Google offers a location and security web service called Find My Device. After you've signed in to your Google account on your phone, this service is turned on by default, and it can provide some options to help you retrieve your phone. If you think (or know) that you will be unable to retrieve your phone or it got stolen, you can also remotely wipe your device to safeguard your private data.
Using Find My Device to find, lock or erase
There are some requirements to use the Find My Device service:
- Your phone has to be turned on (if it died, you might be able to check the last known location)
- You have to be signed in to your Google Account
- Ideally, your phone should have mobile data active. If you lost it in the house, it helps if it has Wi-Fi access
- It should be visible on Google Play (It's visible by default)
- Location services should be turned on
- Find My Device should be turned on (default)
You can find all the information on the Google Help page, but we've added it to this article for your convenience.
First, go to the Android find website and sign in to your Google Account. If you have multiple phones linked to your Google account, make sure to select the right one. Also, if your lost phone has more than one user profile, sign in with the Google Account linked to the main profile.
Once you access the Android Find website, Google maps can show you the approximate location of your phone or the last known location (e.g. before running out of battery, as the battery level is also conveniently indicated). You can also consult Google Maps Timeline to track the past movement of your phone. You'll also notice these three options:
- Play sound: Rings your phone at maximum volume for 5 minutes, even if it's set to silent or vibrate.
- Secure device: Locks your phone with your PIN, pattern, or password. If you don't have a lock, you can set one. To help someone return your phone to you, you can add a message or phone number to the lock screen.
- Erase device: Permanently deletes all data on your phone (but might not delete SD cards). After you erase, Find My Device won't work on the phone.
If you find your phone after wiping it, you'll need your Google Account password to use it again. You'll only see the first/last letter of the account – it's only a reminder for you of what account you used so that you can unlock it. A thief will be unable to use your phone as it is challenging to guess both your Google account and password. Furthermore, if you used a PIN access code, the PIN will still be active. If your phone was stolen, don't hesitate to get in touch with your local authorities.
How do I maximise my phone security?
We can't stress enough that it is absolutely vital to always use a pin code and combine it with a fingerprint sensor (if available). Avoid obvious and easy pin codes like '0000', '1234' or '1111' at all costs. As mentioned before, your PIN code can be your strongest shield to avoid unwanted trespassers gaining access to your phone. If an individual steals your phone and it is not protected by a PIN code, it's easy for that person to perform a factory data reset and resell the phone.
Furthermore, activate two-step verification. Two-step verification is a process that will ask you to perform two authentication methods, one after the other, to verify your identity. For more information, please visit the Google Help page on two-step verification.
Finally, activate the Google Find My Device service as a backup protection measure in case you do come to lose your phone.