Credit: David Imel / Android Authority
Knowing how to track an Android phone can come in handy if your phone is ever lost or stolen. There is so much of your personal, private information on your phone. If your device ends up in the wrong hands, there’s no telling what someone might do with your sensitive information. If you require a PIN or fingerprint to unlock your phone, you can prevent unwanted access. But there is so much more you can do with a phone tracking app.
Understanding phone tracking can also be helpful for families who want to keep track of everyone’s locations. It’s worth noting, however, that we don’t encourage spying on anyone without their permission. If someone is being followed by you, they should be aware of this.
Related: What should you do if your phone is lost or stolen?
What is cell phone tracking?
The term cell phone tracking can refer to a phone being tracked or a phone doing the tracking.
Cell phone tracking is useful for finding a lost phone. If you’re constantly losing your phone, turning on a tracking app is probably a smart move. As long as your phone is connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi network, you can then easily find it.
If your phone is stolen, using a tracking app can be a great way to get it back or prevent the thief from accessing your data.
If you’re using a tracking app to locate a thief to an address, don’t confront him. Take the information to your local police and let them help you locate your phone. There is no way to know if the person who stole your phone might be armed and dangerous.
Checking out: How to Share Your Location in Google Maps on Android and iOS
Finally, cell phone tracking is helpful for parents and their children.
The following example would be a worst case scenario. But imagine if a child was kidnapped, but they had their phone with them; if it was connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi network, they could be tracked. Or if a teen didn’t come home at the right time, tracking their phone can be a quick way to make sure they’re on their way home and nothing bad has happened.
In many apps, this tracking also works in two directions, so kids can track their parents’ locations as well.
Can I track my Android phone if I have never set up a tracking app?
Unfortunately, many of the best tracking apps and their features require you to set up tracking apps before your phone is lost or stolen for them to work. That is why proactive measures are extremely important. It really doesn’t take more than a few minutes to set everything up, and you’ll be grateful you did when you end up having to track your phone.
If your phone is lost or stolen and you’ve never set up a tracking app, you still have the chance to track your phone. You may not have much functionality, but you can at least find the location of your phone.
Also read: How do I know if someone is spying on or tracking my Android phone?
Unless you’ve turned off your phone’s location, Google will keep track of your location history. You can log into Maps location history with the Google account that is on your device and view all your location information.
Or you can also use Android Device Manager in a web browser, which is pre-installed on all Android 2.2 devices up to the latest Android devices. Just log in with the Google account on your device and you are good to go. Via Android Device Manager you can let your phone ring for 5 minutes. However, you cannot access some of the other functions unless you have previously set them up.
However, it is best to set up one or two tracking apps before your phone is lost or stolen. This way you have full access to all functions and you will encounter fewer obstacles.
How to track an Android phone
When it comes to tracking your Android device, it comes down to two main categories. Do you want your location and tracking information to be monitored and managed by large companies such as Google or Samsung? Or do you want your information to be monitored by smaller, private app developers?
First, let’s take a look at the tracking apps from Google and Samsung. Then, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your information with one of these companies, check out some other great tracking apps here.
Google’s Find My Device app
Google’s Find My Device app is probably the most popular tracking app for Android devices. It is free to download from the Google Play Store and can track all the devices you are currently signed into.
In addition to tracking your devices, you can also remotely wipe and lock data from your device. If you lock the device remotely, you also have the option to write a message with a phone number that someone could call if they find your phone.
This feature is already somewhat enabled if you have added a Google account to your Android phone. If you have never downloaded the app, you will only get the features described above with Android Device Manager. When you download the Find My Device app, you get access to those extra features like remote wiping and locking your phone.
For any of these functions to work, your phone must be connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi.
Samsung’s tracking functions
Samsung phones come with some built-in tracking features. You need to set up a Samsung account to use them, but it’s well worth it. If you have a Samsung, the tracking features offered here are better than the Google app.
To access Samsung tracking features and to set up or log in your account, go to Settings> Biometrics & Security> Find My Mobile. After connecting your Samsung account, you are good to go. You can enable additional features such as:
- Remote unlock: You can control a lost phone remotely, even if it is locked with a PIN, pattern or password.
- Send last location: When your battery percentage drops below a certain level, your phone sends its last location to a Find My Mobile server.
- Search offline: You can find your phone even when it is offline.
You can suspend all cards in Samsung Pay to prevent a thief from using them. There’s also a backup feature, which is handy in case you never get your phone back. Then you can turn on the battery life extension feature remotely, which will essentially disable everything else except location tracking.
To locate your phone, you can access the Find My Mobile data on their website. You need to log into your Samsung account online and then you can see everything.
Samsung also has the SmartThings app that can help you find the location of your phone and other devices when they are offline. To find offline devices, it will tell nearby Samsung devices to find your device’s Bluetooth signal and then report the location. Plus, this is also anonymous so it won’t tip anyone.
A major takeaway is something we mentioned earlier in the article, but it is worth repeating. If your phone is stolen and you can find where it is, take that tracking number with you to your local authorities. You never know what could happen if you confront the person who stole your phone, so it’s best to be careful.
We hope you never have to go through the stress of losing a phone or having it stolen. You can relieve that future stress by preparing for it now. If you set up tracking apps and settings now, you’ll thank yourself later if you ever find yourself needing to track your phone.
Read more: Tracking apps do help: a story about a phone thief, his colleague and selfies