No matter how cautious people are with their electronics and devices, everyone’s endured the awful experience of losing a smartphone — Let’s face it, it happens to the best of us. Whether it occurs after a raucous night out with friends, or you’ve had the unlucky experience of running into a skilled pickpocket, it’s always a drag to reach for your digital friend only to come up empty.
Luckily for Android users, there exists a wide range of applications and programs designed specifically for the tracking down and locating of any lost or stolen smartphone. To help you sift through the sea of available options, we’ve compiled this list of the absolute best methods for finding and retrieving lost Android devices.
Updated on 05-29-2015 by Rick Stella: Added Find my Android Phone! and Lost Android. Removed three older apps.
Note: Digital Trends doesn’t condone the use of these phone trackers for anything other than locating a lost or stolen Android phone. While these apps work wonders for finding a wayward phone, it’s never cool to be a creep. Please use sound judgement when employing the services of the following programs.
All Android phones now come standard with the handy Android Device Manager pre-installed, allowing Android owners to track their phone’s last known location by simply visiting the app’s Web interface. To set this feature up, go to the application’s webpage and link your Android phone with your Gmail account (if you have one). Once completed, Android Device Manager now has the ability to track your phone and — if set up properly — also has the capability to remotely lock the device, wipe the memory, or set off a ringing alarm (this occurs even if the phone is in silent mode).
When we ran our own tests of the tracking accuracy, we found the app to post the location of the phone about 60 feet away from where it actually sat. Considering the fact we’re located on the 10th floor of a skyscraper, we consider this a fairly negligible error. Locking your device also works extremely well within the app, and if you don’t want to wipe its memory completely, Android Device Manager allows you to set a new password from your computer.
Do keep in mind if you leave your Gmail account open on any computer — public or private — someone easily has the potential to use it to track the location of your phone. Most importantly, make sure to set up all your desired options the moment you sign up, assuring that you have unfettered access to the benefits you need, once the dreaded occasion of losing your phone actually occurs.
See GPS location of your phone on the app’s built-in map function
Keep tabs on missing or lost phones with real-time updates
Receive navigational assistance from the app when locating a phone
Delete any messages from a tracked phone
Family Safety Productions’ app Find My Android Phone! makes it incredibly easy to find any stolen or lost Android phones with its “superior phone tracker technology.” Perhaps one of its greatest features is that the application allows users to track the cell phones of any family member who syncs their phone to the program — though again, we don’t condone the act of creepily spying on spouses or loved ones. When hunting down a lost or stolen phone, the application provides real-time location updates, constantly changing the position of the phone whenever it moves. It also gives accurate GPS directions, and relies on its superior triangulation algorithm to produce a spot-on location.
The application’s easy-to-use website allows for quick viewing of all synced phones, and also provides the same real-time map function as the application. Considering that the app is free, Find My Android Phone! remains one of the premier options for locating your Android, after it’s either fallen victim to a long night on the town, or become the object of a thief’s obsession.
Read sent and received SMS messages via your computer
Wipe the phone or SD card’s memory remotely
Start a flashing screen alarm on the phone
Forward any calls to a desired number of your choice
Start/stop the device’s Wi-Fi and GPS functions
Locate the phone via GPS or network connection
Lost Android — or Android Lost depending on the webpage — is a fantastic Android application which excels at finding your (you guessed it), lost Android. Though there only exists a beta version of the application, Lost Android still provides users an incredible amount of features and benefits, many of which remain exclusive to this impressive app.
For starters, users have the ability to forward any SMS messages received on their phone directly to their email inbox, and even have the option of sending SMS messages right from their PC. Lost Android also allows users to activate a remote controlled alarm, even if the phone is in “Silent Mode.” Moreover, the app allows users to wipe any content from a lost phone, forward all calls sent to the phone, and produce a pop up message to let any thieves know to return the device ASAP.
Like Find My Android Phone!, Lost Android doesn’t cost a dime to download, and the fact it affords its users a laundry list of available benefits makes it an attractive phone finder application.