Lose your phone? Google can help find it or keep strangers out of it

Losing your phone is no longer the worst thing in the world.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
4 min read

It's not the end of the world if you leave your phone behind.

Angela Lang/CNET

We've all been there. You're already running late and you can't find your phone. Or worse -- you set it down or it falls out of your pocket and you really lose your phone. Did you just get a cold chill? These days, our lives are essentially on our phones , so it's a pretty big deal when they go missing. Don't worry though, Google can help in more ways than one.

Google Home

If you're like me and often lose your device between the couch cushions, in bed or leave it on the dresser, Google Home is a lifesaver (especially when you're running late.) 


Just ask your Google Home Speaker "Hey Google, where's my phone?" and Google will make your device ring until you find it. For that to work, Google just needs to know your voice, which you do through Voice Match when you set up your Google Home speaker. 

Google Account

If your phone is definitely lost, don't worry, there's still hope. Gmail to the rescue. You can get similar results by searching "find my phone." You'll still need to sign in to your Gmail though.

Recovery from a PC

  1. Log onto your PC. 
  2. Go to Google if that's not already your homepage
  3. Click the profile icon in the upper right hand corner
  4. Click Google Account
  5. Click Security on the left hand side
  6. Click Find a lost or stolen phone (this will be under a section called Your devices)
  7. Select your device (older phones or a PC you use might display)
  8. Verify that it's you by typing in your email password
Angela Lang/CNET

Recovery from mobile

  1. Tap the Gmail icon
  2. Tap add another account if it's not your phone. If you've got a second phone tap Manage your Google Account.
  3. Scroll across the top and tap Security
  4. Scroll down to Your devices and tap Find a lost or stolen phone
  5. Select your device
  6. Verify that it's you by typing in your email password

From here, Google can do a few things. Most importantly, you want to find your phone, so click or tap Locate. Your Wi-Fi can be off, but the location has to be turned on or you'll only see the phone's last known location. If it's accurate, the icon will be green. If it's the last known location, it'll be gray. Click the green icon, Google Maps will open and give you coordinates to find your phone. For example, when I try it on mine, (obviously my phone is on my desk) my computer gives me my work address. I can then click or tap Play Sound and Google will make my device ring for five minutes, even if it's on silent. 

Unfortunately, we don't always leave our phones somewhere we're familiar with. If that's the case, you can click or tap Secure Device. This will lock your phone (if you don't already have a password on it) and sign you out of your Google account. You can still locate your phone though. Securing your device also lets you leave a recovery message and an alternate phone number in case a good samaritan finds your phone. 

If all else fails, your DEFCON 1 option is to tap or click Erase the Device. Any information that wasn't recently backed up to Google will be gone and you won't be able to locate the phone any longer. The phone's data will be erased next time it comes online, according to Google. If it doesn't come back online, it won't be erased. 

iPhone users

We didn't forget about iPhones. Unfortunately, Find My Device, is limited to Android, but Google Home can still find your iPhone. It won't work if it's on silent though. Here's how to set it up:

You'll need to add your phone number under your My Account privacy settings. Go to myaccount.google.com/privacy, then go to Phone > Add Recovery Phone. Enter your phone number and click Next, followed by Get Code. Enter the six-digit code and click Verify

If you have registered devices, the Google Home will ask if you want to try those first. Say "No," until Google says "Let's try something else." Then it will move on to phone numbers associated with your Google Account, which should be your iPhone number.


Google Find My Device App

You can also download the free Google Find My Device app. The layout is almost identical to using the Gmail recovery process. Either sign in with your email account or use a guest option. Give the app access to location to start the process. It's basically just another tool to have in case you or a friend loses their phone. An added perk of the app is its indoor maps feature, which you can also find on Google Maps. It helps when you might've lost your phone in a mall or an airport

Watch this: How to find your lost Android phone