We lose our keys, we lose our wallets, but more than anything these days, we lose our cell phones. So in this article we'll tell you the tracking apps to install while you still have your phone. And worst case, we'll tell you how to track a phone after it's lost even if you've done nothing in advance.
Apps To Install In Advance
If your phone is in your possession as you read this, at a minimum, you should install a free app that will track your phone's location if it's lost or stolen.
For iPhones, I recommend Find My iPhone. It's free and tied to your iTunes account.
For Android phones, I recommend Lookout. (Free to locate a phone; $2.99 a month to remotely lock or wipe a phone)
For Blackberry, Blackberry Protect (Free)
Windows phone (Free, but needs to be tweaked for better tracking: Go to Settings, select on Find my Phone and choose these two options 'Connect to these features faster' and 'Save my location every few hours'.)
Now if you lose your phone, you can log onto your account via computer (or other mobile device) to get a map showing where the phone is. Not only will these apps track the your phone's location, but if you know your phone is somewhere close, and the ringer is off, you can log onto your finder app and force the phone to make a noise.
Even more importantly, all the apps allow you to remotely wipe the phone's data if it's stolen. While this service is included with Find My iPhone and Blackberry Protect, it's part of Lookout Premium, which will run you $2.99 a month. But that may be a small price to pay if you store any sensitive data on your phone — and over half of us do. We store passwords on our phones, we bank on them… they have become treasure chests for identity thieves. The information stored on them is worth more than the hardware.
If You've Lost A Phone Without A Pre-Installed Finder App
What if you've lost your phone and didn't install a finder app? Or what if you have a feature phone that doesn't have apps? Good news: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint all have locator services you can enable after the fact to track a phone. They work with almost all of the phones the carriers offer — even if yours is not a fancy smart phone. Simply log onto to your carrier's website and enroll in a paid service (usually between $5-$10 a month). As long as the phone get a signal and still has battery life, you can locate it.
If you have an Android phone you can also use an app called Plan B to find a lost phone after the fact. Plan B is made by the same folks as Lookout, but you can install this app remotely onto your phone after it's lost. Go to the Google Play store, select the app, and it remotely installs. It will begin working immediately and email your phone's location to your email address.
No Battery, No Luck
With all finder tools and apps, the phone needs a cell connection and power to work. And if the SIM card has been pulled from the phone — and that's what a savvy thief would do pretty quickly — you're also out of luck. So time is of the essence. If your phone is missing, take immediate action.
Related: The Safest Way to Bank Online