How to find a lost or stolen Android phone

by: Jimmy WestenbergAugust 11, 2015

If you’ve fallen victim to a lost or stolen Android phone – don’t worry! There are a number of steps you can take to get your smartphone back into your hands. From third party applications to simple security methods that are already built in to your Android device, today we’re going to walk you through some of the most successful methods you can use to find your mobile device.

Before we get into ways you can find your device, we’re going to talk a little about what you can do to keep your data safe when your phone is found by a stranger.

Be prepared

lock screen lockscreen security

First and foremost, you’ll need to set up a security code for your device’s lock screen. This is one of the easiest steps you can take to help your data stay safe.

On most Android devices, you can access your security settings by going to Settings>Security>Screen lock, and from there you can choose which security method you’d like to use. You can choose from a Pattern, PIN or Password on most devices, and some Android phones will even let you gain access by facial recognition.


To take your lock screen one step further, you’ll want to set up a lock screen owner message. You can access this setting (on most Android devices) by heading to Settings>Security>Owner info. From here, you can choose to display your name, email address or any other form of contact on your lock screen. This is a simple step that could really help you out in the long run, so get to it!

Android Device Manager

Android Device Manager AA

On all Android devices that come with Google Play Services is a handy little tool that can allow you to remotely locate, lock, ring and erase your smartphone with just a few taps. Many devices come with this feature enabled out of the box, but you’ll want to double check to make sure you’re secure.

Note: Our own Jonathan Feist wrote a very detailed walkthrough on how to use Android Device Manager, which you should check out if you’re interested in getting the full scoop on this service. For now, though, we’ll give you a brief overview on how to set up Android Device Manager and perform some of the basic functions.

For starters, you’ll need to download the Android Device Manager app from Google Play. Once it’s installed, you need to make sure the Device Manager is enabled as a device administrator. To do so, head to Settings>Security>Device administrators, then hit the check box to grant Android Device Manager access to your device.

Now that you’ve enabled Android Device Manager, here’s how to use it in case of an emergency.

If you’ve lost your phone and have ADM enabled on your device, it’s pretty easy to keep your data safe. If you have access to a computer, visit, then sign in to your Google account associated with your Android phone. From here you can track where your Android device is located, which will definitely come in handy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12

Okay, so what if you lost your Android smartphone in your house? Tracking it by location probably won’t help you here, but there’s another nice feature built into ADM that will help you find it. From the Android Device Manager page on your computer, simply press the big Ring button, and your phone should begin to blare, even if it’s in silent mode.

Android Device Manager Lock

If you’re still not sure the location of your phone, there are a few more extensive options you can take to keep your data safe. If you think you’ll be able to retrieve your phone eventually, you can remotely lock your device with Android Device Manager. From the website, click the Lock button, then choose your new password and any message you’d like to display on your phone’s lock screen. Once you press Lock, your phone will go into lockdown mode, keeping the thief out of your device.

If all hope is lost and you’re still nervous about your personal information getting into the wrong hands, there’s one more method you can take. Android Device Manager will allow you to remotely perform a factory data reset on your device. Keep in mind that this should be used as a last ditch effort to keep your data safe – you won’t be able to retrieve any information that was once on your device if you recover it.

Just like the other options, simply press Erase, confirm your selection, and your Android device will begin erasing.

Android Device Manager is a handy tool that can help in some instances, but there are still a few more services you can implement to ensure your device stays safe.

android device manager call back lock screenRelated: Having issues connecting to devices via Android Device Manager? You’re not alone27

Try a third party application

If you don’t think using Android Device Manager is worth your while,  there are a few other third party options you may want to consider. For starters, Lookout can not only track your phone by location, but will also send you an email of a photo taken by the front-facing camera if someone tries and fails to enter in your passcode five times. You’ll need to pay a premium fee if you’d like to get the more robust features from Lookout, though for some users, it may be worth the price.

AirDroid is also a great option, boasting the usual location tracking and remote wiping features as most other apps. With AirDroid, though, you’ll be able to do much more than that, as it gives you the ability to transfer photos and documents over the web through your AirDroid account. It will even let you access your device’s front-facing camera in real time to see if someone is using your phone.

best Android apps to transfer files from Android to PCRelated: 7 best Android apps to transfer files from Android to PC and other ways too!64

Not only does Cerberus perform all of the usual “find my phone” features, it also lets you take it one step further by letting you record audio from the microphone and giving you much more detailed tracking information than most other apps offer. Cerberus is one of the most robust tracking applications available in the Google Play Store, so if you’re nervous about your phone getting lost or stolen, this is the one you should try.

Last ditch effort


If you’ve lost your phone and haven’t set up any of the above services, you might be thinking all hope is lost. But it’s not – there are still a few ways you can recover your phone. Calling your phone is a simple and effective way to track your phone, no matter if it’s in your house or far away. Even if you have some lock screen security set up, whoever has your phone will now have the ability to answer it if it rings.

With that said, sending a text to your phone can also be helpful, but less so as the user will still need to somehow bypass your phone’s security to read the whole message. So if the user isn’t responding to your calls, try sending a short text message to your phone, such as “If found, please contact [email address]”. Thanks to Lollipop’s ability to display notifications on the lock screen, you should be able to get your message across in most cases.

If you have any other suggestions on how to track or recover a lost or stolen Android device, we’d love to hear them! Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

  • L G

    I just destroyed someone’s “first”
    Please,no hate :)
    Anyway…I use Avast Anti-Theft,for rooted users it’s one of the best options,with flash survival on CM

  • Fredrol

    I thought i should test Android device manager from another phone.
    Only one problem, i have two step verification enabled, and the app sent a code on sms to my phone..
    Witch i dont have if it gets lost.. How am i supposed to get the code to log in?

    • Igor Leahu

      you should prepare for this: there are backup codes in the set-up process

      • Fredrol

        So i need to carry with me a set of extra codes all the time? Or can i set a spesific code that i choose?

        • Igor Leahu

          you need to carry your set of extra codes. I believe there are 10 of them (each can be used only once).
          And if you run out of them you can generate another set. :)

          • Android Developer

            What are you guys talking about? I can use it without any special code. It just asks me to login to Google account and that’s it…

          • Igor Leahu

            We’re talking about two step verification.

          • Android Developer

            But this is something you do only once and that’s it, and now you are talking about Android device manager , no? just set all now, and it should work anytime in the future, right?

          • Igor Leahu

            No. Two step verification can be used without android device manager. It’s just to prevent other people to log into your account even if they know your password

          • Android Developer

            I don’t understand what the problem here then. It works fine for me.

    • Paul M

      are you sure you have to do the 2-step verification every time, or just the first?

      • Fredrol

        Yes, just tried it. The moment i type my password, it sends an sms to my phone with a code.
        If someone stole it, they would probably know that im trying to locate it, and turn off location before
        i can log in and find it. Not very smart… Pretty useless actually..

  • Keagan van den Heuvel

    Android Device Manager helped me to locate my father’s stolen phone within four hours. I haven’t tested the others though.

    • Android Developer

      What did you do when you found it? Also, did you do it with the police or something (could be scary to see the thief) ?

      • Keagan van den Heuvel

        No police were involved. I told my father where the phone was so he drove there and there was a group of guys sitting with the phone. He asked them what they were doing with his phone and they said they’d found it, but they gave it back without any hesitation.

        • Android Developer

          And this wasn’t a bit scary too? multiple guys ? Could be a gang…
          And they said they’ve found it? Isn’t it a lie according to what you wrote? Were they punished for what they did?

          • Keagan van den Heuvel

            My father didn’t seem worried in the slightest. He just wanted his phone back. There was no proof that they had stolen it so they couldn’t be accused. After we got the phone back, they guy actually asked for a reward. My father said that he didn’t have any cash on him so if he really wanted the reward he should meet him in a public place the next morning.

          • Android Developer

            But was it stolen?
            And, if it was stolen, why give them reward?

          • Keagan van den Heuvel

            Because there was no way of knowing whether they had actually found it or not. We know it had been stolen but we had no idea who stole it.

          • Android Developer

            It was stolen, and they just happen to find it? This makes them primary suspects.
            Anyway, I’m happy you got lucky this time. Please take extra care next time.

        • John Doe

          Some kid in Toronto had his iPhone stolen. He tracked it via ‘ Find my iPhone’ to a town outside the city.
          When he confronted the kids with it he was shot dead!!
          When looking for a lost or stolen phone, don’t be stupid and put you life in danger!!

          I am sorry but your dad was lucky, if not a little stupid

    • tiger
  • KUSH


    • Beauregard Stauffer


    • Paul M

      this the first good argument for non-removable batteries I’ve read.

  • Pete

    The 2 best apps to find your phone are Androidlost and GPSNagMe.

  • Afrikan Dionysus

    There should be an Icloud for android the way stolen iphones become useless without it is amazing.

  • This is something all Android users should know, whether if they can afford to pay for a new one or they do not; what is in the phone is often more precious than the piece of cheap plastic or shiny metal.

    • tiger
      • Goos

        If you care about your phone, iCrap is the last place to be.
        When I had my Android phone stolen at the beach, I located and had it back the next day from the police, but dozens of people with stolen iCraps lost any hope because they were just dumb iSheep, with no anti-theft app installed.

        • tiger

          Dozens of people?! LOL. anti-theft app?! LOL You are so damn ignorant that you don’t even know the difference! No, there is NO NEED for anti-theft app on iOS.

          READ the links dude. Even if you wipe your phone, then they still can read it.

          Oh yeah, I love Android…their amazing specs that are just shit in real life.

        • tiger

          Quote from above link:

          Lest antivirus providers attempt to use the findings to promote remote wiping features in their products, the researchers pointed to a separate paper they also published Thursday titled Security Analysis of Consumer-Grade Anti-Theft Solutions Provided by Android Mobile Anti-Virus Apps. It uncovered significant wiping flaws in 10 Android apps downloaded hundreds of millions of times. “We conclude the only viable solutions are those driven by vendors themselves,” they wrote.

  • mrjayviper

    Is there a similar tech to Apple’s Activation Lock for all Android Phones?

  • Divers Watch Face for Wear

    This is a very important information that should be shared. Our smartphone is an extension of our life and once it is gone it feels like we lost part of our life. Knowing way how to track your phone gives us chance that we can still get it back.

  • tiger
    • Paul M

      I think the paste key on your keyboard is jammed on.

      • tiger


  • Ishaan Malhotra

    Nothing like iCaughtU for iOS on Android? That was full-proof.

    • Hotbod Handsomeface

      *fool-proof. Nice try though, Apple fanboy.

      • tiger

        iOS Activation Lock not good?

      • Ishaan Malhotra

        Thanks for the correction but the fact is that you’re an idiot who likes to call others fanboys because you cant accept that something better is available. Im’m an LG G4 user and I am dissapointed that there is no equivalent to iCaughtU (if there is please do tell me ) on Android. Even though my primary device is an Android, I consider iOS as more advanced , so take your shit somewhere else.

        • Hotbod Handsomeface

          Lol, more advanced. You really are as stupid as you sound, fanboy. How about “GotYa!” as a replacement for your stupid icaughtu junk. Or go to the internet and download a copy of “caughtu for android” and install that. That took me all of 5 seconds to find two direct replacements for your garbage app. Maybe do some research before you open your ass.

          Interesting that every time I see a retarded apple commerical they are boasting about “new tech” that has been available on Android for a few years. Everything apple releases must be developed in their iMeToo division. But you keep paying for that “latest and greatest” apple tech, I’ll enjoy the same tech and more for free on my Android. Now go waste someone else’s time with your fucking loser remarks.

          • Ishaan Malhotra

            Wake me up when you grow up, boy. Yeah, apple commercials are stupid and they do copy everything mostly from Android and the jailbreak community, but it works better. Use it to believe it kid. Don tell me you have used it, cause i can tell you haven’t. Have encountered many like you.

          • Hotbod Handsomeface

            “Don” tell me you’re an educated mature individual as opposed to a stupid brat kid with your arguing over the internet, wetting your panties because I stated the truth about you being a fanboy, and your complete lack of spelling abilities. Come back when your diaper has been changed and you’ve done some research of your own through Google Search (which is another great product from Google – how is Safari treating you? LOL!) Unfortunately the internet is full of thin-skinned retards like you.

          • Ishaan Malhotra

            Ha! You really are a stupid little boy! I’m sure you googled everything you’ve written. I am surprised that a hill Billy like you knows the difference between ‘your ‘and ‘you’re’. Now go cry to your mommy. I am bored now.

          • Hotbod Handsomeface

            *hillbilly. Not surprising you can’t even insult correctly, as we’ve all witnessed your preschool knowledge of the English language. Also not surprising you are bored, what with your lame “jokes” that aren’t even amusing and just a waste of everyone’s time. Go study your English, then come on back and try to communicate with the rest of the intelligent world. Or go find a stick and a rock, someone of your level of retardation should be entertained for hours.

  • Goos

    I had my phone (a Nexus 4) stolen together with my photo camera at a beach in Cyprus last year.
    Fortunately I had Avast AntiTheft installed on it and I was able to locate it the next day, despite the fact that the phone was reset to factory defaults. I gave the location and the map to the local police, and they were kind enough to go and find the thief and my phone and camera, and I had them returned the next day.

    • dimps

      mate how duid you locate it.. my had avast antitheft too and itse probably been reseted too… i just got stolen earlier today

  • Nitinkumar Chobhe

    I don’t think ADM is that useful. It works ONLY if the data is ON with your google ID still present. If the phone is stolen, the first thing the thief will do is shut it off and throw away the SIM card. Then there is nothing that ADM can do.

    I lost Moto G 6 months ago and have been through this.

  • Is there a way to lock access to the flash “BIOS” of the phone? Because regardless of whatever security solution you implement in Android, a simple reset from “BIOS” would wipe the device as clean as new, allowing a thief to register it with his own personal data, basically making the phone his own.

    • tiger

      Actually, the thief can READ your “wiped” data…………..

      Thief wiping BIOS and using it as his phone is the BEST outcome you can hope for if you lose it. Worst is if he reads your wiped data including personal info and credit cards.

      • Average Joe

        That’s what whole-device encryption is for. They’re welcome to try to read the recovered encrypted data.

        • tiger

          Nope. Read ARSTECHNICA article. Encryption on Android is crap.

          “One of the most concerning findings is that data users presume has been wiped during reset in many cases can be recovered and read even when a phone has been protected with full-disk encryption.”

        • mobilemann

          no, the “bios” he’s referring to is the bootloader. you can’t unlock it and lock it on command. Encryption is another thing android does poorly.

      • Look, thieves don’t steal phones to access your data. They don’t give a damn about you or your data. They want to make a buck. And they do that by selling usable phones. And a stolen phone is quickly made usable with a “BIOS” wipe, which at the moment cannot be stopped by any security solutions Android might implement. The lockdown has to be made lower than Android. The “BIOS” should give the possibility to at least be locked with a password, like is the case of computers. Then just lock Android with whatever it is at hand: sim pin, OS password/pattern, storage encryption. I don’t see how someone would by a phone after that since it would not be easily made usable.

  • jirokanz

    My favourite is Cerberus.

  • Adu-Mensah

    Won’t work in my opinion since turning the data off just puts the whole idea off. Once I can factory reset the phone before it boots kills the whole idea.

  • Fabio Roveroto

    I really want to use Android Device Manager… But, if you compare with iPhone and iCloud locker…
    Google, I want this on my droid, please!
    You can format my iPhone, in a lot of different ways, when you turn on again, they lock!
    If you do this on Android… You have a new smartphone…

    • tiger

      Don’t forget that a clever thief can actually READ the old “wiped” info on your phone, e.g. emails, attachments, texts, pics, etc..
      Forget about the thief getting a new phone…that is the best thing that can happen…but if he is able to read your stuff on the phone, you have bigger issues!

      This also means that the ONLY way to get rid of old Android phones is to BURN IT. Selling it to the wrong crowd = you getting screwed!

  • derk p

    cerberus is wayyyyyy better

  • Umesh Rajput

    What if the theif is knowledgeable enough to go to the recovery mode and do a factory reset it from there which the power users will be known to. Then no Lookout, no Avast or Cyberus can help in that.

  • Jake

    Why isn’t “Lost Android” previously known as “Android Lost” not in this list. It does all these things and much more, (except record audio? Not sure will have to double check). I’m not going to mention everything it does here, (you can find it in the Play Store). For root users, you can set it as a system app, so it will survive a factory reset, which can be useful in recovering the phone. One feature that it has that I think is neat is that it will email you if the SIM card is changed. Best thing is that you can set-up trusted numbers and control your phone through SMS from those trusted numbers. Can also be controlled from your PC as well.

    • Paul M

      I put android lost on every device, for a free service it’s great.
      once I arrived at my desk at work and realised I’d either left phone in car or at home. I used androidlost to take a photo through the forward facing camera, and could see the inside of my car, so instant happiness without having to walk to the car park unnecessarily.


  • Arif Siddique

    What if the phone is stolen and the thief switched off the phone? And most of the thieves do this thing.

    • tiger

      The whole point of these anti-theft programs is to either locate and recover OR to wipe data clean so that thief cannot see your personal stuff.

      Yes switching phone off will prevent locate and recover. So, your best hope then is that the thief cannot read your personal data (emails, pics, texts, documents, etc.). And THIS is where Android Device Manager fails miserably. Android encryption is broken.

  • We can also find using some apps like “Forgot My Phone “

  • sam

    if YOU remotely ERASE ALL DATA FROM PHONE using Google Android Device Manager, will it keep password on it so thief won’t unlock it and use it??