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What to Do (and Not Do) If You Find a Lost Smartphone


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At some point or another, you might lose your phone. It’s always good to know what to do when that happens, but there’s another side to that story: what if you’re the person who finds a lost phone? You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know what to do when they find someone else’s phone—and really, there isn’t a single “right” answer. But there are a few things to keep in mind to make it easier for that person to get their phone back.

One time I was at Old Navy and suddenly the pants behind me started ringing. At first I didn’t realize where the ringing was coming from, but it didn’t take long to figure out what was going on here: someone had tried pants on, put the phone in the pocket (who does that?), and forgot to take it out. So he called his lost phone repeatedly until someone answered. That someone was me. He had no idea where the phone even was, which is probably pretty common when someone loses their phone. But he came back to Old Navy, I gave him his phone, and we went on about our day. This is most likely the most common scenario when dealing with a lost phone, but it’s always good to know what to do when it doesn’t play out exactly like this.

Keep It Charged and Connected

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There’s a good chance the person who lost the phone will want to either track or call it when they realize it’s missing, so one of the biggest things you can do to help them is keep it charged and connected to the internet. If the phone is active on a cellular network, the last part shouldn’t be something to worry about, but if for some reason it’s an inactive phone, try putting it on Wi-Fi. This may not be possible if it has a secured lock screen, but hey—at least you tried. Every little bit helps.

Basically, if the phone dies, it’s almost useless. No calls will come through and there’s no way to track it once it’s dead. So do them a favor and make sure it’s juiced at the very least.

Turn It In to the Place Where You Found It

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This one isn’t always a no-brainer, because it’s not always that simple. You have to use your best judgement here, because many business will just toss the phone in a bin and wait for someone to come in looking for it—they don’t monitor it for calls, make sure it stays charged, or anything else you should do with a lost phone. What’s more, if the phone’s owner doesn’t know where it was lost, they may never walk back into that business again. That said, it’s still the right thing to do if you don’t want to take on the responsibility of waiting for the owner to come looking for it.

But you should also keep in mind that there are situations where it doesn’t make sense to give the phone to a business—like if you find it outside, for example. Just because the phone is in front of a place, doesn’t necessarily mean that the owner was in that place. In that situation, they’d probably never find it.

Don’t Look at Their Stuff (Except Their Contacts)

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Think of all the stuff you have on your phone: personal pictures, social network connections, banking information, etc. Would you want someone looking at that? I sure as hell wouldn’t. And it should really go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: if you find a phone that doesn’t have a secured lock screen, don’t go through it. It’s just not right.

However, you should probably check the contacts list. Oftentimes people will have “favorites” or “starred” contacts set, and that’s a good bet on who to call if you’re trying to track the owner down. Generally, I’d look for the most telling names—wife, hubby, loverface, bae, boo—you know, the stuff that everyone lists their significant other as. In the case that there isn’t a significant other, you could just try calling the first person on the list. Or even the last person in the recent calls list, but at that point you’re on the cusp of getting a little too friendly with someone else’s phone. Tread carefully, honest one.

Cameron Summerson is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he’s not pounding keys on the ‘net, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, chugging away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


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