A missing smart phone is easier to find than ever. Here are a few tips on how to prepare your phone to be found, and how to find it when it’s gone AWOL.
- Before you lose it
- If your phone might be stolen
- Find your phone
- What if Android Device Manager can’t find it? (Defy XT only)
- Replacing your lost or stolen phone
Before you lose it
Google recently added a new feature called Android Device Manager (ADM) to our phones (via an updated Google Play Services), making it unnecessary to install an app to find lost phones. That leaves just these precautions and settings to improve your chances of finding the phone:
Moto X / G / E Users
- Add a ‘Found my phone?’ message to the lock screen. Under Settings / Security / Owner info, you can add whatever text you’d like to appear on the lock screen. My message says “If found, please call xxx-xxx-xxxx”.
- ***Allow apps to use your location. ***Open Settings and under Location, insure that the slider switch is ON and that the Mode is set to Device only or High Accuracy.
- Service plans with 3G or 4G data are needed to reliably locate the phone when it has no Wi-Fi connection.
Defy XT Users
- ***Make sure you have a data connection at all times. ***Under Settings / Wireless & networks / Mobile networks, insure that both Data enabled and Data roaming are checked (ignore the warning about roaming charges, there aren’t any). If you enable Airplane mode to save power in Wi-Fi areas, be sure to disable it when going mobile.
- Enable GPS. Under Settings / Location, check the box for GPS satellites.
Won’t enabling GPS kill my battery?
Various sources, even official ones such as Motorola, may tell you that enabling the GPS radio receiver is a significant battery drain. That’s simply not true. It’s apps that use GPS to track your location continuously or repeatedly that drain the battery. So be aware of apps you’ve downloaded that may use GPS behind your back, and either disable them from doing so, or remove them. If you don’t see the GPS activity indicator on the notification bar, the GPS radio isn’t using any power.
- Enable ADM features.** Open the Google Settings app, and under Android Device Manager, enable Remotely locate this device. Optionally you can also enable Allow remote lock and factory erase. Those options permit your Google account to establish a screen locking PIN or password, or factory reset (erase) the phone. Enabling those options has some risk, however - be sure your Google account has a strong password, otherwise a hacker who breaks into your account could lock you out of your phone or erase it.
- Keep it charged. Your phone can only respond to “where are you?” requests if it has battery power and is turned on. The longer it remains alive after being lost, the better your chance of finding it.
If your phone might be stolen
If you think the phone was stolen, and you can locate it using the techniques that follow, contact the police and tell them where it is. Don’t confront a thief who might react violently.
Find your phone
From a Web Browser
- Visit Google’s Android Device Manager website and sign in with the Google account used for the phone. The first time you will have to agree to let Google track your phone.
- ADM will locate your most recently used Android device associated with that Google account and show you the location. If you have multiple devices you can click the down-arrow to the right of the name to choose another device.
- If the phone is nearby, you can click the Ring button to help find it (the phone will ring continuously up to 5 minutes, or until you find it and press the power button).
- You can also enable a screen lock PIN/password or erase your phone (if you enabled those options before it was lost or stolen).
From Another Android Phone or Tablet
- You can install and use Android Device Manager on your Android device. The display and operation is similar to the website version.
- To locate devices using a different Google account, add the account to the phone (How to: Add Multiple Google Accounts to Your Android Device [Beginners’ Guide] | Droid Life. If ADM doesn’t prompt for an account and password when starting, tap the menu (3-dots) button, tap Require sign in, tap the Back button and restart ADM.
What if Android Device Manager can’t find it? (Defy XT only)
If you didn’t enable GPS or permit remote location reporting, ADM may respond with Location unavailable or an imprecise location. You can try the following instead, which can enable the phone’s GPS and possibly get a fix on it:
- Visit Plan B - Android Apps on Google Play, sign-in with the Gmail address used for the phone, and click Install to cause the app to be installed on your phone.
- Access the mailbox for the phone’s Gmail address and watch for E-mail messages with your phone’s location to arrive. Usually this takes just a few minutes.
Note: Your remote installation of Plan B will be obvious to anyone who is using your phone - it may tip off a thief that you’re looking for it and know where it is.
Replacing your lost or stolen phone
If none of the phone-finding techniques above work, see:
Defy XT: Lost, Stolen or Damaged
Moto X: Lost, Stolen or Damaged
Moto G: Lost, Stolen or Damaged
Moto E: Lost, Stolen or Damaged