Hey, where’s my phone?

Payal Dhar

Various find-my-phone features already come built into your smartphone. All you need to do is activate it and then, if your phone is lost or stolen, you might — with some luck — be able to avert catastrophe. In a best case scenario you will be able to physically track down your phone. Otherwise, you should at least be able to lock or wipe your device.

The iOS way

The ‘find my iPhone’ feature can be found among your iCloud services. If you have an Apple ID, the same username and password will get you into iCloud. Once, there you’ll find a find my iPhone option. Turn it on. That’s it.

Now, suppose your misplace your iPhone. Open any browser on any device and go to iCloud.com (there is also an app that you can use if you have another iPhone, iPad or iPod touch handy). Log into your account and you will be able to see a list of all your devices and if they are online. If location is turned on on your device, you should see it pinpointed on a map. If not, you will still be able to play a sound on your iPhone (even if it is silent), put in lost mode and lock it down, and remotely erase the device. An activation lock kicks in automatically, which won’t let anyone erase the device without your Apple ID. Even if you remotely erase your iPhone, it will still ask for your user ID and password before allowing reactivation.

This also works with other Apple devices, so you can use it to locate, lock or erase your iPad, iPod touch or MacBook.

The Android way

Google’s answer to find my iPhone is the Android Device Manager. You should be able to find ADM in settings → security → device administrators. If not, provided you’re using Android 2.2 or upwards, you will be able to download it from the Play store. Check the box to turn it on, and you’re done.

To track your device, go to Google.com/android/devicemanager, log in with your Google ID. If location services are turned on, you’ll be able to track your phone on the map. Otherwise, you have the options of ringing your phone at the highest volume, even if it is on silent, helping your locate it in case you’ve accidentally dropped it into the laundry basket; locking your device with a password so no one else can access it; or remotely erase your device (which may or may not erase SD card contents).

The Windows way

Users of Windows Phone 7 and 8 have the ‘find my phone’ service, which does the same thing as ADM or find my iPhone. To turn it on, go to settings → find my phone. To locate a missing phone, log in to Windowsphone.com, from where you can locate, ring, lock or erase your phone. Find my phone has an option to periodically save location information to make it easier to find, which you can turn on from the phone itself.

The catch

Yes, there is one and a pretty big one. For these services to work, your lost or stolen phone needs to be switched on and connected to the internet. For your device to be physically locatable, it also must have location services turned on, something many people don’t do for security and privacy reasons.

There are certain precautions that all smartphone owners should consider — such as locking the screen with a passcode, if not always, then at least while travelling, and keeping data backed up. If you do happen to lose your phone, the first thing you should do is change your account password so the thief or anyone else will not be able to mess with your personal data (even though they might be able to read some stuff). zz

(The author is a freelance

technology writer)

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