If a mobile device is misplaced or stolen, it is possible to find it using a locator app. A locator app is usually installed and configured on each mobile device before it is lost or taken. There is also an app that can be downloaded after an Android phone is missing to send an email or text message with the location of the missing phone.
Both Android and iOS have many different apps for remotely locating a device, but most iOS users use the Find My iPhone app. The first step is to install the app, start it, and follow the instructions to configure the software. The Find My iPhone app can be installed on a different iOS device to locate the lost device. If a second iOS device is not available, the device can also be found by logging in to the iCloud website and using the Find My iPhone feature. On Android devices, the method for locating the device is specific to the app that was installed. Log in to the website indicated by the app to find the missing Android device. Often an account needs to be created when the app is first installed. Log in to the website using this account.
After initiating the location option from a website or second iOS device, the locator app uses radios to determine the device’s location. Locator apps use location data from cellular towers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and GPS.
- Cellular towers - The app calculates the location of the device by analyzing the signal strength from the towers to which it can connect. Because the towers are at known locations, the location of the device can be determined. This is known as triangulation.
- Wi-Fi hotspots - The app looks up the approximate location of Wi-Fi hotspots that the missing device can detect. A file containing many known hotspots and their location is stored on the device.
- GPS - The app uses data from the GPS receiver to determine the location of the device.
NOTE: If the app is unable to locate the lost device, the device might be either turned off or disconnected. The device must be connected to either a cellular or wireless network to receive commands from the app or to send location information to the user.
After the device is located, you might be able to perform additional functions, such as sending a message or playing a sound. These options are useful if you have misplaced your device. If the device is close by, playing a sound indicates exactly where it is. If the device is at another location, sending a message to display on the screen allows someone to contact you if it has been found.