If you're reading this, we hope you aren't in the middle of a device emergency. If you are, however, you are in the right place. Whether you have lost a phone, smartwatch, or something else, it can be a harrowing experience. Even if you find your smartphone in your couch cushions ten minutes later (as is often the case), it can throw your day off if you don't have a plan to find it. But you can have a plan, and there are apps to help you. Apps like Find My can help you pinpoint the precise location of your device, whether it is a smartphone or something else. That one is limited to Apple, but the principles remain the same for other devices.
Here's a quick guide to finding your lost device and using Find My Phone:
Why It's So Important You Have a Way to Find Your Mobile Device
In many ways, our smartphones and other devices are our lifelines. To many of us, they are outright necessary, and we are inconvenienced if not stranded without them. You may want to try and find a way to live without one in case it is lost, but we generally think trying to find a lost device is the better option.
And it's not just about the inconvenience. Much of our lives are on our devices these days. So many of our appointments, our contacts, and a lot of account information. Depending on how secure our devices are, someone with access to them could learn a lot about us quickly. Identity theft is becoming more common, and information gleaned from stolen devices makes up a part of that.
And finally, planning ahead of time can save you a lot of wasted time. No one may notice that you lost it. You won't need to make a big deal out of it. Sometimes that secrecy can be valuable, and there is a greater need to keep what is on our phones private. And the faster you can move by having a plan and a helpful app, the faster the situation is resolved. That means a smaller amount of time where something worse can happen.
Depending on your device, you should be able to use something like Find My Phone with little to no setup. However, there are still habits you can form and preparations you can make that will make your life a lot easier should you lose a device and perhaps reduce the chances of that unfortunate event occurring. We advise you to consider the following:
- When applicable to your other devices, you should install an app that allows you to find or track your device. There are plenty of options for this, no matter what device you have (as long as it has GPS capabilities or the ability to connect to WiFi).
- While you are likely to do this anyway, you might not have a phone that is dead due to having no battery charge left. While you shouldn't change everything about your phone, make sure there is a battery saver mode that activates when the charge is low. That'll give you several extra hours at least to work with. Similarly, try to keep your device charged when you have the opportunity.
- Sometimes the best prevention is just staying aware of your actions and thoughts. Be conscious of your phone, and keep it close instead of on a table (unless you're at home, of course). Some straps and peripherals are also devoted to keeping your phone safe from pickpockets and the like if you need a little help. We understand that someone's mind cannot and should not always be on their phone, but a bit more occasional focus can go a long way.
- If you wish to be extra prepared, keeping an additional device on hand that can connect to the internet so you can track your lost device can be helpful. It could be an old tablet, your old smartphone (it doesn't need phone service if there is WiFi around), or whatever you know you can access the internet with. Keeping it in a bag or your car works; make sure you have a cable to charge it with (you won't want to run it in and out to be charged all the time if you aren't using it).
- Understand how the apps work, where to find them online outside of your original device, and how to install and use them quickly. Reading this article is a significant first step to preparing yourself. Just go one step further and look into the specific needs of your device.
There may be some additional preparations you can make, but they are likely more individually based. Research if you can learn more about what you can do and determine what is reasonable and realistic for yourself.
How to Use Find My Phone, Step by Step
Now that the preparations are noted, onto the Starting with the name brand option; here is how you use Find My Phone:
Tracking a Device Via Map
Do you want easy-to-follow coordinates as shown on a map? Then do the following steps:
- Open up the "Find my" app on your device. If you need to use someone else's device, you might need to log in for security reasons.
- Go to either "Devices" or "Items" (it might vary depending on what you are using). After this, select the device you want to know the location of.
- Once you have done so, you should be able to see your device on a map, pinpointing its location. At the very least, you will be able to know where it was last when the location information was sent to servers.
- Suppose your device is not currently connected to WiFi or a wireless network. In that case, you can turn on the Find My network, an encrypted network of many Apple devices that helps provide location data despite not being connected to a standard network.
Playing a Sound
Depending on the device in question, you can have a device play a sound or some alert. This alert can be great if you're in the general location on the map but can't pinpoint the exact location from that map. To do this:
- Open the "Find My" app on another device, logging into your relevant account if needed.
- Go to either "Devices" or "Items" (it might vary depending on what you are using). After this, select the device you want to have to play a sound.
- Select "play sound" from the options that pop up.
Note that this option is a bit more limited because it won't play a sound unless connected to a network. It will play a sound once connected to the network, but this might not help. This is better when you know you are in the immediate area or know the device is in a familiar place like your home. Having a phone playing a sound when you aren't around might bring more attention to the device, which you may not want.
Marking a Device as Lost
When you want to mark a device as lost, several options are open to you. You can lock down the device remotely with a passcode to open it up, helping to make sure no one opens it up. You can have a message pop up with your contact information or instructions on what to do with the device in case some kind person runs into it and wants to return it to its rightful owner. You also can still track the location of your device, assuming there is some form of connection (though this would be needed for a message as well). You can think about how much information you want to put in the message, as you might not want random people to access your address or other information. In any case, you can help guide the device back home if it is in good hands.
To mark the device as lost or turn on "lost mode":
- Open the "Find My" App on another device and choose the devices or items section.
- Select your lost device from the list that pops up.
- Select "Mark as Lost" or "Lost Mode." You may need to scroll down to find these options.
- Once you have done this, input the information you want on the display of your missing device, if any.
- Hit "activate." Once you have done so, your phone will be in lost mode.
Erasing Your Device
You can also wipe your device remotely at this stage, but it is advisable that you only do so if you know the device is completely lost and you're unlikely to get it back. Also, suppose you have very sensitive information on your device. In that case, you might want to be more active about wiping the device remotely (although, ideally, something that sensitive wouldn't be lost in the first place).
However, if your mind is set, do the following:
- Open Find My App and log in as you need to.
- Select the device you want to erase.
- Select "erase this device" from the options.
- Select it again and confirm if required.
Other Apps for Finding Devices
Not using an Apple device doesn't mean you cannot benefit from device tracking features. Apple didn't exactly invent GPS; they just took the technology and put it to a particular use. Other companies have done this. Some of the ones that we think you should look at include:
Naturally, these aren't all of them, and you might already have an option of your preference, in which case, keep using that. Others might be specialized in keeping track of family members and their devices.
Additional Tips for Tracking Down Your Device
Apps can help, but sometimes you might need something more. Here are some notes that can help:
- Adding extra details to your device as either a label on the home screen can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a good Samaritan or the authorities can more easily contact you if your device shows up. On the other hand, it puts more of your personal information out in the world. Try to judge the situation and make changes as needed.
- Don't panic. Getting too nervous or anxious about the situation will only lead you to miss things and make bad decisions. If you need to, take some deep breaths and get your thoughts out on a piece of paper so you can review them. Ask others you trust for help if you need it.
- There are also the more classic methods for tracking down lost objects. Retrace your steps where possible and remember the last time you had your device. With the help of friends you might have messaged, you can often narrow down that point to a precise moment in time.
- Know what tools you have at your disposal. There is Find My Device, of course (or a close alternative), but thinking about what else you have installed on your phone or what services might be available can help you feel more secure about the situation. There might be records of your phone being used via other apps.
- If you want to track a bag or group of devices in something like a backpack, there are tags with trackers installed that you can use. Utilizing them can be helpful when you want to keep tabs on expensive equipment or even just something of sentimental value.
What To Do If your Device Can't Be Found
Not all scenarios will be the best-case scenario or even an alright scenario. In some rare cases, there might not be much you can do. Perhaps your device fell off the side of a waterfall, was off when you lost it, or there is wrongdoing at play that you need to head off as soon as possible.
In these rare instances, we recommend the following to make sure that you are inconvenienced the least by the loss of your device:
- Does your device have a warranty, loss, or damage plan that might cover a total loss or whatever happened to your phone? Now is the time to check (it's why you paid for it, after all) and see if you can get any compensation. If someone else was responsible for losing your phone, then seeking compensation from them (either the organization or individual) might be worthwhile. These devices are expensive. That being said, know when to call it quits with such an endeavor so that you don't exhaust yourself.
- If you are lucky, you will have the opportunity to wipe your device remotely if you know that it cannot be found. This will help protect your information, prevent identity theft, and keep others out of your accounts. Your password or PIN on your phone might be the best, but cybercriminals often can crack it with enough time and the right tools. If you know you won't reach your device in time, you can cut your losses (and still set most things up again if you get your device back later).
- Naturally, you will want a new device as soon as possible. Don't let yourself be inconvenienced for too long, and get back to your everyday life. You can usually get a smartphone shipped to you in a day and service ready on it in just a few hours. You can turn a bad time into something you can move on from quickly, especially if you have wiped the old device.
Losing a valuable device can be a source of major anxiety until you either give up on the search or get it back and bring it back to where it should be. Whatever the case, we hope that things go as easy for you as possible and that you can get your device back soon. Follow the tips and steps listed in this post, and you'll not only know what to do but also run into fewer situations where you have to scramble. We wish you the best of luck and encourage you to return to this post as you need to.