It only takes a few seconds: You leave your phone on a counter in the store and walk away or someone bumps you into the street and takes your phone straight out of your pocket or bag without even noticing it.
Losing a phone, whether it is theft or an honest mistake, is a stressful experience. Not only does it break your access to the rest of the world, but your phone is the most personal device you own.
If your phone is missing, don't panic! There are tools built into all Android phones that allow you to easily lock and track a lost phone. But first, you need to take a few steps to set yourself up for success.
Create a secure lock screen
Do yourself a favor and enable passwords and fingerprint authentication. Do yourself another service and do not use face recognition on your Android device.
The technology used for face recognition on most Android deviceswith something as simple as a photo of your face. Face authentication can be more secure if actually adds official support for secure face-ID-like authentication to Android .
Next. create your password and set fingerprint authentication in the setup app in the Security section. I realize that you are scanning a fingerprint or entering a PIN every time you want to use the phone may be inconvenient, but the idea that someone has access to your photos, bank apps, emails and the rest of your personal information is quite scary.
An extra step to unlocking your phone is worth the effort when considering the potential impact of exposing your personal information to a stranger.
Google's Find My Device
When you sign in to an Android device with a Google Account, Search My Device is already on. Find My device is what you should use if your phone is ever missing for tracking, remote locking and remote control.
You can check that Search my device is enabled by opening the Settings app and going to Security and location > Find my device . If your device does not have a security and location option, go to Google > Security > Find My Device .
Search My device should be turned on. If not, slide the switch to the position on and exit the Settings app.
Samsung Find My Mobile
If you have a Samsung phone, in addition to Google's Search My Device service, you can – and should – set up Samsung's Find My Mobile service. It not only provides a backup service to track a lost phone, but it also gives you tools that don't find my device.
With Samsung's service you can do things that force remote backup or see if someone has replaced your SIM card. You must have a Samsung account to use Search my mobile.
On your Samsung phone, open the app Settings and go to Biometrics and security > Find My Mobile . If you signed in to your Samsung account during the installation of the original device, Find My Mobile must already be enabled. If not, take a few seconds to log in to your Samsung account and activate Search my mobile.
Remote lock, track a lost phone
Use Find my device
Using Android's embedded service, you need to remember one thing: android.com/find. That site is where you will go in the unfortunate event that you lose your phone. Make sure you sign in to the same Google Account linked to your Android phone.
Not near a computer? You can use another Android device and the Find My Device app that you need to download separately from the Play Store. Immediately after logging into the site or app, Google will try to find your phone.
A warning is sent to your phone to tell the person who has it that it is tracked. Use the menu on the left side of the Find My Device page to play a sound (useful if you misplaced it in your home!), Lock the device or completely erase the device.
If you select a secure device, the phone locks, displays a message you select on the lock screen, and logs out of your Google account. Don't worry, you can still find the phone when it's locked. If you use Google Pay for Mobile payments, the lock prevents your phone from someone using the phone to make a purchase.
If you use the Delete Device feature, you can no longer track the phone when it has been deleted. Book this feature as a last resort.
If the thief turns off the phone, you will not be able to track it until it is turned on and has a mobile or Wi-Fi connection. Google will send you an email when it has found your device.
Samsung Galaxy owners have the advantage of using Google's or Samsung's respective services to find a lost device, but I recommend using Samsung's offer. As you can see below, the extra features are invaluable.
To track a lost device with Samsung's service, you must visit findmymobile.samsung.com. There is no company app, so you must use a mobile browser on another phone or computer.
Sign in with your Samsung account and then select your lost device on the left side of the screen. A map shows where the phone is and a menu of options is displayed on the right side of the screen.
Start by locking the phone, showing a personal message on the lock screen, turning off your Samsung debit cards and preventing the phone from turning off.
Then create a backup of your phone. Should you lose it for good, you want a current backup of your phone. If the phone moves places, use the Track Location feature.
Enabling this feature tracks your phone every 15 minutes. Finally, turn on the Extend battery life feature – this almost disables everything on the phone, outside the location tracking.
Don't Confront Thieves
If your phone has been stolen and you can track the location, do not try to restore it yourself. Doing so can lead to you or someone else being injured, and it is simply not worth it despite the phone.
Contact local law enforcement instead and let them know that you need help in restoring a lost or stolen phone that you have been able to trace to a particular address.
Contact your carrier, register an insurance claim
If it becomes clear that you will never get your phone back, contact your operator and report your phone as lost or stolen. Doing this will blacklist your phone from the carrier's database and prevent another from using it.
When you call, your operator also wants to cancel your service. This is a good idea if you want to prevent someone from using your phone. Keep in mind, though, that if you still track your lost phone, you will lose a mobile connection to it – and unless your phone is registered on a Wi-Fi network, you will lose track of it.
Finally, if you pay for insurance on your phone, you must file a claim and pay the deductible to get your replacement phone. Get the insurance claim process started through your carrier, which will then probably refer you to the third insurance company that will replace your phone.
Good luck! We hope you never have to go through the emotional funicular to lose a phone, track it and try to get it back.
Originally published April 21 at 5:00 PT.