Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the world. That means millions upon millions of Android phones are out there, but the single most important Android to you is the phone you own. So what happens if you lose your phone? Don’t despair. You can prepare.
It can be challenging to keep track of something so small as a smartphone. You might accidentally leave it on the table at a restaurant, drop it into the depths of a shopping cart, or have it fall out of your pocket in the garden while you’re weeding.
The Android operating system has a feature called Find My Device that can help you track down your wayward phone or tablet. You just need to make sure this is set up and ready to go before you actually need it.
Set up Find My Device
Find My Device is automatically activated on your Android phone when you sign into a Google account on the device. But let’s go ahead and check that it’s working and wasn’t turned off at some point.
Open Settings and tap on Security & Location. You may already see that Find My Device is set to On. If not, tap on it and then tap on the toggle switch to turn it on. Google describes what it does: "Find My Device helps you locate this device remotely. It also helps you keep your data safe if the device is lost."
Google recommends taking a few extra steps to make sure Find My Device works as it should. Head back to your Security & Location settings. Check that the Location setting is set to On. Depending on your Android operating system version, you may find this listed under "Location" in Settings.
Next, open a browser and head to play.google.com/settings. Look for your device and make sure the box under Visibility is checked. "If you hide a device on Google Play, it won't show in Find My Device," Google warns. Chances are, your settings are all already in order, but it’s a good idea to check.
Find your lost Android phone
You can test out Find My Device before you actually need it. There are a couple ways to access the finding feature. One involves going to a website and the other uses Google’s Find My Device app.
Use the android.com website
You can use a web browser to find your phone by heading to android.com/find. Sign in using your Google account if you’re not already logged in. Google will show you a map with the last known location of your device. You will also see how much battery life it has left.
Google gives you several options for what to do next. You can choose Play Sound to start your phone ringing for 5 minutes, even if it’s set on silent. This can help you find it if you’ve lost it somewhere around your home or office, or if you’re at the right location on the map but still can’t see it.
If you can’t retrieve your phone right away, then the Secure Device option is a good idea. This will lock your phone and let you display an optional recovery message and a phone number where you can be reached if the phone is found.
The final option is your last resort if you need to protect your personal information, or you don’t think you will be able to retrieve your phone. Erase Device will erase all content, but keep in mind this will also make it so you can no longer locate the phone.
Use the Find My Device app
If you have another Android phone or tablet handy, you can use it to find your lost device. Start by downloading the Find My Device app from the Google Play store.
The app works pretty much like the website. You will need to sign in with your Google Account. You will then see a map and the same options to ring, secure, or erase your phone. If you’re testing this out on your own phone, Google will even tell you your Android device is "in your hand."
These simple steps are key to finding your lost Android phone or tablet. Take the time to make sure you know the process. It will make it easier and faster to locate your smartphone, whether you dropped it into your sock drawer or set it down on a picnic bench at the park.
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