How to track, find or wipe your Android mobile phone if it gets lost or stolen

Hopefully it’s something that will never happen, but let’s face it, people lose or have their smartphones stolen every single day. What would you do if it happened to you? Would you know how to even start finding it? What about any sensitive data  on the device? Is there anything you can do to stop your private information, telephone numbers, text messages, photographs and videos falling into the hands of criminals? (Famous celebrities take note!)

There is a very simple, and free app for Android which helps you do just that.  It allows you to remotely track your phone via a combination of coarse positioning from nearby telephone masts plus the added accuracy of GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) data to pinpoint exactly where you’ve either left / dropped your phone or where  whoever has stolen it has taken it.  If you’ve simply misplaced it nearby but can’t locate it you can also use this app to send an alert to the phone which will turn the volume right up and sound the ringtone, even if the phone is set on silent.  It can also remotely lock the phone so that any thief or person who finds it will see a message.  In worse case scenarios the app can remotely wipe all sensitive data from the phone.

This really cool app is made by AVG, the company who brought their brilliant free virus scanner to millions of PC users fed up with the clunky, bloated beasts of the likes of Norton and Mcafee.  The app is called Antivirus Free by AVG Mobilation. The is also a Pro paid version available should you want even more features.  To get it simply visit the Android Market on your Android phone and search for Antivirus Free.

Once installed it’ll initially act as a Virus / Malware scanner – a useful tool to have on it’s own!  More about that here. To use the other useful remote features open the app and press the bottom left screen button and select Remote.  Then select the Registration option which will integrate the app with Google maps.  You’ll also want to tick the Location Service box and change the Lock Message that’ll be displayed if you ever have to remotely lock the device.

Once you’ve configured the app on the phone you can then use any computer on the Internet and vist

Once you’re logged in here you’ll be able to use the following remote functions:

    • Shout: This will instantly make your phone sound a loud alert which will allow you to find it if it’s within earshot.
    • Locate: This communicates with the phone which shares it’s location which you will see on the map shown on-screen. If GPS is turned on this is VERY accurate, to within a few metres.
    • Lock: Remotely locks the phone and displays the Lock Message you set-up. It also password protects the phone.
    • Unlock: Removes the Lock Screen.
    • Wipe: Wipes your personal data from the phone (Be VERY careful with this option!)
    • Scan: Remotely scans the phone for viruses and malware
  • Remove: Removes the phone from the AVG Mobilation remote panel.

This app is a brilliant idea, particularly if you are careless with your phone and have ever “lost” it, phoned up the service provider, had the phone cancelled, only to find it later.  Oops.  Now you can do a bit of legwork yourself and actually try and find the thing before reporting it missing in action.

Be warned though, this application does have a more sinister Big Brother style / surveillance aspect to it. It could potentially be used for snooping on a cheating husband / wife / boyfriend / girlfriend. And it does demonstrate just how track-able these devices actually are, even with completely free software.  As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I suppose.

AVG also do a version of this great app for Windows phones.