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Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Knowing how to track an Android phone can come in handy if your phone is ever lost or stolen. Your phone has so much of your personal, private information on it. If your device gets into the wrong hands, there’s no telling what someone might do with your sensitive info. Requiring a PIN or a fingerprint to unlock your phone can prevent unwanted access. But you can do so much more with a phone tracking app.

Understanding how to track a phone can also be beneficial for families who want to keep track of everyone’s locations. It’s worth mentioning though that we don’t encourage spying on anyone without their permission. If someone is being tracked by you, they should be aware.

Related: What should you do when your phone is lost or stolen?


What is mobile phone tracking?

The term mobile phone tracking can refer to either a phone being tracked or a phone doing the tracking.

Mobile phone tracking is useful for finding a lost phone. If you’re prone to constantly losing your phone, enabling a tracking app would probably be a smart move. Then, as long as your phone is connected to a mobile or Wi-Fi network, you can easily find it.

If your phone is stolen, using a tracking app can be a great way to get it back or at least prevent the thief from accessing your information.

If you use a tracking app to locate a thief at an address, do not confront them. Take the information to your local police department and let them help you retrieve your phone. There’s no way of knowing whether the person who stole your phone would be potentially armed and dangerous.

Check out: How to share your location in Google Maps on Android and iOS

Lastly, mobile phone tracking is useful for parents and their children.

The following example would be a worst case scenario. But imagine a child was kidnapped, but they had their phone on them; if it was connected to a mobile or Wi-Fi network, then they could be tracked. Or if a teenager didn’t come home when they were supposed to, tracking their phone can be a quick way to make sure they’re on their way home and that nothing bad has happened.

In many apps, this tracking goes both ways as well, so children can track their parent’s locations as well.


Can I track my Android phone if I never set up a tracking app?

Unfortunately, for many of the best tracking apps and their features, you need to set up tracking apps prior to your phone being lost or stolen in order for them to work. This is why proactive measures are extremely important. It really doesn’t take more than a few minutes to set everything up, and you’ll be grateful that you did if you end up needing to track your phone.

If your phone is lost or stolen and you have never set up a tracking app, you still have a chance to track your phone. You may not have a whole lot of functionality, but you can at the very minimum find the location of your phone.

Also read: How to tell if someone is spying or tracking my Android phone

Unless you have turned off your phone’s location, Google will have a record of your location history. You can log in to the Maps location history with the Google account that’s on your device and see all of your location data.

Or, on a web browser, you can also use Android Device Manager, which comes pre-installed on all Android 2.2 devices all the way up to the newest Android devices. Just log in with the Google account that’s on your device and you’re good to go. Through Android Device Manager, you can make your phone ring for 5 minutes. You won’t have access to some of the other features though unless you set it up previously.

However, your best bet is going to be setting up a tracking app or two prior to your phone being lost or stolen. This way, you’ll have full access to all the features and won’t run into as many obstacles.


How to track an Android phone

When it comes to tracking your Android device, it boils down to two main categories. Do you want your location and tracking information to be monitored and managed by huge companies like Google or Samsung? Or do you want for your info to be monitored by smaller, private app developers?

First, let’s take a look at the tracking apps from Google and Samsung. Then, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your information with either of those companies, check out some other awesome tracking apps here.

Google’s Find My Device app

google find my device app

Google’s Find My Device app is probably the most popular tracking app for Android devices. It’s free to download from the Google Play store and can track all devices that you’re currently signed into. 

In addition to tracking your devices, you can also remotely erase data from your device and lock it. When you lock the device remotely, you also have the option to write a message with a phone number someone could call if they find your phone. 

This feature is already somewhat enabled if you’ve added a Google account to your Android phone. If you have never downloaded the app, you’ll only be allowed the features outlined above with Android Device Manager. When you download the Find My Device app, you get access to those extra features like remotely erasing and locking your phone. 

In order for any of these features to work, your phone has to be connected to either mobile data or Wi-Fi. 

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Samsung’s tracking features

Samsung phones come with a few built-in tracking features. You’ll need to set up a Samsung account in order to use them, but it’s well worth it. If you have a Samsung, the tracking features offered here are better than those offered by Google’s app. 

To access Samsung’s tracking features and set up or login to your account, go to Settings > Biometrics and security > Find My Mobile. After you connect your Samsung account, you’re good to go. You can enable additional features, like:

  • Remote unlock: You have the ability to control a lost phone remotely, even when it’s locked with a PIN, pattern, or password.
  • Send last location: When your battery percentage falls below a certain level, your phone will send its last location to a Find My Mobile server.
  • Offline finding: You can find your phone even when it’s offline.

You can suspend any cards that are in Samsung pay to prevent a thief from using them. There’s also a backup feature, which is nice just in case you don’t end up ever getting your phone back. Then, you can remotely turn on the extend battery life feature, essentially disabling everything else besides location tracking. 

To track down your phone, you can access the Find My Mobile data on their website. You will need to log in to your Samsung account online and then you can see everything. 

Samsung also has the SmartThings app that can help you find the location of your phone and other devices when they’re offline. To find offline devices, it tells nearby Samsung devices to find your device’s Bluetooth signal and then report its location. Plus, this is anonymous too so it won’t tip anyone off. 


Wrapping it up

One major takeaway is something we mentioned earlier in the article, but it bears repeating. If your phone is stolen and you track down where it is, take that tracking number to your local authorities. You never know what might happen if you confront the person who stole your phone so it’s best to err on the side of caution. 

We hope you never have to go through the stress of losing a phone or having it stolen. You can ease that future stress by preparing for it now. If you set up tracking apps and settings now, you’ll thank yourself later if you ever find yourself needing to track down your phone. 

Read next: Tracking apps do help – a tale of a phone thief, his coworker and selfies

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