All hope is not lost if you misplaced your phone. There are many ways to track a lost cell phone down and techniques to use in preparation for misplacing your phone so you can get it back fast.
This guide is intended to help people find any kind of lost cell phone — not just lost smartphones. The latter are much easier to locate, and we’ve therefore split this article into two sections. For instructions and tips on how to find a misplaced or stolen smartphone, jump to the second page.
Call your cell phone. Listen for the ring or vibrate and try to locate the phone. If your phone is truly lost and in someone else’s hands then they are likely to answer if they intend to return the phone. If you don’t have access to a phone try using wheresmycellphone.com or freecall.com.
Do a full-fledged visual search and retrace your steps. If you couldn’t hear a ring or vibration when you called it, don’t immediately assume that your phone isn’t in close proximity – the battery could be dead.
Send a text message. 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. You can use many online services to send free text messages, such as txt2day.com.
Call 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 not, ask them to suspend service to your phone to avoid any possible fraudulent charges.
Register it as lost. If you have your phone’s serial number written down somewhere, register it with MissingPhones.org.
Preparing for the next time. If you’re always losing your stuff then you may want to try a service such as Rewarding Return or register for a GPS tracking service such as AccuTracking. We also recommend Belon.gs, which is a free QR code based lost and found service.
If your lost phone happens to be a smartphone, there are a number of clever apps out there designed to help you get it back ASAP. Of course, you’ll want to try calling it first and make sure your phone isn’t just lodged between two couch cushions, but if you really can’t find it, definitely try these apps out.
To recover a lost or stolen Android device, we recommend using Plan B (and no, it’s not a digital contraceptive). This app allows you to find your lost android device without downloading special software onto it beforehand. Just install it over the web via your Gmail account (required), and Plan B will send you e-mails every 10 minutes on the whereabouts of the device. The app uses cell towers to triangulate your phone’s location, so it’ll work even if GPS is turned off.
iPhone users can pinpoint the location of their lost device by borrowing a phone from a fellow iOS user and installing Find My iPhone. It’s completely free, and once you’ve got it installed, all you need to do is sign in with your Apple ID and you’ll immediately be presented with the whereabouts of your missing phone. You can also remotely lock the missing phone, wipe all the data from it, or have it play a sound continuously for two minutes – even if the phone is on silent. Find My iPhone’s wide range of options make it an incredibly effective tool for tracking down your phone. Don’t believe us? Check out this story about cops apprehending a criminal by using the app.