An Interesting Story of How Google’s Find my Device Helped Recover a Lost Smartphone

On: February 16, 2018

Losing smartphones is such an easy thing to do. It must have happened to a lot of you and I know how helpless it can feel. There is hardly anything you can do than to block your SIM, lodge an FIR and mourn over your lost phone. But if you are an Android user, Google offers a ray of hope if you happen to lose your phone (Apple also has its own system in place to recover an iPhone). There’s a service known as ‘Google Find My Device’ that pin-points the exact location of your device. It also gives you various controls to help you recover your Android smartphone.

When Navin Kabra, a Pune-based entrepreneur lost his phone recently, he made use of these same tools and recovered it even though it had travelled 16km away from him. He wrote a detailed post on Facebook explaining his ordeal that fortunately ended on a happy note, all thanks to Google’s Find my Device.

After Navin realized he has lost his phone, he immediately started tracking its location on his computer. But there are some prerequisites before you can make use of this feature. In his own words, “I had location services turned on, I’m permanently logged into Google from my phone, and the Find My Device service is enabled.”

Google showed that the phone’s location was near by where he currently was. After failed attempts of calling and asking around the place, the phone finally switched off. At this point, there was no possible way of recovering the phone back and he concluded that it must have been stolen. Thus, he blocked the SIM and was hoping to get a new phone.

Surprisingly, the lost phone came back online in the evening. But this time, the location was around 16km away from where he was. He began repeatedly calling his number but to no avail, no one picked it up. Clueless on what to do next, he started exploring the options he had.

Apart from letting you track your phone’s location, Google also allows you to do a bunch of other things to remotely control the phone. Just sign in to your Google account and search ‘find my device’. The available actions are as follows:

Play Sound: This option allows you to play a sound on your phone at full volume for 5 minutes straight, even if it is on silent. In this case, it wasn’t a sensible option as Navin had already tried calling the phone repeatedly and no one picked it up.

Erase Data: If you choose this, Google will erase all your phone data. After this, you won’t be able to locate the phone. This is the last resort if nothing else works. It is also the best option if you feel your device might be misused or is unlocked. Navin had his screen lock on and the SIM card was already blocked so there was nothing to be worried about in this regard. There is probably no chance of recovering the phone back if you choose this option, but if your personal data stands compromised, this is the safest option to choose.

Lock Device and Display a Message: With this tool, you can lock your device and on the lock screen, display a message. This is what Navin did. He chose to lock his smartphone and display a message that said, ‘Call 98XXXXXXXX immediately.’

Fortunately, someone called within the next few minutes on the given number. He scheduled a pickup from him and got his lost phone back. Another important thing to note is that the phone was in the hands of an old person who didn’t know how to use a smartphone. This is the reason he couldn’t pick up Navin’s calls earlier. Even his phone was locked with a password which didn’t leave any option for the old man to contact him. So when he saw the number on the lock screen, he called immediately and returned the phone.

But this is more complex if you have 2-step-verification turned on for your Google account. Google needs to verify your identity via your phone, which in this case is lost. So you are basically locked out. There are a few things you can still do, provided you take some precautionary measures beforehand. Here’s a nice explainer by Google on how to recover a lost smartphone if you have 2-step-verification turned on, read.

So this is how a lost phone was recovered from so far with the help of Google Find My Device. It can be a boon to get your lost phone back without facing much hassles. Make sure you have all the boxes checked to use Google’s Find My Device feature, just in case. Here’s another crazy story of how a lost phone was recovered from 1400 kms away, 8 months later!

Aditya Mohanty

Previously co-founded a startup called WordKrowd, an online literature platform, which explains his love for writing and reading. Thinks about startups and technologies all day long, thus got himself to Pricebaba for a stint in writing. Stories, both fictional and real excite him. Other close recipients of love from him include good movies and good food.