Every day, over 100 thousand cell phones are lost or stolen in the United States. Some are forgotten at work. Others are picked out of pockets or purses. And some simply vanish; they were sitting on the kitchen table one day and then they are gone the next.
For many years, ever since phones shed their cords and became portable, there were few ways to deal with a lost or stolen phone besides simply using another phone and dialing the number. If someone answered, perhaps they benevolently picked it off the ground and are willing to give it back. If nobody answered, your best bet was to walk around the house or the office and listen for a ring. The only other real recourse was to see if anyone put charges on your phone bill. If the bill showed a recent call, services such as Anywho.com could potential be used to track down the caller.
More after the break
But a number of Android apps have made these approached unnecessary. While there are a multitude of programs to choose from, most operate similarly: they provide a website through which someone can track their phone. If the phone is lost, then, all you need to do is go to the site, log on, and check the map that tracks your phone’s GPS signal. At that point, if it appears that the phone has been stolen (ie, the GPS doesn’t indicate that it’s sitting in your house), many apps offer users the ability to trigger an alarm or to wipe the phone clean of data.
Others also allow users to send a message to the phone, check any IP address it may be using, and even snap a picture of the potential thief’s face. At this point it must be cautioned, owners are best served to turn over such information to law enforcement authorities. Just because you can determine the phone’s location, doesn’t mean that it’s safe to go after.
Users of these apps should also be aware that none of the programs work if the phone’s GPS is disabled. Some smartphone thieves, with this in mind, immediately attempt to disable the GPS when they acquire a stolen phone. While this action isn’t fully preventable, a basic phone security system with password protection should be sufficient to stop – or at least delay – most thieves.
In most cases, though, a lost phone is just that – misplaced, and with no malicious behavior involved. In these cases, phones tracking apps are incredibly helpful. Certainly, they are better than the old methods.