We have all done it at one time or another, left our phone on the bus, in the car, at work, or even had it stolen from us. That horrible moment when you use your land line or a friends phone to ring it, only to be greeted with silence…. All is not lost though, as there are various ways to track phone location. Most methods will have required you to set up your phone for this type of situation in advance, but if you are lucky, there are a couple of ways you may be able to track your phone location without any previous set up at all! So let’s get started!
Factory Installed Phone Tracking Features
Many phone brands have pre-installed features that you most likely set up when you purchased you phone, to aid you finding your lost phone.
Find my iPhone
If you have an iPhone, and you have the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature switched on, you can simply log into your iCloud account, select ‘Find My iPhone, and follow to the prompts to locate your phone. You can also access this feature from any other iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.
Requirements: iPhone switched on. Internet connection. ‘Find my Iphone’ feature activated.
Features: Easily accessible, pre-installed feature on all iPhones, shows map location, plays sound, remote wipe, remote lock.
Samsung ‘Find my Mobile’
Similar to the Find my iPhone feature, as long as you are signed in to your Samsung Account on your phone, simply log into Samsung Find My Mobile on your desktop and follow the prompts to locate your phone.
Requirements: Samsung phone switched on. Internet connection. ‘Find my Mobile’ feature enabled.
Features: Easily accessible, pre-installed feature on all Samsung devices, shows map location, plays sound, remote wipe, remote lock.
Windows ‘Find My Phone’
Same as above. If you have set up the ‘Find my Phone’ feature, and are logged into your microsoft account, just browse to the Microsoft Devices page and follow the prompts to track phone location.
Requirements: Window Phones turned on. ‘Find My Phone’ needs to have been enabled. Internet connection.
Features: Easily accessible, pre-installed feature on Windows phones, shows map location, plays sound, remote wipe, remote lock.
The All Seeing, All Knowing GOOGLE
If you are unable to track your missing phones location using the above features, Google can help. All you need to access this feature is to be signed in to your Google or Gmail account on your phone.
Using your Google account to track phone location
Sign into your Google, Chrome, Gmail etc account and simply type the words ‘find my phone’ into Google, and you will see a map and a prompt asking you to sign in again, from where you will be presented with a map showing the exact location of all your devices that are logged into Google. If using the words ‘find my phone’ does not work for you, sign in to your Google account and select ‘Find My Phone’ from the Sign In and Security section.
This method will work with any phone type, even iPhones and iPads, providing they are logged into a Google account.
Requirements: Phone needs to be logged into Google. Phone must be turned on with internet connection to work.
Features: Easily accessible, works with all phone types, shows map location, plays sound, remote wipe, remote lock.
This method is especially useful if you think your phone is switched off, has a flat battery or has been stolen.
If you have location services switched on, and are logged into Google, then Google has been tracking you. Google Timelines collects data about where we visited, how we got there, how long we stayed there. As much as I would love to go into detail about this feature, that is something I will save for another day! The point is, if you log into Timelines, here, https://www.google.co.uk/maps/timeline, then you will be able to see on a map where your phone was at the point that the battery went flat or it was switched off, making it one of the most useful ways you can track phone location when your phone is switched off.
Requirements: Phone must be connected to a Google account. Location Services must be enabled.
Features: Phone does not need to be switched on. Shows map location.
If you have Googles Back Up and Sync service activated, then your camera roll is being backed up to Google Photos. If Location Services are on, then the geolocation of each photo is also stored. Meaning that if your phone has been stolen or found, and the person who has it has used the camera, then the photo and the location it was taken can be easily viewed in Google Photos. You can access Google Photos here https://photos.google.com
You can also use this feature to alert someone to a found phone, as with many phones, you can access the camera from a locked screen. Write a note to the phone owner, with details of where you have handed the phone in, and take a photo of the note. Hopefully the owner will have read this article and check their Google Photos!
Requirements: Location services must be active on phone. Phone must be logged into Google. Person holding phone must have used camera.
Features: Phone does not need to be switched on. Shows map location.
Steps to take after losing your phone
- Contact the police and your network provider- some carriers have very strict rules about insurance and many insurances will be void if you have not reported your phone lost or stolen within a specific period of time, and many will require a crime number. Additionally, your network provider will ensure no authorized calls are made and will put a block on your phone, while you will be liable for any calls made up to the point you reported it missing. So it is in your best interests to report it missing ASAP
- If your phone HAS been stolen, and you HAVE located it, please do not try to retrieve it yourself, rather, contact your local police and let them do the crime busting for you!
- Change all your critical passwords – banking, email, cloud storage etc
- If you use your phone for work, or it is actually a work phone, let them know immediately – they may have installed their own tracking software, and may need to take preventative steps to protect their data.
- Log into your Google, Apple, Samsung, Amazon accounts and remove all the credit card information they hold. If you use internet banking, do the same.
- If you feel there is no chance of recovery, remote wipe your phone.
- Finally, prepare a course of action for when you recover your phone, or get a new one. You don’t want this happening again!
Final Words on How to Track Phone Location
If you haven’t purchased any tracking software or downloaded any specific apps then the methods described above are pretty much the only way you will be able to track the location of your phone. You may have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars or pounds to have the latest phone, so it seems like a good investment to purchase some kind of tracking software to increase the chances of it being recovered in case it does get lost or stolen again.
Please look out for my upcoming article where I will be discussing the different types of tracking software available, and walk you through the decision of working out which one is right for you.