How to find your lost phone (tips for iPhone and Android) | Digital Trends
Not knowing how to find your smartphone can cause a real panic when the need arises. It likely has way too much information on you, has access to your bank details and stock portfolio, and can grant access into pretty much any personal sphere of your life. Plus, you’re likely addicted to your smartphone in ways that no device has ever addicted humankind before. In short, if you’ve lost your cell phone, you may start to panic.
It doesn’t have to stay that way for long, though, because there are a number of easy and reliable ways to find your lost iPhone or Android device. Regardless of whether your smartphone or tablet is running iOS or Android, you’ll have built-in software that can help you to track down your lost device. If those don’t work for whatever reason, then there are also a lot of third-party apps that can track your smartphone.
Whether you’re looking for something expensive like a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra or iPhone 14 Pro Max, or something more modest, like the Google Pixel 6a, here’s how to find a lost smartphone.
Finding lost smartphones
If you happen to lose track of your iOS or Android smartphone, both Apple and Google feature built-in phone retrieval technology as part of the native software package that works via your device account — Google for your Android account and iCloud for your iPhone. Both allow you to remotely lock and wipe your phone, make it ring, and set up special messages to alert whoever finds it. These features work great as long your phone’s battery holds up.
Exercise caution when communicating with anyone who has found your smartphone. Avoid revealing personal information, such as your home address, until you know you’re dealing with someone you can trust. Stick with sending phone numbers or email addresses to communicate how a finder can return your phone. Here’s our guide on how to find a lost phone or a similar device for each operating system. The following example uses Android 13.
How to find a lost Android phone with ‘Find My Device’
The easiest way to locate a lost Android handset is to use the Find My Device feature, which is built into your Android smartphone through Google Play Services — it also can be used in a browser or downloaded from the Google Play Store. Most devices running Android 2.3 or later can use this feature.
Always enable Find My Device on your Android smartphone. Using the feature is as easy as searching for “Where is my phone?” in Google, which will prompt the service to search for your phone. We’ve covered Find My Device and its ability to call you, set up a new password, and make your phone ring from afar, along with a variety of other notification functions. While you can configure Find My Device ahead of time, the service should be available if you lose or misplace your phone by using Wi-Fi or GPS to help you hunt down your device.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Security. Alternatively, you can also go to Google. Both methods will take you to the next step.
Step 2: Tap Find my device. Alternately, you can also open Settings and type “find my device” in the search box. When the setting appears, tap on it.
Step 3: Toggle on the Find My Device setting. It should always be on. Then, tap to open either the web app or a phone or tablet app. These utilities will show you where your phone is on a map.
Step 4: See your device location pinpointed on a map.
How to find a lost Samsung phone with ‘Find My Mobile’
Another option for some Samsung smartphones is the Find My Mobile service. You can use it to locate, lock, or wipe a missing phone. You need a Samsung account and the Remote controls options enabled on your phone. To check and see if Find My Mobile is available for your smartphone, do the following.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Biometrics & security.
Step 2: Tap Find my mobile and toggle it on. Enter your Samsung account info or create an account.
Step 3: You can then opt in to features like Remote unlock, Send last location, and Offline finding.
How to find a lost iPhone with the ‘Find My’ app
Apple has a proprietary app called Find My iPhone that is dedicated to helping you find a misplaced or lost iPhone. The app comes installed on every iOS device and can display your missing device on a map to help you easily locate and manage it. You must use another iOS phone, tablet, or computer that also has the Find My iPhone app installed.
Step 1: Select Settings > Your Apple ID (name).
Step 2: Select Find My > Find My iPhone. Make sure that the toggle for Find My iPhone is always left On (green).
Step 3: Toggle on the Find my network and Send last location switches. Those help you pinpoint where you last left your phone in case internet services are currently off.
Step 4: Launch the Find My app, then select Devices from the bottom tab.
Step 5: Select your iPhone or iPad that you want to view the location for.
Step 6: You can also play a sound to locate your device, get directions to locate your device, set up notifications when the device is left behind, mark a device as lost, or remotely wipe the device.
Prepare before theft or loss
If you can’t recover your smartphone, you can always wipe it to prevent sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands. Your device will need an internet connection and enough juice to communicate with you.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google introduced Factory Reset Protection (FRP). It’s designed to prevent thieves from using or selling a stolen phone. If you factory reset a phone with FRP enabled and someone tries to set it up as a new phone, they will be prompted to enter the username and password for the last Google account registered on the device. If they can’t, then the phone remains locked with your data protected.
Android also works with several third-party apps designed to find your smartphone. For example, Prey Anti Theft features remote access and control, allowing you to gather more information regarding the whereabouts of your phone. It provides more granular control over how you or the cops can track your device — GPS coordinates, MAC address, photos from the camera to help catch the thief, and other more detailed notifications that Find My Device doesn’t offer.
Customize and expand on location methods
Apple’s Find My utility gives you options to play a sound on your device, mark the device as lost, and send a message to your phone in lost mode. You also have the option to erase the device in case it falls into the wrong hands. Find my iPhone can locate your Mac, iPod, iPad, Apple Watch, or any Apple device.
Your iPhone maintains a high level of security in case of robbery by using an Activation Lock. Enabled by default, the Activation Lock requires that you tap in your Apple ID and password before you can disable Find My iPhone, wipe your device, or reactivate it.
Apple’s AirTags are another good way to keep track of certain iOS devices.
How to find your not-so-smart cell phone
With simple cell phones, there aren’t as many programmatic or app-based options available to assist you in finding a lost handset. However, there’s always a basic protocol to follow when you lose your phone. Try doing the following.
Step 1: Call your cell phone. Listen for the ring or vibration, and try to locate your phone through tried-and-true human detection. If your phone is truly lost and in someone else’s hands, then they’re likely to answer — if they intend to return the phone.
Step 2: Retrace your steps. Do a full-fledged visual search. If you couldn’t hear a ring or vibration when you called it, don’t immediately assume that your phone is located far away — the battery could simply be dead.
Step 3: Text your phone. If you believe someone has stolen or possibly found your phone, then send a text message to your phone with your contact info and a reward offer if you choose to do so. There are many online services that allow you to send free text messages, such as txtDrop.com. Do not share any personal information.
Step 4: Alert your service provider. If you’ve lost hope of finding it, then call your wireless carrier and let them know your phone is lost. Ask if they offer a GPS locating service. If they don’t, ask them to suspend service to your phone to avoid any fraudulent charges. Carriers have differing policies about this, but it’s always worth a try, even for a smartphone. This FCC page has a handy list of numbers.
Step 5: Register your lost phone. If you know your phone’s IMEI number or have it written down somewhere, register it with Immobilize.
Step 6: Prepare for the next time you lose your phone. Maybe you’re one of those people who’s always losing their phone. You may want to consider registering for a tracking service such as AccuTracking.
Frequently asked questions
Can I find someone else’s lost phone?
So, what if you and your significant other are out and about, running errands and shopping in every place imaginable, only to discover that one of you has misplaced your phone? There’s actually something you can do, but it may take some forethought, depending on your device. If you use Find My you’ll need to add your significant other’s device to your list of devices ahead of time. Alternatively, you can log into your How to use Google Maps account on their phone and access your location history to find the last spot your phone moved to.
Can you track a phone that is off?
If your phone is off, it still isn’t the end of the world. While it is harder to track if the phone continues to move, the last place the phone was will still be locatable. From here, finding the phone becomes very context dependent. For example, if you’ve lost your phone under your friend’s couch, it will likely still be there. However, if it fell into an unsuspecting visitor’s purse, you’ll have a lot more trouble.
Losing your smartphone is definitely a scary experience, though sometimes it’s just been simply misplaced somewhere around the house. Thankfully, pretty much every smartphone has a built-in feature for locating it if lost or stolen, and it’s pretty easy to activate it. It’s highly recommended to turn that “find device” feature on once you get a new phone or tablet and leave it on. You may not ever need it, but it’ll be there if something happens — better safe than sorry!