Almost every smartphone user will one day find themselves losing their phone. Most of the time it's just misplaced in a coat pocket, fallen in between the couch cushions, or dropped onto the floor nearby. But other times the situation can be more dire, the phone in the hands of someone who may or may not be looking to return your lost device. But with a little planning, finding your phone in either case can be quite simple...
A few years ago, a friend whom I was traveling with in Italy misplaced his phone in a taxi we had shared on the way back from dinner to the hotel. Only an hour later upon returning back did he realize his phone was missing. Thus began a frenzied Italian goose chase across the labyrinthine motorways of Milan worthy of a William Friedkin directed film, using another friend's iPhone, my Macbook Pro, and the Find My Phone app (below) to coordinate the search.
My friend was eventually able to track down the taxi driver and his phone at the driver's apartment. He was fortunate to have remembered to set up his device in advance for geo-location, as finding a phone in one's own hometown is hard enough, and nearly impossible in a foreign city without technology like the ones listed below aiding the search. When it comes to smartphones, hope for the best, prepare for the worst!
iOS Find My Phone: a free app every iPhone user should have loaded on their iOS device, the Apple utility allows worried users to geo-locate their missing phone/tablet via app or website. Not only can My iPhone display the location of an iPhone or iPad on a map, but also activate the device to make a sound for easier locating, even if it's in Silent mode. Additionally, the display can be set to display a 'lost' message (Lost Mode prompts the user to enter a phone number which will be displayed on the iPhone or iPad when anyone presses the sleep/wake button on the lost device), remotely lock the phone (activating the passcode feature), and in the worst case scenarios, a user can remotely wipe all data from the device to prevent anyone from accessing personal data.
iOS users also have the option of using their iCloud account on any computer to view/track their device; log in with an Apple ID, choose the Find My iPhone icon, and users will have access to the same map and settings available to the app.
Android Device Manager: Android's version of the iOS Find My iPhone app for iPhones was released just late last week. First you'll need to check if your device is updated and supports the new feature. Users can check by directing themselves to: Settings>Security>Device Administrators to activate the Device Manager. After activating Device Manager on the device end, it's now time to connect the smartphone via Device Manager. Once logged in, users can check the current location of their device, activate the ring tone for times when you're searching for the phone nearby (tested this feature and it worked like a charm), or wipe out the phone remotely in cases where the user believes the phone has been stolen.
Alternative for both iOS and Android: iHound is a free program using a combination of real time GPS and wi-fi signals built into iOS devices to determine their location. Any time the device is plugged into a computer the app can be configured to send a notification, and can even be set up in advance for geofenced boundaries, so any time you device leaves certain parameters, a location alert will be sent. Like the options above, the app allows users to remotely locate, lock, or wipe data from their device from any of the 4 major carriers.
(Images: Gregory Han; Apple)