Your mobile phone is probably your most important digital possession that holds your contacts, emails, text messages, personal photos and other confidential stuff that you would not like anyone else to see. Yet, it is so easy to lose one as you are carrying it everywhere you go.
There are a plethora of security apps in the Google Play store that help you safeguard your Android phone and offer options that increase your chances of locating your lost (or stolen) device. The Lookout app was the most popular choice for determining the location of a lost phone but with Google’s own Android Device Manager available, Lookout can be skipped (unless your phone is running an older version of Android).
The Android Device Manager shows a list of all Android phones and tablets that are connected to your Google Account and helps you locate them on a Google Map. You can ring your phone (in case it is hiding beneath the pillow) from the browser, lock the device with a custom PIN or perform a factory reset which permanently deletes all the data on your phone.
Android Device Manager requires that the device is online – connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi – for you to remotely ring, lock or erase the phone. There’re however apps like Prey and Where’s my Droid app that let you remotely send commands to your phone via text messages.
For instance, an SMS command like “GO PREY” to your lost phone from any other mobile phone will ring the phone, record its geo-location and also captures a picture with the front camera. You can also lock your phone, erase the data, show a system notification or take a picture on-demand through commands sent via text messages.
Both Prey and Where’s My Droid can be configured to send SMS alerts to another number should someone try to change the existing SIM card of your phone. That said, you should also activate the SIM lock on your Android phone (Settings -> Security -> Setup SIM Card lock) and the device will require a password whenever it is powered on.
When you are charging your cell phone at a public station, you either have to watch the device all the time or you can activate the Anti-Theft Alarm app and relax a bit. The app will trigger a siren sound when someone disconnects the charger and your phone screen will flash continuously until the correct pin is entered. You can go a step further and configure the app to trigger an alert when someone moves the phone even a few inches from the original position.
Another Android App LockWatch records the phone’s location and captures a picture with a front camera when someone attempts to unlock the phone but enters a wrong PIN or password. This information is send to your email address and it happen silently so the intruder would never know that their activity has been recorded.
If the device gets lost or stolen, it is important that you report the matter to your carrier and the police and they are likely to ask for details like the device’s IMEI number, IMSI, SIM number, etc. It helps if you can keep a record of this information somewhere outside your phone. You can find the IMEI number by dialing *#06# or get the SIM reader app and it will instantly extract the SIM and Device info that you can save to your email account.
One more thing. You have protected your Android phone with a numeric PIN or a more complex alphanumeric password but these are obviously inconvenient as you have type the string every time you turn on the screen. A free app called SkipLock makes you life a bit easier.
The app will basically remove the lock when you are connected to one of the recognized Wi-Fi networks and restores the lock as soon as you are on 3G or a non-recognized Wi-Fi network. Thus, the phone stays unlocked when you are home but as soon as you step out, the lock becomes active. Since the SkipLock app isn’t in the Google Play Store, you’ll have to enable Unknown Sources to install the APK file on your phone.