How to Prepare for a Lost or Stolen Smartphone

You never want to think it will happen: Your smartphone — and everything inside it — is missing. Has it been lost or stolen? You can’t find it anywhere. It feels like a catastrophe. 

Luckily, with a bit of preparation, you can mitigate the fallout. In this week’s tip, we’ll give you some easy-to-follow steps you can take today to protect the data in your iPhone or Android phone — and hopefully get it back — before it goes missing.

Before we begin: If you have already lost your smartphone, or it’s been stolen, please check out our blog post, “How to quickly find a lost or stolen phone.” 

Now, here’s how to prepare, just in case: 

For both Android and iPhone users:

  1. Enable Lock Screen Security

It may seem basic, but the first line of defense is often overlooked. Enable PIN, password, pattern, or biometric (fingerprint or facial recognition) security. This will prevent unauthorized access if your device ends up in the wrong hands. Here’s how on an iOS device and Android.

  1. Regularly Backup Your Data

Regular backups ensure that your data, including photos, contacts, and files, are safe. Both Android and iOS offer automatic backup services – Google Drive for Android and iCloud for iOS. Make sure you have this feature turned on and your important data is being backed up regularly.

  1. Know How to Use Your Phone Finder App

Both iOS and Android platforms have built-in phone finder apps – ‘Find My’ for iOS and ‘Find My Device’ for Android. These apps allow you to locate, ring, or wipe your device if it’s lost or stolen. Make sure they’re activated and you know how to use them.

For iPhone Users:

  1. Enable ‘Send Last Location’

In your ‘Find My’ settings, ensure the ‘Send Last Location‘ feature is turned on. If your battery is critically low, your device will automatically send its location to iCloud, which can be crucial in finding a lost phone.

For Android Users:

  1. Set Up a ‘Lock Screen Message’

Before you lose your phone, you can set a lock screen message so that it will appear when your phone is locked, enabling anyone who finds your phone to contact you. It could be as simple as “If found, please contact (alternative contact details)”.

Here’s how (this may vary by model): Open the Settings app > Security & location > Screen lock preferences > Lock screen message.

  1. Secure Your Google Account

Your Google account is the key to much of your phone’s data. Ensure you have a strong, unique password and two-step verification enabled to prevent unauthorized access.

Remember, prevention is better than cure. It’s easy to think, “It won’t happen to me,” but it’s much less stressful to spend a few minutes now to prepare for the worst than it is to deal with the consequences of a lost or stolen phone. Stay safe, stay connected, and, most importantly, stay prepared.