If you lost your Android smart phone and didn’t have a tracking app installed on it you might still be able to find it. After working on Where’s My Droid for 6 years I have learned many tricks that can be used to track a device even if you didn’t have any tracking app at all.
Your best bet: Android Device Manager
Google’s Android Device Manager comes pre-installed on all Android 2.2 and newer devices. So unless your device is really old you’ll be ready to go. It’s not as powerful as Where’s My Droid is but it can get the location by GPS and ring. It does have a lock and wipe ability, but that requires extra setup on the device. If you didn’t do that then those features won’t be available to you.
Check it out at https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager
Remote install ‘Plan B’ on an older phone
Now I know I said you needed to have some kind of app already installed but, if you have an older phone, running Android 2.0 – 2.3.4, you can still remotely install an app for tracking. You see, in Android 3.0 Google changed how remote installs work. When you push an app to your phone from your computer the app can’t run until it’s opened on the device at least once. This is a security measure to prevent malware from being pushed to a device. Old devices don’t have this so they are free to run as soon as the remote install completes.
To install Plan B go to the Google Play store on your computer and search for Plan B. Click on the install button and follow the install process. For the install to complete the device must be on and have data. If not the install will be queued until it does. There won’t be any way to know the install is complete from the Google Play site. It will shortly show it as installed but that doesn’t mean it’s done.
Once the app does install it should send you a few emails with location data. If you have another cell phone text the word “locate” to your lost phone to activate the Plan B app.
Next best option: Google location history
Unless you have it disabled, Google keeps a record of your device’s history. I know creepy right, but in this case you just might be thanking them. Login to the Maps location history page with the Google account of the device your trying to find.
You’ll see a map with timeline controls at the top. Click the “Today” button to see the most recent location data. You should now see all the different places your phone has been. This can be great if the device is off or didn’t have a data connection when you tried to locate it with Android Device Manager.
When you do get your phone back, or if you sadly have to get a new phone, you should protect it by downloading and setting up Where’s My Droid. You can get the app from Google Play and setup a Commander account at wheresmydroid.com to be sure you’re optimally protected.