Google’s Find My Device app is available for all Android phones, but it’s really limited when it comes to tracking and locating your phone if it’s in the wrong hands. If anything, it’s geared more towards saving the data on your phone rather than your phone. It does three things: play a sound for up to 5 minutes (even if the phone is on silent), lock the phone with a message or number, and erase everything on it. That’s all (*in Miranda Priestly voice).
Unlike Apple’s “Find My iPhone” feature, Google’s app can’t automatically enable your location if it’s turned off. Without location information, it’s nearly impossible to track your phone down, especially as more time passes.
Here are three android apps that offer more features to really help you find your phone and not just erase your data.
CERBERUS (PLAY STORE)
I install Cerberus on all of my Android devices because it’s the swiss army knife of finding phones. You need to install the app on your phone, but you can send it commands via the web dashboard or texts.
When you install Cerberus, you’re greeted with a lot of options to properly protect your phone and preventing thieves from uninstalling the app. You can block access to the status bar and power menu from the lock screen and initiate a fake shutdown (briefly or indefinitely) if someone tries to turn your phone off without unlocking it first.
In the automatic photo capture section you can adjust the settings for Cerberus to take a picture and send it to your email after a number of failed attempts and more. You can also create your own configuration to trigger a variety of actions based on different events under AutoTask rule configuration. Cerberus can also send alerts if a different SIM card is put into your phone and include the location and SIM card information. Lastly, it protects Android Wear smartwatches and offers many of the options you’ll find for the phone.
Once the the app is setup, you can start tracking it and using an extensive list of commands from the web dashboard or via text. It shows you status updates about your phone and displays a huge map (provided by Google Maps) with your phone’s location, if available.
On the left there’s a dropdown menu of commands to start tracking your phone along with a host of other features including:
- Emergency Mode (frequent location updates)
- Backup and wipe data
- Record audio and video (up to 5 minutes)
- Take a picture from any of your phone’s cameras
- Grab a screenshot or screen recording of what’s happening on your phone
- Grab your phone’s call log and SMS log
- Enable or disable Wi-Fi and bluetooth
- Start an application or service
When you send a command to start tracking your phone, Cerberus can enable the phone’s GPS even when it’s not on. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, Google’s app doesn’t do that. This works for rooted and non rooted phones. However, if your phone isn’t rooted you’ll need to enter an ADB command to enable this feature and it’s very easy to do.
Cerberus is very stealthy when it takes action, with little to no indication that anything is happening on the phone. This make it harder for thieves to know you’re tracking your phone and what they’re doing with it.
Cerberus offers some of the most comprehensive app for finding Android phones, tablets and smartwatches. The interface is nice and simple and everything is easy to use right from the start. When configured correctly, you won’t have much trouble finding your phone using Cerberus. You can try Cerberus out for free for a few days, but it’s worth the annual payment of $5 for one device or $14 for three devices.
PREY (PLAY STORE)
Prey doesn’t have as many features as Cerberus, but it does a little more than Google’s Find My Device app.
Like Cerberus, Prey is controlled through a browser. You can set your phone to missing and Prey creates up to 20 reports at 10 to 20 minute intervals on free accounts. Upgrading unlocks 100 reports that can be sent as frequently as every 2 minutes.
Prey sends an email notification for every report, but you have to go to Prey’s site for the details. Reports come with information about your phone like the IP address, model and technical specs. If your GPS is on, Prey will include a Google map screenshot with the location of your phone. Clicking it takes you directly to Google Maps to quickly get directions to your phone. If Wi-Fi is on, reports include surrounding Wi-Fi networks, but don’t say if you’re phone is connected to one.
You can also access additional options to hide the Prey from the app drawer and disable the power menu. However, if anyone continues to hold down the power button your phone will still shutdown. There’s no way around that. With an upgraded account you can wipe your phone’s data and retrieve files. Data wiping is available even in free apps, but having a data retrieval feature is rare and a lifesaver.
Free accounts can add up to three devices and create a “control zone”. If your phone enters or leaves a “control zone” you’ll receive a notification. Upgrading to a plan lets you add more devices and control zones.
CROOKCATCHER (PLAY STORE)
CrookCatcher is more of a preventative app compared to the others on this list. It’s also straightforward and doesn’t require a website. When a set number of unlock attempts are made CrookCatcher emails you a picture from the front camera and the phone’s location if GPS is enabled. This information is also kept under a separate tab in the app.
You can set location accuracy (10m-10000m) and how long the app waits before grabbing your location for more accurate results.
Their are a few downsides to CrookCatcher. To start, email notifications only work with Gmail accounts. It also sends a notification to your phone whenever it does something, which isn’t ideal. Be sure to disable those notifications or upgrade to the premium version to ditch the notifications and the ads.
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR PHONE?
In order for these apps to work, you have to install them BEFORE you lose your phone. If you don’t, you’re stuck with what Google gives you, which isn’t much. Have you tried any of these apps or others? Let me know what your experience has been like or share a recommendation in the comments below!