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How to recover a lost or stolen Android phone

Some criminal mastermind has snatched your Android smartphone. Or perhaps you accidentally left it sitting in the back of a cab / on a cafe table and it was a crime of opportunity. Either way, it’s gone and you need to find it.

With a little preparation, these lost phone moments are nowhere near as tense as they once were. In fact, they take on the feeling of Spy vs. Spy as you go head to head with your phone’s abductor… though hopefully with fewer gratuitous explosions.

We subscribe to the belief that people are in general are fundamentally good. Hopefully, your phone is in the hands of a good samaritan but he or she doesn’t know how to contact you given that, you know, you don’t have a phone at the moment.

In either case, Prey can help. It lets you track your phone on your computer or any device with a web browser. You can send a command to make your phone make noise to aid in locating it. You can lock the phone down or even have it take and send you a picture of its surroundings and the person using it.

How to use Prey

Grab Prey in the Google Play store and install it.

Open the app and create a new Prey account. You’ll be asked for your name, email and a password. Don’t use an email address that is pushed to your Android phone otherwise the person currently holding your phone may be able to see all the information that you see.

Go into Prey’s settings and check out what’s available… there’s a lot to go through but it’s all relatively self explanatory.

If you lose your phone

Have a friend text the activation message to your phone. By default, this message is “GO PREY.”

In a web browser, go to the Prey Project site and log in with the email address and password you set when signing up with Prey on your smartphone.

Here you can set the length of time between alerts (from 10 to 40 minutes with a free account), you can activate Prey, turn on GPS pinpointing, receive network information and even grab a picture of the perp. You can blast an alarm even in silent mode, send a message to offer a reward or lock the device completely from the remote interface.

Click on Reports to view the latest information from your device, including its physical location on a Google Map. With a free account, you can store up to 10 reports. Once this limit is reached, new reports will overwrite older ones.

How Prey differs from other phone finders

Prey lets you password protect the app as well as block uninstall attempts by a would-be thief. The online control panel gives you great insight into what’s going on with your phone.

The free version is powerful enough to track down and find your lost phone as well as any two other devices like tablets or laptops.

Pro level accounts start at $5 per month. Paid accounts allow more devices to be monitored. They bump the 10 stored reports limit and change the shortest interval between reports from every 10 minutes to every two minutes along with a few other features.

Do you have another errant Android phone locator you’d recommend? Have you lost and subsequently recovered (or not recovered) a lost phone? Let us know in the comments below.