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)
Before you lose it
Google’s Find My Device website and app can be used to accurately locate a phone that has a data connection to the Internet and permits apps to use the phone’s GPS feature. 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.
- Enable Phone Finding 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 Find My Device website and sign in with the Google account used for the phone.
- Google will locate your most recently used phone associated with that Google account and show you the location. If you have multiple phones you can click on the toolbar of devices on the account at the top to select another phone.
- 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 use Secure device to 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 Google’s Find My Device app on your Android device.
- To locate devices using a different Google account, after starting the app, tap the 3-vertical-dots button at the upper right, tap Switch accounts and then tap Sign in as guest.
What if Android Device Manager can’t find it? (Defy XT only)
If you didn’t enable GPS or permit remote location reporting, Find My Device 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.