If you’ve ever had a lost or a stolen phone you already know how this can hurt in so many ways: from all that money lost if it was an expensive device to its content (especially If you didn’t have it backed up somewhere else) and of course, the risk of privacy invasion and even identity theft. Even if you’ve been lucky enough so far and never lost a phone in your life, as smartphones get more powerful and expensive, they become increasingly attractive for thieves, so taking some protection measures is a must.
Besides setting up various methods to protect your phone’s contents, including your personal credentials, there are a variety of apps that can help you track and remotely control your lost phone so you’ll have a pretty good chance at recovering it. And since Android wearables can easily get lost or stolen too, we’ve got you covered in that department as well.
Google’s Android Device Manager is one of the OS built-in features – although it should be enabled by default, you should still make sure it actually is. You can find the Android Device Manager options in your phone’s Google Settings -> Security.
The app can remotely locate your device, but also lets you remote lock and factory reset your phone. For the location tracking to work, your device needs to be connected to the Internet and to your Google account. You can simply search Google for ‘Where’s my phone?’ to get your phone’s location on a map in search results.
In terms of reliability I would honestly give ADM 2.5 stars right now. On some devices it doesn’t work at all, on others errors occur often and location tracking is not very accurate so don’t expect to walk right to your thief and pry your phone out of his hands. Also, ADM needs your phone to be online, so if it was offline when you lost it or it got stolen and the thief was smart enough not to connect it to the Internet, the app won’t work.
Cerberus is still the no. 1 anti-theft app for Android devices, as it has the most comprehensive collection of features that not only let you locate your phone, but also control it remotely from your web browser or via SMS, make it ring even if it was set to silent mode, display a message on the screen and access the complete location history of the device.
The app can even use your phone’s camera to take pictures and record videos of the thief, retrieve call history and wipe your phone’s internal storage and the SD card. The app’s settings offer a number of security options designed to prevent the thief from disabling or uninstalling Cerberus. Also, it lets you block the Power Menu and disable access to the status bar from the lock screen.
Cerberus is even more powerful for rooted devices since in this case it can be installed as a system app and as a result survive factory resets. Another handy feature available for rooted phones is the ability to automatically enable GPS once you start tracking the device.
There’s also some support for Android Wear. The app lets you connect your wearable and it can display a notification on your wrist when it loses connection with your phone.
Should the phone be offline, the app still lets you control it remotely via SMS, even if the SIM card is changed. Cerberus costs a little over 5$ (the same license can be used to manage up to 3 devices), but it does have a 7-day free trial.
This app offers an interesting option for theft prevention if you’re used to leaving your phone unattended or charging in public places. It lets you set a motion alarm that goes off if someone tries to move the phone, and a charging alarm that goes off when the phone is unplugged from the charger, among others.
You can also set a delay for alarms, so you’ll have enough time to enter your PIN or pattern lock before they go off. While Anti Theft Alarm only works for these specific situations in which your phone is either charging or not moving, it does its job very well. The app’s free version is ad-supported and users can upgrade to pro via an IAP.
Lookout is a full-fledged security app with a built-in antivirus scanner also packing a number of anti-theft features. This app is freemium so if you want more than location tracking you’ll have to upgrade it through in-app purchases.
The premium version also sends automated theft alerts via email which include the phone’s location and a mugshot of whoever is messing with your device. If you need a well-rounded security app with built-in anti-theft features, Lookout is worth taking a look at (pun intended).
Find My Android Phone! Doesn’t offer too many features – the app can locate phones using GPS in real-time and it does it pretty accurately. However, it does have some unique traits: it lets you track multiple devices (including feature phones) and it’s cross platform being also available for iOS and Windows Phone.
Besides using it to find lost and/or stolen devices, this app can also be useful in tracking your children for example. It may seem a bit intrusive, but in today’s dangerous world, it can certainly give concerned parents some piece of mind.
Where’s My Droid has a robust set of features that are quite easy to set up, although you will have to spend some time reviewing all of them. The free version offers some decent capabilities like GPS location tracking, location alert on low battery, make your phone ring/vibrate, app password protection and notification when the SIM card or phone number changes on your phone and a few more.
The $3.99 upgrade to Pro offers some additional useful feature like the ability to remotely take pictures with your phone’s camera, remote wipe function for SD card and phone data, remote device lock, app uninstall prevention, app activation via landline and the option to hide the app icon.
Avast Anti Theft
Avast may be an antivirus company but they offer some other utility apps in the Play Store, among which is their Anti Theft app. This one bundles all essential anti theft features like GPS location and tracking, remote locking and wiping, remotely take photos and even turn on the microphone to listen audio, SIM card change notification and a stealth mode that hides the app. All supported remote commands can be triggered via web or SMS.
Some of its best premium features include Geofencing – a function that lets the app perform specific actions once the phone leaves a set perimeter –, automatically take pictures when someone attempts to unlock the device and remote data retrieval. The paid app is not cheap though – you’ll have to pay a $1.99/month or $14.99/year subscription to access the premium features. Interesting enough most of them are also available in the Avast Mobile Security app that has the same subscription fees.
The company also offers Avast Anti Theft (rooted) which offers some additional features for rooted phones (these are not premium features, even users of the free versions will have them) like an option to rename the app (to make it harder to spot), remote reboot, block USB access to the phone, maintain data connectivity and last but certainly not least, the app will remain installed even after a hard reset.
Prey is another popular anti-theft app that comes with all of the features you’d expect from such an app. There’s GPS and WiFi tracking, remotely taking pictures using front and back cameras, remote lock, make the phone ring, show a custom message on the screen, SIM card change detection, uninstall protection and others.
Remote phone wipe is only available for those who upgrade to a Prey Pro account along with the ability to track more devices (the free account lets you track only 3), on demand reports, SSL encrypted information and remote deletion of browser data and of emails & passwords.
Subscriptions can be made via the Prey website but I have to say, they are somewhat expensive unless you are looking for cross-platform support. The $5/month Personal subscription is somewhat decent, but it’s also missing the remote phone wipe function, which you only get in the $15/month Home subscription.
A really simple app, but worth mentioning nonetheless, Find My Phone (Android Wear) basically allows you to make your phone ring from your smartwatch. As expected, the phone will ring even if it’s set on silent mode, plus the app lets you set up some visual signals using your screen brightness and the flashlight. The app is free, but some alarm customization options are only available via the $1.99 IAPs. It does the job, but obviously you’ll have to be within close proximity to your phone, in order to actually work.
Wear Aware also lets you ring your phone from your Android Wear watch, but it does have something extra. If you walk away from your phone (or someone tries to steal it), your watch will make loud sounds, show a red display and vibrate all at the same time, as soon as it loosed the connection with your smartphone.
I find the developer’s description of the app to be very accurate – Wear Aware ‘acts like a leash’ between your phone and watch offering a preventive measure for both forgotten and stolen phones. Also, this app is absolutely free, so if you’re an Android Wear owner, at the very least give it a try.
Are you using an anti-theft app right now? What do you like most about it and what are some similar apps that let you down in the past?
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