How anyone can find their lost or stolen smartphone with Android Device Manager

In 2013, Google launched the Android Device Manager service and app for Android smartphones and tablets. Even though it has received its fair share of attention in the tech press, most Android users have no idea what this feature is and whether it is on their smartphones. Luckily, everyone with a modern Android smartphone has this feature built-in, and people can use it to find their lost or stolen Android devices, straight from their Gmail/Google accounts. Here’s how:

What is Android Device Manager?

Android Device Manager is a service that was developed by Google for all Android users so that they can find their smartphones and tablets. This is useful if you have misplaced your smartphone and you can no longer find it or if it has been stolen.

For Android Device Manager to work, you need it enabled on your Android device, and the device has to be connected to the internet. Luckily, Android versions 6, 7 and newer have this feature built into the operating system. If you have an older version of Android, you can go to the Google Play store and download the Android Device Manager app.

What can you do using the Android Device Manager?

The Android Device Manager helps you do the following:

  • Check when your Android smartphones and devices were last online
  • See the exact location of your Android devices
  • Remotely ring your Android smartphone so that you can find it when you no longer remember where you have left it
  • Remotely lock your Android devices and change their password, if they were stolen or lost
  • Remotely wipe all the data on your Android device and reset it so that unauthorized people don’t get access to it, when you have lost your device.

How to access Android Device Manager

Open a web browser on any computer or device and go to this page: Android Device Manager. You need to sign in with the same Gmail address/Google account that you are using on the device that you want to find, lock or erase using Android Device Manager.

After you sign in, you should see a page similar to the screenshot below. By default, Android Device Manager displays information about your primary smartphone.

How to select the Android device that you want to interact with

Many people have multiple Android devices. If you don’t want to interact with your main smartphone that is automatically shown by Android Device Manager, click or tap on the name of the device that is shown. Now you see a list with other devices that are registered with your Google account. Select the device that you want from the list, by clicking or tapping on its name.

Now you can start interacting with the selected device.

How to see exact the location of your Android smartphone or tablet

After you have selected the device that you want to find, Android Device Manager automatically starts finding it. If it doesn’t, or you want more up-to-date information, press the location button highlighted below. It is located in the top-right corner of the box with the options you have available in Android Device Manager.

After some time, Android Device Manager shows the location of your Android smartphone or tablet on the map, and it also gives you an estimation of its accuracy. When your device is located, a notification is also shown on the device, by Android. It says that “Android Device Manager located this device.”

If your Android device remains without battery or it was stolen by someone who has reset it or disconnected it from the internet, Android Device Manager says that the location is unavailable. You only see when the device was last online.

In this case, we hope that you have installed an antivirus or a security suite on your Android device, with anti-theft features that include localization through SMS commands or other means. Here’s an example of what security products can do for you, in this situation: 6 Things Bitdefender Mobile Security can do for you when your Android device is stolen.

How to remotely ring your Android smartphone

It may happen that you no longer remember where you have placed your Android smartphone and you can’t ask someone else to ring you so that you can find it. Luckily, you can remotely ring your smartphone. In Android Device Manager, press the Ring button, and you are informed that your Android device will ring at full volume for five minutes. Confirm that you want this by pressing Ring again.

When you find your device, press the power button to stop the ringing.

How to remotely lock a lost or stolen Android smartphone

If your device is in the hands of another person, it is important that you change the password for unlocking your smartphone. Luckily, you can do this remotely with Android Device Manager. You can also send a message to the person who now has your smartphone and asks him or her to call you. To do this, in Android Device Manager, click or tap Lock.

You can now set a new password for unlocking your smartphone, send a recovery message to the person who has the phone and a phone number to call, so that he or she can call you.

When you are done completing everything, press Lock and all the data is sent to your Android smartphone. The person holding your smartphone will automatically see the message that you have sent and will be given the option to call you, the owner of the smartphone. You can see an example of how it looks, in the picture below.

How to remotely wipe all the data on a lost or stolen Android device

If you have given up hope and you don’t think that you will recover your lost or stolen Android device, it is important to make sure that the person that has your device doesn’t get access to the data you stored on it. With Android Device Manager you can remotely wipe everything on your smartphone or tablet. Your apps, photos, music, files and settings will be deleted. After you remote erase everything, Android Device Manager will no longer work for that device, because the reset is permanent. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t remove the content on the SD card of your Android device. The person who gets access to your smartphone can unplug the SD card and use the data on it. Another important aspect to consider is that, if your Android device is currently offline and cannot be found, if you send the Erase command in Android Device Manager, the command is performed as soon as your Android device goes online.

To remotely wipe your smartphone, click or tap Erase in Android Device Manager. Read the information displayed and confirm that you want to go ahead with the process by pressing Erase again.

When your Android smartphone is online, it is remotely wiped and reset to its defaults.

How to make sure that Android Device Manager is enabled on your smartphone

If you have Android version 6, 7 or newer, Android Device Manager should be enabled by default on your devices. However, it is worth to double-check that is the case. Go to Settings and find the Personal group of settings. There, tap on Google. On some devices, you just go to “Settings -> Google.”

Then, tap on Security.

Here you can see two settings that cater to the proper functioning of the Android Device Manager: “Remotely locate this device” and “Allow remote lock and erase.” Both should be turned on so that you can use all the features described earlier in this tutorial.

What if I have an old Android smartphone?

Android Device Manager is not built into older versions of Android, like Android version 4 or 5. If you have an old smartphone with an older version of Android, you can still use Android Device Manager by downloading and installing its app. Go to the Google Play store and download the Android Device Manager app. Then set it as advised earlier in this guide and use its features when the need arises.

Did you use Android Device Manager to find, remote lock or remote wipe your smartphone? How did it go?

Now that you know what Android Device Manager is, how it works and when it useful try it out and let us know what you think. Is it a useful service? Did it save you when you lost your smartphone or when someone has stolen your smartphone? Share your stories (horror or otherwise), using the comments form accessible below.