Jon was lucky because he lost an Android phone — and since it had the latest version of the OS, he was able to remotely install Plan B. The software then responded to his location requests by sending him an email with a Google Map showing the phone’s precise location.
I swear by Smrtguard (which runs on multiple platforms) although I use it primarily on my BlackBerry. It reunited me with my pre-release BlackBerry 9780 review unit last year. (Read: I lost my phone in London!)
The problem, of course, is if you haven’t installed some tracking software on your phone (and you don’t have the capacity to remotely install some), then you’re well and truly screwed.
Therefore, here is a helpful guide. Do something about it today, right? It’ll be typical that you read this post, make a to-do item about it, then go out to lunch and lose your phone.
iPhone & iPad
You’re in luck because the geniuses at Apple have given you the Find my iPhone function. All you need to do is setup a MobileMe account on the iPhone, enable it with these instructions and boom, you’re done. If you lose your phone, you can either use the Find My iPhone app on another device to locate it, or you can visit www.me.com, login with your MobileMe credentials and locate the phone from there.
I’ve used this loads of times, most often when I can’t remember where I put my iPhones. It’s so useful to be able to get a general location (i.e. the phone IS at home) or the phone IS in the car.The Find My iPhone functionality is free of charge.
Well, it seems like Jon from Ars Technica had a really good experience with Plan B — you can download that for free or, you can pick up the full version by downloading Lookout Premium ($2.99/month or $29.99/year). You can also pick up SmrtGuard for Android at a slightly more expensive $3.99/month.
These might seem costly, especially if you aren’t into buying apps, but you will rue the day, RUE the day, if you didn’t spent the two-quid or three-quid when you’ve stupidly lost your £600 top-of-the-range Android phone.
I thoroughly recommend SmrtGuard for BlackBerry — that’s how I was able to recover my phone. I was actually in my ‘free 30 day trial’ when I lost and subsequently recovered the phone, so when I got home, I bought the full version. I felt it was only right. This was before RIM announced BlackBerry Protect, the equivalent of Find my iPhone for the BlackBerry. I tested it in Beta and I’ve been using it live and found it highly useful. I very much recommend it.
Right then, I’m not so sure about Windows. I’m going to have to do some research on this one. Update: Duh. Of course, it’s built-in. I totally forgot. See below.
Thanks to reader Nigel Jones who points out on Google+ that the Samsung Galaxy SII comes with a find-my-phone feature out of the box. I think we’re going to see more and more of the manufacturers include these services as standard.
It’s not just about location
One point — most of the providers of location/find-your-phone services haven’t stopped there. SmrtGuard, for instance, will backup your device content, so will Lookout and BlackBerry Protect. Most will also give you the option to remotely lock your phone, or have it play a sound to help you find it behind the sofa. SmrtGuard will even function as a panic-button, sending off a silent note for help across a ton of different channels. Lookout for Android will help prevent phishing and malware and it’ll scan your apps for telltale signs of mischief — something you really do need on Android.
This is one of those things that I strongly, strongly recommend you fix today. Go and find one of these services, install it, test it and relax.
Update: There’s quite a wealth of possibilities out there — here are a few others I’ve come across (or been sent):
– itrack Protect, www.itrackprotect.com
This is a hugely comprehensive product offering aimed at anyone who’s serious about tracking location. It can most certainly be used personally — for example, I could imagine installing this on my child’s phone. However I think itrack will be absolutely perfect for business purposes, especially since it’s based on installable software that runs on your PC (to then access the itrack information). So if you run a team of social workers who’re forever finding themselves in dodgy situations or a team of lone workers, this looks to be immensely ideal. The fundamental difference with this product is you don’t need to mess around with application installs. It uses the mobile network to get the phone’s position (so the device is largely irrelevant).
– Track and Protect by Klomptek, trackandprotect.com
Produced by mobile phone geniuses Klomptek, this one was suggested by Rafe Blandford. He’s done a thorough review. The service offers a range of facilities including lock, lock+alarm, unlock, wipe, callback and so on. I particularly like the ability to see remote camera shots sent from the phone. That is really, really smart. (Works on Android, BlackBerry, Symbian)
– Windows Phone
Thank you to @facefacts who points out that Windows Phone has the find & location functions built-in — OF COURSE it does — duh, silly me. I completely forgot. I even have this activated on my Windows Phone. Just make sure you’ve ticked the right options. Here are the full details.
– AndroidLost, androidlost.com
A work in-progress (but nevertheless live) that includes some phenomenally cool features. For example, using the text-to-speech functionality, you can have your phone remotely say, “Hello! Help! I am lost!” in that semi-creepy computer voice. Very cool indeed. It looks to be free — and for Android only.
– Theft Aware, theftaware.com
Suggested by reader @aktiwary, Theft Aware looks to be seriously smart. It’s apparently completely invisible so if your phone is stolen, the thief is going to find it incredibly difficult to disable. You can configure everything remotely via SMS. The list of features is absolutely huge. I particularly like the idea of making my phone remotely place a hidden call to me so I can hear what the thief is up to! Theft Aware works on Android and Symbian.
– WaveSecure, wavesecure.com
This is now owned by McAfee and supports probably the widest array of platforms: Symbian, BlackBerry, Windows, Java and Android. It’s $19.90 a year and it delivers the standard range of features you’d expect (backup, locate, wipe). It also includes an anti-installation feature to prevent pesky thieves from removing the app.
– PreyProject, preyproject.com
Looks to be one of the most comprehensive cross-device offerings. It’ll work on your Android phone, but it’ll also secure your Mac, Windows, Linux or Ubuntu laptops. It’s when you consider the theft of a laptop that Prey really comes into it’s own. The app will do things like hide your Outlook or Thunderbird data. Precisely the sort of thing you want to happen if it’s been stolen. At the same time, you’ll get precise geolocation updates and you’ll even get photos of the thieves and screenshots of their actions. Starts at $5/month for 3 devices (which is pretty reasonable if you’ve got one Android phone and, say, two laptops, that you want to protect).
– Gadgettrak, gadgettrak.com
Another provider focusing on iOS devices alongside RIM, Android, Windows and Mac — highly useful if you’d like to protect multiple devices. There’s a 7-day free trial and then the desktop service costs $19.95/year and the mobile service $19.95. There’s also a family pack option. I very much like their Camera Serial Number Search — which lets you search the internet for people who’ve taken photos using your (stolen) camera. Smart.
Related to Gadgettrak, this Tumblr blog details a live scenario of some stolen phones. It’s very cool to see the technology in action.
– BitDefender, m.bitdefender.com
The team at BitDefender has just added two new features to it’s MobileSecurity for Android BETA offering: Anti-theft allows users to easily track the location of their device and remotely wipe as necessary, plus users can now scan their SD Card to protect against malware.
If you’ve got suggestions for other services for readers to consider, please do drop me a note or leave a comment below and I’ll update the post.