Google's Find My Device, previously known as Android Device Manager, helps you find lost or stolen phones and tablets.
The feature works similarly to other locator services, such as Lookout and Samsung's Find My Mobile, but you get an app specifically for Android devices. Here's how to get started with Find My Device.
Enable the settings
For most devices to work with Find My Device, it will need to be logged into your Google account, online and have its Location feature turned on. Some phones have security features that can prevent the erase feature of the app from working, though. Just to make sure, if you have a newer Android device, go to the Settings > Google > Security. Under the Android Device Manager section, the locator feature should be enabled by default. To enable remote data wipe, tap the slider next to "Allow remote lock and erase."
On older devices you can go to the Google Settings app, and then tap on Android Device Manager. To enable remote data wipe, tap on the box next to "Allow remote factory reset," then tap Activate.
Download the app
To use Find My Device, go to the Play Store and install the Find My Device app on another device, such as another phone or tablet. There are several apps with similar names, so be sure to download the one that lists "Google Inc." as the developer.
Next, log in with your Google account. You may get a prompt asking you for permission to allow Find My Device to use location data. Click on Accept to continue.
Once you're logged in, a dashboard will pop up that shows you where your phone is and several options:
- Location: The location of your Android device will appear automatically on the map, along with the battery level, information on whether your phone is online and when it was last located. You can zoom in and out of the map to check out the location.
- Play Sound: The location data is an approximation and may not help you figure out if it's hiding somewhere in your home. Instead of having someone call your phone to help you find it, you can choose to ring your device from the app by pressing the Play Sound option. This will cause your device to ring for 5 minutes at the highest volume, even if it's set on silent or vibrate. To stop the ringing, tap the power button on your phone.
- Lock: The lock option can be useful if you want to lock your Android device so no one can access your data while you're trying to recover your lost device. To lock your device, click on the Lock option. Enter your new password twice, add a contact number for anyone who may find your phone and then tap the Lock button. Once the command is sent to your device, it will lock it immediately, even if it's being used.
- Erase Device: If you think you've lost your device for good and would like to force a factory reset to protect your personal data, choose the Erase option. This will erase all your apps, photos, music and settings from your device. If your device is offline when you send the erase command, it will perform the reset the next time it comes online. Once your device has been wiped, you will no longer be able to access it from the app. Also keep in mind that a remote factory reset may not wipe external SD memory cards.
Remember, if your device has been stolen, contact the police and let them do their jobs. With Find My Device, your data is safe, so make sure you stay safe as well. Don't attempt to retrieve the device on your own.
Editors' note, May 16: This post was originally posted on August 8, 2013. It has since been updated with new information.