How to find a lost phone

Track down a lost phone with these simple solutions for Android and iPhone

how to find a lost phone
Tom Grundy/Shutterstock

So you’ve lost your phone. We’ve all been there. It was just in your pocket a minute ago — and now it’s gone, lost to the phone fairies, forgotten between the seats of your couch, or misplaced somewhere during your busy day. Maybe it’s just in your other coat, or maybe it’s already in the hands of someone who found it on the sidewalk. Either way, all you want to do is get it back.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get a hold of your missing phone. If it’s a smartphone (or even a tablet) running iOS or Android, chances are good it already has the software needed to hunt it down — or there’s an app you can install to track your phone. Here’s our guide on how to find a lost phone or a similar device.

Have you ever wondered what happens to a smartphone after it’s stolen? Read how this filmmaker spied on a thief to find out.

Smartphones

If your lost phone happens to be a smartphone, the major platform providers (Apple and Google) include phone retrieval technology in their smartphones. These apps work through the account associated with your device. For Android devices, this is your Google account, and for iPhones, this is your iCloud account. Both allow you to remotely lock and wipe your phone, make it ring, and set up special messages to alert whoever finds it.

Of course, these features are only as good as your phone’s battery. If your smartphone dies, it’s about as easy to find as your wallet or anything else you might misplace.

We also recommend caution when communicating with anyone who has found your smartphone. Be careful to avoid giving away any 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 the good Samaritan can return your phone. Here’s how each of the operating systems works.

How to find a lost Android phone

Android not only offers Google’s proprietary service for finding and managing your device remotely but also a number of third-party apps designed for finding your smartphone. The easiest to use is Find My Device, which is built directly into your Android smartphone through Google Play Services — it can also be used in a browser or downloaded from the Google Play Store. Most devices running Android 2.3 or later should be able to use this feature.

Using the feature is as easy as searching “Where is my phone?” in Google, which will prompt the service to start looking for your smartphone. We’ve previously written about Find My Device and its ability to call you, set up a new password, and make your phone ring from afar, along with the variety of other functions it uses for notification purposes. While you can configure Find My Device ahead of time, the service should be available in the event you lose or misplace your phone. It will use Wi-Fi or GPS to help you hunt down your device.

To verify your Android smartphone has the Find My Device feature turned on, go to Settings > Google (or Google services) > Security and make sure Remotely locate this device is turned on in the Find My Device section.

If you can’t find 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. In Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google also introduced Factory Reset Protection (FRP). It’s designed to prevent would-be thieves from being able to steal your phone, wipe it, and then use it or sell it. If you factory reset a phone with FRP enabled and try to set it up as a new device, you’ll be prompted to enter the username and password for the last Google account that was registered on the device, and if you can’t, the phone will remain locked.

There are also third-party apps that you can install to help you find your phone. Prey Anti Theft is a great app that offers remote access and control, allowing you to obtain more information regarding the whereabouts of your phone. It provides a number of additional features, such as more granular control on how you track your device, GPS coordinates, MAC address, photos from the camera to possibly catch the would-be thief, and other, more detailed notifications that Find My Device doesn’t offer.

Samsung Find My Mobile website screenshot

Another option for select Samsung smartphones is the Find My Mobile service. It can be used to locate a missing phone, lock it down, or wipe it completely. You’ll need a Samsung account, though, and the Remote Controls options enabled on your phone. To check and see if Find My Mobile is available for your smartphone, go to Settings > Biometrics & Security. If you see Find My Mobile in the menu, you can use the service. You can enable the Remote Controls options via Settings > Biometrics & Security > Find My Mobile > Remote controls.

Product Review

The new Asus gaming phone certainly isn't a beauty, but it performs like a beast

Asus is on a roll in 2019, having started out with the Zenfone 6 -- a welcome surprise and a great phone -- and now with the ROG Phone 2. This gaming phone has plenty of ability to ensure even casual gamers will want to take a look.
Mobile

Android vs. iOS: Which smartphone platform is the best?

If you’re trying to choose a new phone and you’re not sure about the merits and pitfalls of the leading smartphone operating systems, then come on in for a detailed breakdown as we pit Android vs. iOS in various categories.
Mobile

Text up a storm with the best messaging apps for iOS and Android

These days, most people tend to favor digital messages over phone calls. We have the best messaging apps that allow you to share photos and documents, send text messages, and more with end-to-end encryption.
Mobile

Free yourself! How to unlock a phone from the icy hands of your wireless carrier

Do you want to know how to unlock a phone through your carrier or a third-party service like DoctorSIM? Regardless of which way you want to go, we've compiled a list of requirements and methods for doing so.
Mobile

Tinder tries to break up with the Google Play Store with new payment process

Tinder launched a new payment process that allows the dating app to bypass Google Play Store fees. Unlike others that have worked around app store fees, Tinder remains listed while in open defiance of the Google Play Store requirements.
Mobile

The fast ROG Phone 2 is Asus' new giant-sized mobile gaming monster

Asus has announced a sequel to the ROG Phone (that stands for Republic of Gamers, for those new to the company's gaming brand) called the ROG Phone 2, and it's a massively powerful, giant-sized mobile gaming monster.
Product Review

You’ll love the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom’s camera, but the software is iffy

The Oppo Reno 10x Zoom’s special camera is a great reason to look closely at the phone, but what about the rest of the package? There are ups and downs, and we go into detail about them in our review.
Mobile

Apple’s slick, smooth iPad Pro screen tech may come to 2020 iPhone

The screen technology which makes Apple’s iPad Pro such a viewing pleasure may come to the 2020 iPhone. Apparently, Apple is talking to screen suppliers about introducing a phone screen with a 120Hz refresh rate.
Mobile

Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL: Everything we know

Rumors abound about the Google Pixel 4, Google's next Pixel phone following the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a. Getting around the leaks, Google straight-up teased an image of the back of the phone. Here's what you need to know.
Mobile

Learn how to play YouTube in the background on iOS and Android

We show you how to play YouTube in the background with apps such as Opera, Chrome, and Firefox -- along with the premium offerings like YouTube Premium -- whether you have an Android or iOS device.
Mobile

The Pixel 4 may have face-sensing tech that goes beyond the iPhone XS

The Pixel 4 is on the way. It may be packing some new tech for Google, and leaked screen protectors are implying Google's next flagship will have face-sensing tech that's beyond even Apple's iPhone XS.
Mobile

Huawei is secretly helping build North Korea’s wireless network, report says

Tensions between Chinese mobile giant Huawei and the U.S. are likely to rise even higher after the Washington Post reported that the company has allegedly been secretly working with a Chinese state-owned firm to build and maintain North…
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Product Review

Price be damned, the OnePlus 7 Pro is bigger and faster than ever before

OnePlus has delivered its biggest, and fastest smartphone ever in the OnePlus 7 Pro. It’s also more expensive than before, with a $750 price tag hanging from the most technically impressive model.
1 of 2