Five Best Phone Recovery Tools

Losing your phone doesn't mean you'll never see it again. Using your phone's GPS and the right mobile app or service, you can track your lost phone, find out where you left it, and hopefully get it back. Thankfully there are services for all kinds of smartphones that promise to help you find your lost phone. Here's a look at the top five.

Photo by Kai Hendry.

Hopefully you'll never need to use one of them, but a few minutes of setup can help you track your phone if the unthinkable happens.

Seek Droid (Android)

Seek Droid is a simple, $0.99 utility to help you find your lost Android device. The app lets you find you device and track it on a Google map, remotely lock it, wipe it, and even see if anyone's picked it up and made calls from it. Additionally, Seek Droid allows you to sound the alarm or send a message to the phone to ask whoever has it to return it, and it can be hidden from the app list so someone can't just uninstall it. If you lose your device, just visit the Seek Droid site and manage the rest from a browser.

Find My iPhone (iOS)

Find My iPhone is a free utility from Apple that will help you find a lost iPhone, iPad or 4th generation iPod Touch, as long as iOS 3.1.3 or higher is running. The app used to be part of MobileMe, but Apple made the utility free, and when activated you can see your iOS device on a map, send a message or an alert to it, remotely lock or set a passcode to lock your phone, and remotely wipe it if you don't think you'll get it back.

Where's My Droid (Android)

Where's My Droid is a free utility that makes it easy to find a lost Android phone. The utility has one mode where you can use it to search for a lost phone that you know is somewhere in your home, and another mode where you can find your phone if it's been lost or stolen. The former will turn up the ringer and let it ring for a few minutes to help you find it. The latter will display the phone on a map with its current position via GPS. You can also send an SMS to the phone via email to be displayed on the phone's screen with contact information and how you can be reached.

Prey (Android)

Prey is an anti-theft and tracking service that's free for up to four devices, and supports Android phones as well as Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. Simply install the agent in the background, and if something happens to your device, you can report your device missing by sending a text message with an activation phrase (the default is "GO PREY") to your Android phone. When it's reported missing, it will automatically send periodic updates to Prey with the device's location, attempt to connect to nearby open wireless networks to send its location that way, and if you want, will sound an alarm, display an alert on the phone's display, and lock itself. Pay for the service (between $US5/month and $US399/month depending on the number of devices you want to track,) and you can track more devices and get more frequent updates.

Lookout (Android)

Lookout is free, and supports Android phones, BlackBerry phones, and Windows Mobile devices. If your device goes missing, Lookout will locate it, back it up wirelessly, and then wipe it so no one else gets their hands on your data. You'll need to have Lookout installed and running on your phone so you can get through to it when your phone goes missing, but once you tell it the phone is missing, you can manage everything else through a web browser. Lookout is also a personal security utility, and includes safe browsing, anti-spyware, and the ability to examine app permissions in the premium version of the Android app ($US2.99/mo or $US29.99/year.)

Honorable mentions this week go out to Plan B for Android, which can locate your stolen or lost Android phone without you having to install and set it up beforehand. The app an be push-installed via the Android Market, and once installed it starts sending your phone's location automatically. Also highly recommended is iLocalis, a location-tracking tool for jailbroken iPhones. iLocalis can make phone calls and send SMS messages from your iPhone even if it's been stolen, and even if the SIM has been changed.

Did we miss your favourite? Have something to say about one of the contenders? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


    No mention of WP&?

    Why are there no self destruct ones?

    If someone steals my phone, I want to log in somewhere that will overload the battery and TAKE THEIR HAND with it.

    You heard me.

      Or at least be able to access & rewrite the battery firmware/charging circuit instructions so it'll overheat & melt/burn out the device, internally. >:D

      You are awesome

    Are there any that initiate streaming audio/video from the phone? If someone has it, I want to eavesdrop on them, and see what the phone can see. And record all of that for use as evidence later.

    Just tried "Find My iPhone". Got a message saying it wasn't supported on my device (3GS running iOS 4.3.3)

    I hate my iPhone. Anyone want to swap for a Galaxy S2?

      nooooo. love android

    The free version of Lookout does not include a remote wipe option.
    Still a good app though.

      The free version of Lookout could only get as close as a kilometre without the wifi connected to the internet. Even then it was still outside the house property. I doubt it could locate a phone if it was turned off. If that's the best the free version can do I certainly wouldn't pay for the premium

    Just confirming, the free version of Find My iPhone only works on iPhone 4 or above.

    Apple are great at crippling their last gen products. I'm getting tired of it.

    Track & Protect for Nokia's. Does what all the above do plus remote wipe and take pictures from front and rear camera and post to secure web.

    Fwiw, i just did a drill on my iPhone on the weekend using the "10 wrong guesses wipes all data from phone" function. Mainly because I wanted to make sure it really worked, and it really worked in terms of restore.

    I backed up my iPhone by syncing to iTunes. I guessed the wrong password over and over again. After 5/10 times it said "iPhone is locked for 5 minutes.. Try Again Then"

    Then it went to 15mins, and the last 4 guesses were interspersed by 1 hour lockouts...

    After the 10 wrong guesses the iPhone went into a recovery state, then wiped all data and restored phone to OTB state.

    I plugged back into iTunes.... it detected the handset as one it previously knew and offered to RESTORE. I chose Yes Please and 15 minutes later my iPhone was back exactly how I'd left it.

    Nice to know it works...

    If you activate Find My iPhone on a mobileme account on a 4th gen device, you can then go on to use it on your 3GS. I set it up on my son's iPod 4th gen and now have it working OK on my 3GS.

      confirmed...I did this on my mothers 3gs (well, my old one) when I bought my 4

    What a great idea. Love these apps

    I use AndroidLost and it has helped me get my Galaxy S 2 back after losing it at a nightclub and having it taken home by a random the day after I got the phone. AndroidLost let me find the phone on Google Maps and take a picture and display it for me. I love AndroidLost and probably wouldn't have my phone right now if it wasn't for it. Oh, and its free!

    Is that one feature that requires root?
    I use it myself and it's great

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