Your Android phone is a little of everything: a
photo album, a diary, a wallet, a gaming machine, a bank account, and
more all rolled together in one convenient, Web-connected device.
Unfortunately, that same convenience means that any enterprising thief
could not only get your phone, but access to everything on it as well.
What To Do If You’ve Already Lost Your Android
As with the Apple-centric companion piece
to this article, let’s start with the worst-case scenario: Your Android
phone is already missing and you haven’t secured your device with a
passcode or set up Android Device Manager —Google’s baked-in anti-theft tool.
First and foremost: try to track your device with the Android Device Manager.
Unlike Apple’s Find My iPhone service, the Android Device Manager can
be fired up for the first time without having been configured on you
device. You won’t be able to remotely wipe your device, however, which
could leave your data defenseless. In my testing, I found I was able to
remotely track and ring my Samsung Galaxy S III$10.99 at Amazon without having ever accessed Android Device Manager before, but I wasn’t able to do the same with my Nexus 7£123.99 at Amazon under the same conditions. The takeaway is that unless you prepare ahead of time, individual results may vary.
You access the Android Device manager through Google’s Web portal.
The large map should indicate the last known position of your device.
If you don’t see it, try hitting the Locate This Device button on the
white inset window. Remember that the location is approximate, usually
within 25 meters.
If you see your phone moving around quite a bit, or in a location
you’ve never been, odds are it’s been picked up by someone else. You can
try calling your phone yourself and attempt to secure its return
from a good Samaritan, or use the Ring option in the Android Device
Manager to attract attention to the lost device.
I can’t recommend trying to track down and confront a thief yourself
using the location information from Android Device Manager. Though the
Internet is full of success stories,
I wouldn’t want to risk facing down a criminal on my own. I’d rather
let the police do their job, and I recommend that you do the same.
Even as you try to recover your device, the most important task is mitigating the damage to you. Deactivate the phone with your wireless provider
to prevent the thief from running up a lot of charges on your bill.
Some providers will deactivate your device on their network, which
prevents a thief from just resetting the device and slapping in a new
SIM card. Note that once you deactivate service, you won’t be able to
communicate with your Android via Android Device Manager. But again,
this is a worst-case scenario.
You should also begin taking steps to prevent the thief from accessing your personal information
on your Android. Begin by visiting the Web presence for every app and
service on your phone and seeing if they have the option to logout other
devices, revoke tokens, or de-register mobile devices. This will
prevent the thief from simply firing up an app or a website and using
your saved login information.