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How to Track a Missing Smartphone

by on October 25, 2012
in Phones and Mobile, Cell Phones, Mobile Apps, Android Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Tips & How-Tos :: 10 comments

missing phoneLoss and theft were two big reasons I thought twice about getting a smartphone for my tween daughter. These days, though, the chances are pretty good that I'd be able to track it down if it goes missing — even if it's lost power — with the right apps loaded and the phone's built-in GPS and Internet access.

My favorite recovery app is Prey because it provides one place to track all of the mobile devices in my home, whether they run on iOS, Blackberry or Android (It covers Macs and PCs as well). Once you've installed the app on a device and created a Prey account, you're ready to start locating.

Depending on your issue—loss or theft –you can set your device to respond in different ways when you notify Prey the phone is missing. First, the phone determines its location and sends it back with a time stamp to the Prey website (for laptops, you can choose to have your laptop's webcam take a picture too). Then you can have the phone sound an alarm, receive a text message that states the phone is lost or stolen or operate in stealth mode.

PreyThe free version covers three devices and will store the last 10 location reports (you can get as many as you want, but the older ones are deleted as new ones come in). You can upgrade to a pro account, which provides continuous tracking, saves 100 location reports per device and generates reports more quickly when you report a device missing. There's a $5 per month plan for three devices and a $15 per month plan for 10 devices.

There are also free, integrated solutions for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. For iOS devices, go to Settings, then Privacy, then Location Services and turn on "Find My iPhone." To find your phone, go to icloud.com and log in with your Apple ID. In addition to a map showing your device's location, you can play a sound, lock your device or erase it.

For Windows Phone, go to Settings, then Location and turn Location Services on. Then go to windowsphone.com and log in with your Windows ID and select the "Find My Phone" option. There you can see a map with your location, ring your phone, lock it or erase it. You can also go to "find my phone" under Settings and choose to save your location every few hours, which will help you find the phone if it has been turned off or runs out of batteries.

For casual tracking, I like Google Latitude for Android devices. On the phone, you'll find it as a feature of Google Maps. Within the app, you select the Google Maps icon and then select Latitude. You'll need to "Enable Location Sharing" and "Reporting from this device" in order for the phone to be seen by the app. Then you can go to www.google.com/latitude to see a map with your location.

I also like Lookout Security & Antivirus (free in Google Play). In addition to providing protection against malware, it has a few lost phone features. After logging onto the lookout.com website, you can see your phone's location on a map, sound an alarm on your phone, even if it's set to silent mode, lock your phone or wipe it. One unique feature is Signal Flare, which will automatically turn on GPS and send your phone's location to your Lookout account every time your phone shows you a low-battery warning (usually at 10% and 5% life) to help you find your phone even when it's dead.

So the next time a smartphone or tablet goes missing in your home, you won't have to panic. There's an app for finding it.

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Very good (and reasonably priced) security app for Android

From Jeffrey Deutsch on October 25, 2012 :: 11:09 am

Namely, Cerberus. You can get a license to protect up to five Android devices, owned by the same individual, for €2.99 (as of right now that’s just around $4.00 including a small currency exchange fee).

Meanwhile, whatever kind of phone you use, that’s another consideration in favor of a model with a front-facing camera. If your security app can take a picture, that can help catch a thief or otherwise find your phone.

Jeff Deutsch

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Here is what I use

From Murry on October 25, 2012 :: 12:15 pm

I have been using the free version life360 (http://www.life360.com)

No limits on number of devices.

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Avast Mobile (FREE) is also a very good solution with many other benefits included...

From Guy Fulfer on October 25, 2012 :: 6:51 pm

Avast mobile (free version) Has quite a few added benefits built in. You get outstanding virus/malware protection and it has an Anti-Theft module you can enable, which gives you many options for finding, protecting, deleting your info (complete wipe) from your linked Avast accounts for more than one device including PC’s, tablets, and smartphones. (Android OS only phones). You can locate your phone and activate a siren/alert sound which is customizable as well as remote lock/wipe, send text messages to alert you of it’s unauthorized use, low battery condition, as well as many other features. All for free!!! http://www.avast.com  Avast has been ranked consistenly in the top percentage of virus/malware protection against both free and paid services among some of the best out there - Check it out!!  -=Guy=-

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thief removes battery

From northshoreshells on October 26, 2012 :: 5:49 am

Is there any hope to use a locator when a savvy thief immediately removes the battery? This happened to me. Lookout told me there is nothing they can do without a battery.

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Unfortunately there's no way to

From Suzanne Kantra on October 26, 2012 :: 10:50 am

Unfortunately there’s no way to locate your phone unless it’s connected to the Internet.

If you’ve contacted your carrier to let them know the phone has been stolen, they’ll flag your phone’s handset serial number as stolen. The serial number stays the same even when a new SIM is inserted. Of course there are ways to change the serial number, but let’s hope your thief isn’t that savvy.

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Candid Camera

From Aplicativos Para Celular on November 13, 2012 :: 4:01 pm

I use TrustGo.
It has the location feature as well as a function call Candid Camera which takes pictures from the person that is trying to unlock your phone after you report it lost.
http://www.trustgo.com/en/candid-camera

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Thanks for the info about Life360, Avast and TrustGo!

From Jeffrey Deutsch on November 13, 2012 :: 5:27 pm

In fact, TrustGo in particular has rave reviews (at least on Google Play), and their Facebook page - especially their embedded video - seems to show they really know their stuff!

Cheers,

Jeff Deutsch

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Thanks for you review!

From Fabián on October 09, 2013 :: 8:00 am

Hi, Suzanne.

I just found your article about Prey, and I’m glad you like it. We’re working hard to improve it, and we plan to release a big new version in a few months. I hope you find it useful, since it’s been made with our users in mind.

Have a nice day!

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Google Latitude lost its attiude

From Hms-PA on December 13, 2013 :: 2:13 pm

Google Latitude was retired on August 9th, 2013. Products retired include Google Latitude in Google Maps for Android, Latitude for iPhone, the Latitude API, the public badge, the iGoogle Gadget, and the Latitude website at maps.google.com/latitude.

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Is it possible to track missing smartphone for free using spyware?

From Ann Elmore on October 22, 2014 :: 5:28 am

Most of the free spyware applications are packed with viruses. They are unsafe to use. However, there is a certain reliable program I came across last week that lets you access to track sms messages easily. You may look up at http://smstrackers.com and read full information.

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