When your dear smartphone is lost, Plan B, Find My iPhone and other apps can reunite you. They find iPhones & Androids so check them out now before it’s too late!
By David Pogue
Last week, I lost my iPhone on a train. I used Apple’s Find My iPhone feature to track it to a house in suburban Maryland, and the local police were able to return it to me. Because I’d tweeted about these developments, the quest for the phone became, much to my surprise, an Internet-wide, minute-by-minute real-life thriller.
Plan B video demonstrates its use
Several readers wrote to ask how to set up their own phones to be findable. As you’d guess, given last week’s experience, I have some strong feelings about the importance of setting up Find My iPhone or the equivalent on Android phones.
First, though, some caveats.
These phone-tracking systems work only if your lost phone is turned on and online; if its battery is dead or it’s powered off, it can’t see the Internet and can’t show you its location.
Furthermore, professionals know about Find my iPhone. As soon as they steal a phone, they connect it to a computer running the iTunes program and wipe it, so that Find My iPhone won’t work anymore.
All right – duly warned? Here’s how you set things up. iPhone first.
First, you need a free iCloud account; sign up at www.icloud.com. You’ll provide your e-mail address and a password that you make up.
Locate a lost or stolen iPhone with Find My iPhone app
Now, on the iPhone or iPad, open Settings. Tap iCloud. Scroll down and turn on Find My iPhone. When the phone asks if you’re sure, tap Allow.
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More Ways to Find a Stolen or Lost iPhone – 12 apps/services to help get your phone back
By Sam Costello
Having a stolen or lost iPhone is bound to give you a sinking feeling in your stomach – there’s $200-$500 down the drain. But just because the iPhone’s not in your hands anymore doesn’t mean you can’t get it back. Whether your phone was just lost or has been stolen, these apps and tips can help you recover it and save yourself from having to buy a new phone.
Unlike some of the others on this list, the Device Locator app doesn’t require a monthly subscription. Instead, this US$4.99 app lets you log into a web-based account to track the location of a phone, cause it to make noise, lock the phone to prevent access by a thief, and more.
FoneHome offers GPS-based location of lost or stolen iPhones, as well as the ability to remotely take photos (maybe you’ll snap a pic of the thief), play a sound (to help you find your iPhone in the couch), and track information online. Unlike many other apps, it does not require a subscription service, meaning that $1.99 is all you’ll pay.
A web-based service that attempts to trick thieves into sending location data about your phone to its servers. With that information, you can log into a web console to locate your iPhone by GPS, map, IP address, and more. While the company charges for its service on other platforms, as of this writing it is free on the iPhone.
IHound not only helps locate iPhones that have been lost of stolen, but it also lets you track the location of kids, spouses, etc. via their iPhones. Additionally, it can spur actions based on GPS location, such as emailing a grocery list when you get to the store. The app requires a subscription service. The first three months are included with app purchase, while extensions run US$3.99-$19.99.
This service requires a jailbroken iPhone and getting the app through Cydia, meaning that not all users may be comfortable doing what’s needed to use it. If you are, iLocalis not only tracks the location of your iPhone, but lets you send remote commands – place calls, delete data, record audio, lock – to the phone, which can either help determine where the phone is or prevent a thief from from accessing your data.
6. If Found +
This $0.99 app doesn’t use GPS to locate your phone. Instead, it relies on good Samaritans to return a lost phone. The app creates a wallpaper/lock screen image with a message asking the person who finds the phone to call you. As of this writing the website of the developer is offline, which would lead me to pretty strongly consider not buying the app.
Like If Found +, MyFoundCast lets you create a custom iPhone wallpaper with your account number and information that a reward is available if you report the lost phone at the MyFoundCast website. Annual memberships are currently free.
This official app from Apple uses the company’s iCloud service to locate your lost phone. You can also remotely lock the phone and set a passcode on it, or even remotely delete its data – two nice security features. It’s free and requires access to another iOS device or a web-connected computer when yours is lost.
9. Mobile Spy
This subscription-based service can track stolen or lost iPhones, BlackBerrys, Anroid phones, and Windows Mobile phones. Mobile Spy features include a web-based account to log incoming calls and texts, locate via GPS, record newly added contacts, track emails, and more. Subscriptions cost up to US$99.97 a year.
11. Phone Trace
A GPS-centric app ($4.99) that lets you pinpoint a phone or the location of a child, spouse, etc. carrying a phone running the app. It does not include any further security features (remote lock or erase, for instance) but doesn’t seem to require any sort of subscription.
12. TrackMe FindMe
This free app is backed by a subscription service (which, strangely, you have to register to learn the price of) that costs $24.99 a year. You can track the location of your phone, or those belonging to friends and family using TrackMe FindMe, via a web console.
13. Call Your Phone
This technique won’t help you retrieve a stolen iPhone, but if you’ve lost your phone around the house or office, it’ll do fine. Just call your phone number and, unless your ringer is off, you’ll be able to track your phone to between the couch cushions by following the rings.
14. Make Wallpaper with Contact Info
Though a few apps above offer a similar thing, you can create a wallpaper with your contact information for free. Use your favorite graphics program to create a wallpaper (320 x 240 pixels on older iPhones, 960 x 640 on the iPhone 4) with your name, email, alternate phone number, etc. Then sync the image to your iPhone and set it as both the wallpaper and lock screen. This won’t foil a thief, but it could help you get a lost iPhone back.