help you to track all the devices that you have signed into with your Apple ID. Once you have signed into Find My iPhone on iCloud.com, you can select which of your devices you want to track. Activating Lost Mode on your iOS device enables you to add a customised message that will be displayed on the device. This could include your contact information so that anyone who finds your phone can try and get in touch.
If the device isn't connected to a network, the device's name will be displayed next to an 'offline' label, which will also display the device's last known location for the following 24 hours. However, you can still use the app to locate your phone if you turned on the Find My network, even if it's offline. The last known location will be stored for up to seven days.
You can track a family member's device if you are part of the same Family Sharing group. Family members need to set up their own devices so that they can be shared with each other. Once the location sharing is on, you can track each other's devices.
Another tracking app that Apple has developed is Find My Friends. You can send your friends an invite, which will enable them to see your location. You can ask them to remotely track your phone by using this app if you lose it, and using the Find My iPhone app isn't an option.
Find My Mobile by Samsung
The Find My Mobile service by Samsung can help you track your lost Android device, even if it's offline. You'll need to set up your Samsung account on your device and allow Google to access its location. If your device isn't connected to Wi-Fi, the software will connect to your mobile network, which will be charged at your standard rate.
You can track your device's approximate location, as well as the route that it was taken. The app will send you the device's last known location if you had previously activated the ‘Send last location’ option in the phone's settings. You can also remotely lock your Android phone, activate a lock screen if it hadn't already been set up and lock Samsung Pay.
If you activate 'ring my device', it will ring for one minute at maximum volume, which can you find your lost Android phone device if it is hidden out of sight. In the instance that you can't find your phone, you can use the app to back up your data to the Samsung Cloud.
Many of the tracking apps give you the option to remotely erase your device, which will essentially factory reset it. The entire contents of your phone will be deleted, which means that you need to have already backed up your personal data because you won't be able to restore it.
You will usually be asked to input a password or answer a security question before you erase a device. This information shouldn't be shared with anyone as it means that they would also have the ability to remotely erase your devices.
Once you have erased your device, you will no longer be able to track it through whichever app you have been using. For that reason, it's better to leave this option as a last resort unless you know that your phone has been stolen.
Most apps schedule the remote erase for when the device is next online, which means that you may be able to cancel the erasure if you find your phone before it reconnects to a network.
The first step to protecting your phone is to add a lock screen, which can only be unlocked by a code that you have chosen. This could be anything from a password to a PIN or your fingerprint. A PIN can be easier to crack as they usually have four digits, which is why it's usually safer to choose a password with over eight digits, capital letters, numbers and symbols. A secure device is less appealing to thieves and they may dump your phone if they can't easily access it.
No one other than you will be able to unlock your phone, which means that all your personal data and information is safe. However, if you suspect your phone is stolen, it's a good idea to erase your device so that there isn't a chance that someone could hack into your mobile and access anything.
Erasing data from your stolen phone will prevent thieves from accessing your personal information and potentially stealing your bank details. There will be no personal links to you as this process will factory reset the device. You should try to back up your data to the cloud before you enable this feature so that your files are safely stored.
Tracking apps also include features that could encourage thieves to leave your phone. For example, most apps allow you to remotely trigger an alarm that will play at full volume for a set period of time. Thieves will try to avoid drawing attention, which means that they may abandon your phone if an alarm starts.
Using an app is a good way to track your phone's location if you lose it or it is stolen. However, you shouldn't attempt to find and confront the thief if you find their location via your device. This could put you in danger and isn't a guaranteed way to retrieve your phone.
The best course of action is to file a report with the police if you suspect your phone was stolen. Although there aren't enough police resources to try and find every stolen phone, it can be helpful to provide them with the information you have gained through a tracking app. Reporting the phone to the police will also blacklist the device, which should make it harder for criminals to try and sell it. You could also use the crime number if you need to file a report with your bank or credit card company because the criminal was able to access your accounts through the phone.
Many lost phone apps allow you to customise a message that will be displayed on your missing phone. You may want to write your name and contact details, along with an explanation that states you have lost your phone and would like it returned. You shouldn't try to approach someone you think has stolen your phone. However, you can arrange to meet with someone if they say they have found your phone and want to give it back to you. If you do meet up with them, make sure that you follow basic safety procedures such as meeting in a public place and taking a friend or family member with you for the exchange.
It's easy to misplace your phone, but luckily there are apps and software that can help you retrieve it. Most iOS and Android devices come with installed phone tracking features that allow users to find the last known location of their device. You can also download apps such as Find My Device by Google, which allows you to track any device that you have logged into with your Google account. These systems generally require the phone to be connected to a network, otherwise, the map will only list the last known location rather than the current.
You can use the virtual map on Find My iPhone to help you find your Apple device or log into Find My Mobile on the Android device manager to find your lost or stolen Android phone. If you're in the general area, you can also activate an alarm which will play at top volume to help you narrow down your search.
It's important that you don't put yourself in danger when trying to find your lost phone. Report stolen devices to the police so that they can look into the matter on your behalf. You can supply them with the information that states your phone's last known location as this could speed up the process.