How to prepare for a lost, stolen or broken smartphone
How to prepare for a lost, stolen or broken smartphone
The average smartphone contains so much personal life – photos, contact list, calendar, email, digital wallet – that losing that handy piece of glass and metal can be very disruptive and disorienting. You may never have to deal with this situation, but it would be wise to plan for it, especially if you have children with their own phones.
Here’s a guide to what you can do before and after you lose or break your phone.
A sturdy drop-resistant case and a screen protector are basic elements to protect your phone from physical damage. Wirecutter, a product review site owned by The New York Times, offers case recommendations for iPhones.
A lost phone can be a security risk, so make sure facial or fingerprint recognition is turned on and a strong passcode is in place to lock the screen.
Your phone’s location services feature can also help you find the device if you lose it, so be sure to turn location on in your Android or iOS settings if you’ve turned it off. Remember that you can adjust app access to your location in the privacy settings.
Keep a record of the phone’s identification numbers (the serial number and the International Mobile Equipment Identification Number) in case you need this information later to file a police report. You can find the numbers in the settings or by dialing *#06# on the phone keypad. Take a screenshot and send it to your computer for safekeeping.
Purchasing insurance or extended warranty coverage for your phone costs money upfront, but it can bring benefits like 24/7 support, low-cost repairs and same-day replacements for inoperable devices.
If you’re unsure whether you need insurance, consider how long you intend to keep the phone, how you use the device, and whether you can afford repairs at your expense. In some cases, insurance can cost more than repair, so read the warranty or policy carefully before investing.
You’re usually pushed to sign up when you buy a new phone. AppleCare, Google Preferred Care, and Samsung Care+ are common manufacturer plans; AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are among the carriers offering coverage. Third-party insurance companies like Assurant, Asurion, and Akko sell smartphone policies, as do some general insurance providers like Progressive and USAA.
With your phone’s Apple, Google or Samsung account, you get a certain amount of “cloud” storage – servers connected to the Internet where you can save files. Cloud backup is simple: once enabled, the phone should automatically back up when plugged into the mains and connected to a Wi-Fi network.
If you have a lot of content on your phone, you may need to buy more space for a few dollars a month.
Set up your Apple iCloud, Google or Samsung account to sync across all devices, then your emails, contacts, notes and calendar will be backed up to your provider’s cloud. But you can also keep things like call history, text messages, and other phone information.
Apple, Google, and Samsung all have instructions on their sites for setting up cloud backup on their equipment. Google’s Google One service also works with other Android phones and devices.
If you prefer to keep your files off remote servers for privacy and security reasons, you can save them to your computer instead. Apple iOS devices can be backed up to a Mac or PC using a USB cable or Wi-Fi connection; this backup can then be transferred to a new iPhone or iPad. Google’s site has instructions for transferring Android files to a computer, and Samsung’s free Smart Switch app for Windows, Mac, and Android can back up and transfer files from your Galaxy phone.
Looking for the phone
If you’ve lost your phone or are worried it’s been stolen, find it using Apple, Google or Samsung’s “find my device” pages, or with tools like Apple’s Find My apps or Google’s Find My Device. If your phone is still working, the location setting is on, and it’s connected to a network, you should see the device’s location displayed on a map.
Apple’s Find My app can notify you if you leave a device behind and includes a Mark as Lost setting to lock the phone with a password and disable Apple Pay. But if the device seems to be in an unknown location, you can use these tracking tools to remotely lock or wipe your iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or other Android phone.
If the phone appears to be permanently missing or you know it has been stolen, notify your mobile carrier and report the loss to the police; you will probably need to provide these serial and IMEI numbers. File an insurance claim if you have a policy, change your passwords, and alert your financial institutions to monitor suspicious activity on your account.
Dealing with damage
Accidents happen. Waterlogged hardware and cracked screens are common phone problems. Apple, Google and Samsung have their own guides for dealing with water damage, which can be less deadly than before. (Many experts advise against soaking the wet phone in dry rice to wick away the moisture.)
For technical adventurers, the DIY site iFixit offers illustrated guides to common repairs. But for many people, broken glass or fried electronics means a trip to a professional service center. Check with your phone manufacturer and mobile carrier for your options.
National chains like CPR or Asurion Tech Repairs & Solutions (formerly UbreakiFix) work with some insurance policies. And speaking of insurance policies, if you have one, go file that claim.