Tech Tip #5: Recovering and safeguarding a lost phone


We rarely go anywhere without our phones these days.  So, it’s inevitable that we will end up misplacing or losing our phone sooner or later.  With all of our personal data on it and not to mention the high price that we have to pay for the phone, the loss of our phone can leave a sinking feeling in your stomach.

This article will discuss the sequence of steps that you can follow to ‘find’ your misplaced or lost phone and what to do if this rescue step is unsuccessful.   

  • Use ‘remote localization’ feature to locate and find your phone.
  • If you are unable to locate your phone, your primary goal is to safeguard your data.  A recommended option is to delete your data remotely.  This is a drastic measure you will need to take, but it is a necessary step to safeguard your personal data. 

The most important steps to keep your phone secure are:

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  • setup a passcode for your phone as described here
  • ensure that your phone is encrypted as shown here


A.  iPhones

Find your phone setting - set this up as soon as you get your phone

You can locate your phone when you have lost or misplaced it by communicating with it from the iCloud. This is an extremely useful ‘phone-locating’ feature that you can use when you have misplaced or lost your phone. The ‘Find my phone’  setting need to be ‘enabled’ BEFORE you lose your phone.

On iPhones, go to your “Settings” and tap on iCloud (Figure 1). Set the ‘Find my iPhone’ from OFF to ON, Figure 2.

Find my Phone


















Figure 1: iCloud option in Settings                      Figure 2: Find my iPhone option in Settings










Figure 3. Turn On the Find my iPhone and send last location setting

When your iPhone is misplaced  or lost, you can now use the iCloud to locate your phone.

Steps to locate your phone

Login to the iCloud on a desktop computer or another Internet-connected phone with your Apple ID and password.  If you have forgotten your Apple ID, you can follow steps here to get your Apple ID.

Click on “Find iPhone” and it will list all the devices that you have configured with your Apple account. Select the phone that is missing. If the ‘Find my iPhone’ is not enabled, or the phone is not connected to Internet, or the phone is turned off, you will get the message shown in Figure 4.If the ‘Find my iPhone’ app has been enabled, If the phone is connected and linked to the Internett, then it will show you the exact location of the phone (Figure 5).

Find my iPhone from the computer   iPhone offline












Figure 5.    Login to the iCloud                         Figure 6.  iPhone is offline so you cannot locate it.

iPhone located













Figure 7. Lost iPhone location found from the iCloud

Options to set up lost mode/erase iPhone









Figure 8. Options to Play a sounds on the lost iPhone, setup lost mode or erase all data on the phone

Send a message to your lost phone

You can display a message on your misplaced or lost phone to request the finder to call you or return your phone. First, you place the phone in lost mode (Figure 8). Once you set the phone in ‘Lost mode’, you can set up a message that will be displayed on the phone (Figure 9) in case someone has found your lost phone and is in possession of it.

Lost Phone message












Figure 9. Lost Mode setup                                                 Figure 10. Setting up a SOS message

What should you do when your iPhone can’t be found?

If you know your phone has been stolen or you have lost it and need to safeguard your data, your best option is to erase all the data on your lost phone from your iCloud.

You have to be absolutely sure that you want to erase the data on your phone as this option is irreversible.

Once you are logged in and can “find your phone”, click on “Erase iPhone” using the “Erase iPhone” button on the iCloud (as shown in Figure 8).


Steps to take if your iPhone is misplaced or lost (‘Find My iPhone’ enabled)

  1. Sign in to on a Mac or PC, or use the Find My iPhone app on another iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  2. Find your device. ...
  3. If your iPhone cannot be located the, turn on ‘Lost Mode’. ...
  4. Erase your device.

Report your lost or stolen device to local law enforcement. ...

B. Android Phones

Androids provide similar capabilities as iPhones for dealing with the loss or theft of your phone.

Similar to the iPhone, the ‘phone-locating’ apps need to be ‘enabled’ while the android phone is in your possession.

Go to Settings and tap on Google (Figure 11.)


















Figure 11. Click on Google on Android Settings         Figure 12. Click on Security under Google settings


Android Device Manager

  Figure 12.

Click on Security and turn on ‘Allow remote lock and erase’ by toggling the setting.

Now, your Android is all set to-be-found when it is lost and in the unfortunate event you are unable to get back your phone, you can now erase all the data remotely. 

About the Author:  Nirupama Mallavarupu is the Founder and CEO of MobileArq, a boutique software company based in Summit, NJ. MobileArq is offering a build-an-app course starting this winter for high school students. Limited spots available at this point. Please check it out at .  Send any questions you have about the article or the course.


The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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