That feeling of panic and despair that hits your gut and steals your breath the moment you realize your phone is missing. It's awful. It's consuming. In a divided world of Android versus iPhone ($899 at Amazon), this common terror sometimes feels like the one thing that brings phone owners together.
Phones are prime targets for thieves, or for opportunists who get lucky and find a device its owner has unwittingly left behind. The small, portable nature of a phone makes it easy to conceal, unlike larger electronics like a laptop or stereo equipment. If someone can unlock your device, there may be a wealth of information to exploit you before selling your phone. If not, handsets can be stripped for valuable parts used to refurbish other phones, then sold for hundreds of dollars in profit.
So ask yourself: is your phone really as safe and secure as it could be? We've collected this practical checklist to keep your phone from straying, plus some specific products and tools that can help keep your phone in your orbit. As always, we'll tell you what to do if your Android or iPhone does go missing. Good luck, and stay alert.
First things first
- If you don't have a fingerprint, face scan or passcode set up, do that immediately.
- Make sure Android Find my Device or Find my iPhone is on.
- Set up backups on your iPhone or Android phone so if your phone goes missing you won't lose your data.
Take phone safety to the next level
- Use a PopSocket, a wrist strap like Phone Loops or a case with a lanyard or anything else that physically attaches it to you.
- If you're traveling in an area known for pickpockets, you might conceal your phone in a zipper scarf.
- Invest in a Bluetooth tracker tag like Tile that can alert you and ring your phone when you press the button.
- Go DIY and create a Velcro attachment -- on the case and on the inside of your bag -- so that you can quickly slap it into an unexpected and out-of-reach spot.
- Set up IFTTT for your Amazon Echo ($37 at Amazon) or Google Assistant to turn up your phone's volume and then call it if you can't find it in the house.
- When listening to walking directions, put the phone away and listen over headphones so you look confident instead of out of place.
- If you have an Apple Watch ($70 at Amazon) or Android-based smartwatch, you can monitor notifications and send quick replies while keeping your phone in your pocket.
Practical tips that are easier said than done
These may seem straightforward, but go ahead -- see how often you do these.
- Use a basic case to hide an expensive phone -- not a fancy one that shows off your $1,000 phone.
- Adopt an on-guard posture that keeps your hand on your phone, tucked under a leg, etc. at all times.
- Never leave your phone in the open while you walk away, even for a minute, even if you're keeping an eye on it -- use a sweater, a water bottle or literally anything else to save that table while you order.
- Remember that someone could grab your phone from your hand -- make it hard to get to while you're using it, especially on a train or in a crowded space.
- Keep your phone in the same place so you're more likely to feel the difference if someone takes it from you.
- Move your phone from your pants pocket to an inside jacket pocket, purse or bag when you're not using it, even if only for a few minutes -- the harder it is to get to, the harder it is to steal.
- If your phone is in a back pocket, leave your shirt untucked to cover it and use vibrate for your notifications so that it periodically reminds you it's there.
- Pay attention when people approach you on the street for directions, petitions, canvassing and so on.
What to do when your Android or iPhone is well and truly gone
1. Don't panic. It might be that your phone slipped between the couch cushions, you forgot it in the bathroom, or set it down for a minute when you rushed out the door.
2. Use your tools: Go straight to a laptop or other device (you can even borrow someone else's phone) and track it using Apple's Find my Phone (soon to be simply called Find My) or Android's Find my Device.