According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, more Americans own cell phones than own desktop or laptop computers. Our mobile devices have become more essential to our daily lives than our PCs. Some may say, they affect our ability to even function!
Could you imagine being without your mobile phone? Going just a few minutes without it can send some people into near panicked and nervous states. What if it was ever stolen or lost? Think of all the information you would lose– your contacts, datebook, to-do lists, photos, videos, passwords, levels on Angry Birds!
Here are eight apps for the iPhone and/or Android that will ensure that such a horrid thing could never happen:
MobileMe “Find My iPhone”
In spite of the recent scrutiny regarding Apple’s ability to track its users’ minute-to-minute location, it turns out this technology actually has an upside. The same signal that tracks the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower to you can also help you locate you lost iPhone (or iPad) within moments using MobileMe.
MobileMe’s “Find My iPhone” feature can pinpoint the exact location of your iPhone on a full-screen Google Map. To activate it, you enable the “Find My iPhone” option in the MobileMe settings on your Apple device. Once is it is lost, you can sign in to your me.com account from any computer or from the “Find My iPhone app” on another iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to track it. You can make the phone ring even if it’s set on “silent” if you suspect it’s just been misplaced in your house or have it display a message such as, “Opps! I seemed to have misplace my iPhone. If found please call…”
You can also remotely set a passcode to lock or wipe it clean in order to protect your data if your phone was definitely stolen or cannot be retrieved.
The MobileMe service will set you back $99 per year after your free trail. Or, you can set up a family account for $149 per year. However, it does include many other features such as backup and storage for your contacts and calendar, which make it worth the price.
If you can do without the extra MobileMe features and all you want it the security and piece of mind, TekTrak offers a similar service for $5 per year.
Using your iPhone’s or iPad’s embedded location-tracking capabilities, TekTrak checks your device’s location based on user-defined interval, which can be set it to check in every 10 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. If you phone is ever lost or misplaced, you simply log into the TekTrak web site. From there, you can get a map of where your phone last checked in or make it ring,
However, TekTrak is lacking in several areas in which MobileMe’s “Find My iPhone” service cannot be beat. “Find My iPhone” can ring your phone even if it’s set to silent, whereas TekTrak can’t due to an iOS limitation. TekTrak cannot remotely set a passcode or remotely wipe your phone either. So just set a passcode beforehand and keep your ringer on.
This app is available in Apple’s App Store for $2.99. No yearly subscription fees required.
FoneHome runs in the background and transmits the real-time GPS-tracked position of your device at regular intervals. If your device is lost or stolen, you just sign into your FoneHome account to view its current location. It uses a loud siren to locate your device and, best of all, it can remotely snap a picture of the thief or its location and sent it to you.
Plan B is Android’s answer to “Find My iPhone”, but it does it one better. Not only is it completely free, this app can be installed AFTER your phone goes missing.
With the Android Market’s over-the-air installation feature, you can push this app to your mobile device just by installing it from the Android Market website. Afterwards, the app will automatically start running on your device and send the current location of the phone to your Gmail address. If for some reason it doesn’t start immediately, you can also access this service by texting the word “locate” to your phone number from another device.
Locate My Droid and Where Is My Droid
Locate My Droid and Where Is My Droid are two services which are both free to download, but have a request for a donation. It’s fitting that they have such similar names as they both offer the same very basic features.
The phone’s location can be mapped using its GPS-location. You can set it to ring continuously (and loudly) until it is found. Both are simple to install, easy to use, and can be accessed through a web interface. Both are a great solution if you could do without all the extra features offered with other apps.
Seek Droid is available for download from the Android Market for just $0.99. Like the previous app featured, it can locate your device, remotely lock it, wipe it, and even track recent your recent calls from a web interface.
One unique feature of Seek Driod app is that it can hide itself from the app page on your Android device, keeping it from being uninstalled. A second unique feature is that it also allows you can grab your recent calls so you can keep up-to-date with your contacts even as your phone is still missing.
iHound is available from both the Apple App Store and the Android Market for $3.99 per year. Much like “Find My iPhone”, the iHound tracking application offers the more advanced capabilities such as the ability to wipe your phone’s data and trigger alarms remotely.
In addition, this app also allows you to set up “geofences”, which means you can automatically share your location information with a select group of trusted individuals and be alerted when one of them cross virtual geographic boundaries – like when your teenager arrives at school or when your spouse drops off or picks up from daycare.
iHound can also automatically check-in your location on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, should you chose to opt-in to this feature.