Late Saturday evening, I returned home from a housewarming. I took a taxi home since I stayed beyond the last Skytrain towards the boonies where I live. Getting a taxi wasn’t difficult but I was reminded that I should always get a driver from Vancouver Taxi. Through almost three years of taking cabs home from work on EA’s dime, there’s always a chance I’ll get a driver who recognizes me and I get better service. Anyways, I got a cab from MacLure’s and the ride home was uneventful. Unfortunately, I left my phone in the taxi and it was nearly twelve hours before I could go retrieve it from the MacLure’s dispatch office. A big thank you to my driver who turned int the phone. If it wasn’t for him and his good morals, I’d be out a phone and I’d be in for a whole lot of hassle.

While it was essentially my driver’s good nature that got me my phone back, there are several things you can do to help prepare for the unfortunate event that you lose a smartphone or a laptop. There are several free programs out there than you can install on your phone/laptop to help you recover your cherished item. Some companies like Apple already have their own recovery systems pre-installed on their products. If you don’t have such a thing, consider the following options. I actually have two separate products to assist me. The first is called Lookout Mobile Security. This app deals exclusively with mobile platforms: Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry. It does a lot, including virus and malware scanning, data backups, and device recovery. The free version has enough features to be useful, most importantly using a web interface to locate your phone via GPS and/or Internet trace routing. It can also backup your contacts and even your entire call history. Unfortunately, it requires an upgrade to the paid premium version to invoke the remote locking and data wipe features. This is can be critical if your phone is in the hands of people who don’t have any intention of giving your property back. Also, Lookout requires your phone to have a data connection to be enabled for it to work.

Because of some the limitations of Lookout, I also have an called Prey installed on my phone. Prey runs on the most popular computer OSes and on mobile, it’s available so far only on Android. If I traveled more with my laptop, I definitely would install it on there. Since I’m out most of the time with only my phone, I use the Android version. Prey deals just with helping you recover your lost phone. The great thing about Prey for Android is it does not require a data connection to start its location services. You send a text message to with a special code phrase to let Prey know to start sending location information to a central server. Of course, the rest of Prey’s features do require a data connection, so you’re kinda of stuck there. Another good thing about Prey is that you can remotely lock your phone for free without having to upgrade to a paid version.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you lose your phone. Obviously, the fastest, easiest, and most common sense thing to do when you lose your phone is to call your number. Even if you only have one phone, the phone you lost, you can still make free calls via Gmail. Second, having a data plan that’s turned on all the time will assist you in getting your phone back. The above apps can use that data connection to send telemetry back to you. It will also give you the chance to remotely lock your phone and even wipe your data if you want to go that far. Last but not least, make use of your phone’s native screen locking capabilities. On Android, you can use a gesture, a phrase, or number as a passcode. This will add another layer of protection so that other people can’t get at all your info on your phone.

I feel quite lucky to have my phone returned to me but I felt much more relieved knowing I had those apps installed. They let me know where my phone was and kept my data safe until I could get it back. It’s too late to install these programs after your property has been lost, so do it beforehand!

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