A lost Android phone can feel like the end of the world. After all, these devices are our lifelines to the digital world, providing access to everything from bank accounts and transportation to social media and calendar invites. Losing them can put a serious damper on your day. Even worse, if you don’t back up your Android Phone, this loss could have cascading repercussions that ruin the rest of your week.
Whether you leave it in an Uber or drop it while frolicking in a meadow, Android make it easy to find your shiny new phone. By following a few simple steps and checking off a few necessary boxes, you can track down the location of your device and have a means of getting it back. Just follow along, and you could be reunited with your phone before the end of the day.
This information also works for Android tablets.
Can your Android phone be found?
Not every Android phone can be found. The device needs to check a few boxes before you can be sure it’s possible to locate your device. Here are the criteria your Android phone needs to meet if you want to track it down:
- The device must be turned on.
- Location services must be activated.
- You need to have signed in to a Google account.
- The device must be connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi.
- Your phone should be visible on Google Play.
- Find My Device must be turned on.
If you don’t see the Find My Device app from Google on your device, download it from the Play Store.
How to find your phone or tablet
Once you’re sure that your Android device meets all the requirements above, you can start the process of finding it. It’s simple, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your phone back, as long as it isn’t in the middle of the ocean somewhere.
- Visit the Google Find My Device website.
- Sign in to your primary Google account.
- Click the lost phone in the upper-left corner.
- A Google Map appears, showing where your Android smartphone is located.
- If it’s turned off, you’ll see your phone’s location from when it was last on the network.
- Click Play Sound to ring the phone for five minutes, even if it’s on silent/vibrate.
- Click Secure Device to sign out of Google and lock your device.
In addition to playing a sound to secure the device, the Find My Device website allows you to display a message on the lock screen, providing the person in possession of pertinent information for returning it. However, if the device is turned off or not connected to the internet, you can’t do anything, but once it’s turned on or connected, your actions are performed swiftly.
If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this comprehensive YouTube video from Google that walks you through the process with cute animations and a friendly voice.
You don’t have to have a Google Pixel phone for this to work. Samsung devices can be found in a similar way, although you’ll need to know your Samsung login credentials to do so, which is a tougher task than a Google login.
How to protect your data if you’re unable to find or access your phone
Even if you located your lost Android phone, that doesn’t mean you can retrieve it. Maybe you left it someplace, but it could have walked off with someone who chose not to return it. Still, you don’t want your valuable information to fall into the wrong hands, which is why you’ll want to take action to nuke an unrecoverable device.
Android provides a couple of convenient options that help you keep safe without finding your device. Once you’ve located the device with the Find My Phone tool, Android allows you to lock it if you don’t have a locking mechanism in place. Additionally, Android provides the option to erase the device to keep your personal data safe. Click Enable lock & erase on the Find page once you reach that section and your device returns to factory settings without a trace that you ever owned it.
You can also use your smart speaker to find your phone or tablet
That’s right, smart speakers are for more than stupid questions and playing music. Your handy Google Home, and the Google Assistant housed within, can help you track down your lost smartphone. That is, as long as it’s within earshot of you and your search party.
All you do is say, “Hey Google, where’s my phone?” The smart speaker rings your device, even if it’s set to vibrate or Do Not Disturb. This won’t help you find your phone on a map. However, if it’s stuck between the couch cushions, the loud ringing should end your search quickly and easily.
When it’s really gone
If you’ve looked high and low and your phone is still lost, it may be time to call it a day. If you need a new phone and your budget is a bit tight given the loss of your device, check out carrier deals and our favorite budget phones. A phone insurance plan is a good idea as well, and most carriers offer inexpensive monthly options that can be added to your bill.
You’ll also want to keep your phone number and IMEI number on hand, as you can provide those details to your carrier if you’re unable to find your phone. Your provider should be able to block the number and disable the SIM so that no potential thief can steal your identity. You may want to consider swapping to a smartphone with an eSIM card, as it can be a bit more secure.