Android Tips and Tricks

How to Find a Lost or Stolen Smartphone with Android Device Manager

Android-Device-Manager.jpg
Google

It happens to every smartphone owner.

In fact, I can say with almost 100 percent confidence that at some point in your smartphone-owning life, you will utter the words, “Did you see my phone?”

Maybe you set it down somewhere in your house and can’t quite remember where “somewhere” is. Perhaps you left it at a restaurant after taking pics of your mouth-watering meal to tease friends on social media (karma, dude).

Then again, maybe someone with grabby little paws decided to abscond with your precious device a la Gollum.

Regardless, now you want to find your phone pronto and would like to know how. Just like the “Find my iPhone” feature for Apple’s smartphone, Android smartphone users have a built-in phone tracking option as well courtesy of Android Device Manager.

For older phones, you might need to set up Android Device Manager beforehand in order to use it, which will prove to be a tricky scenario if you’ve already lost your phone. Owners of newer Android phones those in our Android Phone Fight feature, however, likely already have this feature activated.

When I tested a Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, for example, I was able to use Android Device Manager’s tracking feature without having to set it up. The only caveat is that you need to have a Google account (e.g. Gmail, Google Play Store) synced with your phone, which you likely did the first time you set up your phone because it’s pretty much a necessary step to fully use an Android phone (also a good idea in case you forget the lock screen password to your Android device and want to reset it).

Well, actually, there’s one more caveat — your phone needs to be on because you need it to emit a wireless signal for this whole process to work. The lesson as always is, preparation is the mother of discovery. Or something like that.

Anyway, assuming you’re all set and ready to go, here’s how to find your lost or stolen Android phone with Android Device Manager.

(For folks who have forgotten their security code, make sure to check out our tutorial on How to Remotely Reset Your Android Lockscreen Password.)

Go ahead and launch Android Device Manager through its app or by going to your web browser of choice and visiting its site. To get to the site, you can either do a search for “android device manager” or go directly to the site at: https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager. Also, make sure you log on with the Google account associated with your locked device.

Once you’re on Android Device Manager, you’ll bring up a screen that includes a map and a menu box that shows the devices associated with your Google account. If everything is set up right, the map will eventually load the location of your phone.

This is especially useful if you lost it while visiting different locations as you’ll know which specific store or place you left it at. If it was stolen, well, confronting the thief probably isn’t a good idea but you can at least lock or remotely wipe your phone by tapping on the “Lock” or “Erase” icons on Android Device Manager. You can even remotely change your lock screen passcode from here.

If you lost your phone at your house, the map function won’t be as useful as it’ll probably just have a circle around your house.

This is when you’ll want to tap on the box menu’s “Ring” function, which will cause your phone to ring at high volume, event if it’s on silent.

Admittedly, Android Device Manager isn’t a perfect solution, especially on older phones. One time, it highlighted a two-mile circle when I used it on my Galaxy S3, for example. Welp. Other times, I got the dreaded “location unavailable” message and had to do the search multiple times. It usually works well on newer devices, though, so it’s still a useful trick to know.

For more tips and features about mobile devices check our various Android tips or visit the Tablet and Smartphone hub