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How to get your lost or stolen Android phone back fast

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You can leave a message so the person who has your phone can reach you.


Jason Cipriani/CNET

It only takes moment to leave your Android phone on a counter in the store and walk away, or someone bumps into you on the street and lifts your phone right out of a pocket or bag without you even noticing. However you lose it — from theft or an honest mistake — the feeling of being without your trusty digital sidekick is stressful.

Not only does it cut off your access to the rest of the world, but your phone is the most personal device you own. And replacing it is a costly nuisance.

In the event your phone goes missing, don’t panic! There are tools built into every Android phone that make it possible to lock and track down a lost phone with ease. In order for that to happen, you’ll need to take some steps to set yourself up for success if and when your phone does go missing — even if you only left it in the house.


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How to find your lost Android phone

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Be prepared

Create a secure lock screen

Do yourself a favor and turn on passcode and fingerprint authentication. Do yourself another favor and don’t use facial recognition on your Android device.

The technology used for facial recognition on most Android devices can be easily tricked with something as simple as a photo of your face. Facial authentication could get more secure if Android Q does indeed add official support for secure Face ID-like authentication to Android as reports have suggested.

Next. create your passcode and set up fingerprint authentication in the Settings app under the Security section. I realize scanning a fingerprint or entering a PIN code every time you want to use your phone can be inconvenient, but the idea of someone having access to your photos, banking apps, email and the rest of your personal info is downright scary.

An extra step to unlock your phone is worth the effort when you consider the potential impact of exposing your personal info to a stranger.

Read: If you lose your iPhone, immediately do these 3 things

Google’s Find My Device

google-find-my-deviceAndroid phone

Make sure Google’s Find My Device is turned on.


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Any time you sign into an Android device with a Google account, Find My Device is already on. Find My Device is what you’ll use should your phone ever go missing to track, remotely lock and remotely erase it.

You can check to make sure Find My Device is enabled by opening the Settings app and going to Security & Location > Find My Device. Alternatively, if your device doesn’t have a Security & Location option, go to Google > Security > Find My Device.

Find My Device should be turned on. If not, slide the switch to the On position and exit out of the Settings app.

Samsung’s Find My Mobile

samsung-find-my-mobileAndroid phone

If you’ve signed in to your Samsung account on a Galaxy phone, you should be good to go. However, it’s a good idea to double check.


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

If you have a Samsung phone, then in addition to Google’s Find My Device service, you can — and should — set up Samsung’s Find My Mobile service. Not only does it give you a backup service to track down a lost phone, but it also gives you tools that Find My Device doesn’t have.

With Samsung’s service, you can do things like force remote backups or see if someone has swapped out your SIM card. You must have a Samsung account to use Find My Mobile.

On your Samsung phone, open the Settings app and go to Biometrics and security > Find My Mobile. If you signed into your Samsung account during the initial device setup, the Find My Mobile should already be enabled. If not, take a few seconds to sign into your Samsung account and enable Find My Mobile.

Remotely lock and track a lost phone

Use Find My Device

Using Android’s baked-in service requires you to remember one thing: android.com/find. That website is where you’ll go in the unfortunate event that you lose your phone. Make sure you sign in to the same Google account that’s linked to your Android phone.

Not near a computer? You can use another Android device and the Find My Device app that you’ll have to download separately from the Play store. Immediately after signing into the site or app, Google will attempt to locate your phone.

An alert will be sent to your phone to tell whoever has it that it’s being tracked. Use the menu on the left-hand side of the Find My Device site to play a sound (helpful if you misplaced it in your home!), lock down your device, or erase the device altogether.

Selecting Secure Device will lock the phone, display a message of your choosing on the lock screen, and sign out of your Google account. Don’t worry, you can still locate the phone after it’s locked. If you use Google Pay for mobile payments, locking your phone will prevent anyone from using your phone to make a purchase.

If you use the Erase Device feature, you will no longer be able to track the phone once it’s erased. Reserve this feature as a last resort.

Should the thief turn off your phone, you won’t be able to track it until it’s turned back on and has a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Google will send you an email once it locates your device.

Once you find your phone, you’ll need to enter your PIN or passcode to gain access. That should also get rid the lock screen message. You might also have to log into your Google account, just to verify it really is you who is accessing the phone — you don’t need to turn anything off in the Find My app.

Samsung phones

Samsung Galaxy owners have the benefit of using Google’s or Samsung’s respective services to locate a lost device, but I recommend using Samsung’s offering. As you’ll see below, the added capabilities are invaluable.

To track a lost device with Samsung’s service, you need to visit findmymobile.samsung.com. There isn’t a companion app, so you’ll need to use a mobile browser on another phone or a computer.

Sign in with your Samsung account, then select your lost device on the left side of the screen. A map will display where your phone is currently located, and a menu of options will show up on the right side of the screen.

Start by locking the phone, which will display a personalized message on the lock screen, suspend your Samsung Pay cards, and prevent the phone from being powered off.

Next, create a backup of your phone. Should you lose it for good, you’ll want to have a current backup of your phone. If the phone is moving locations, use the Track location feature.

Enabling this feature will track your phone every 15 minutes. Finally, turn on the Extend battery life feature — this will disable almost everything on the phone, outside of the location tracking.

Similar to Google’s Find My Device service, Samsung’s service only requires you to enter yout PIN code after locating your phone. You don’t need to go back to the website and turn any of the tracking features off.

Don’t confront thieves

If your phone has been stolen and you’re able to track its location, do not attempt to recover it yourself. Doing so could lead to you or someone else getting hurt, and despite the importance of a phone, it’s simply not worth it.

Instead, contact local law enforcement and let them know you need help recovering a lost or stolen phone that you’ve been able to track to a specific address.

Contact your carrier, file an insurance claim

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XLAndroid phone

Contact your carrier to file an insurance claim as soon as you realize you aren’t getting your phone back.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If it becomes clear that you’re never going to get your phone back, contact your carrier and report your phone as lost or stolen. Doing this will blacklist the phone from the carrier’s database, preventing another person from using it.

When you call, your carrier will want to suspend your service as well. This is a good idea if you want to prevent someone from using your phone. However, keep in mind that if you’re still tracking your lost phone, you’ll lose a mobile connection to it —  and unless the phone is somehow registered on a Wi-Fi network, you’ll lose the ability to track it.

Finally, if you pay for insurance on your phone, you’ll need to file a claim and pay the deductible to get your replacement phone. Get the insurance claim process started through your carrier, who will then likely refer you to the third-party insurance company who will replace your phone.

Good luck! We hope you never have to go through the emotional roller coaster of losing a phone, tracking it down, and trying to get it back.

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News Corp is making a news service

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News Corp is developing a news distribution service designed to offer an alternative to Google and Facebook, according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s currently being called Knewz, and it’s meant to give the Rupert Murdoch-owned publishing empire leverage over the two tech giants, both of which have become integral to the distribution of news — often to publishers’ consternation.

Knewz is also being developed due to concerns from News Corp executives that Google and Facebook are biased against conservative publications, according to the Journal. While there remains no clear evidence of that bias — Fox News and the Daily Mail were among the top three web publishers on Facebook last month, and a yearlong study by The Economist only found a lean on Google toward more trustworthy publications — it’s obvious why these allegations would concern the Murdoch empire, which has long played a major role in shaping and promoting conservative politics.

A News Corp spokesperson told the Journal that Knewz would show a “wide spectrum of news and views, from local, niche and national sources, without bent or bias.” The service will use both algorithmic recommendations and human curation. Google and Facebook declined to comment.

While the easy takeaway is that this is News Corp’s attempt to make a conservative-leaning news service, the broader goal of challenging Google and Facebook is an important one. Those two tech giants are responsible for directing an enormous portion of traffic on the web. Performing well on either of those platforms can be the difference between a publication growing or failing. (Mic, for instance, thrived on Facebook, then collapsed when Facebook stopped directing as much traffic.)

That means publishers are at the whims of two tech giants that often don’t have their best interests in mind. The Journal, which is also owned by News Corp, suggests that Knewz is being designed with some traits that publishers might prefer: it’ll preference original reports over aggregation (e.g., the Journal’s story about Knewz over this writeup about it), it won’t disadvantage sites with paywalls, it’ll link directly to stories (instead of platform-hosted pages like Facebook’s Instant Articles), it won’t take a cut of ad revenue, and it’ll even share data with publishers.

Getting publishers on board was never going to be the hard part, though. News Corp has more than enough sway to do that, and publishers are always looking for more traffic sources. The trouble will be getting readers on board: Google and Facebook are not first and foremost seen as news distributors. People go to them for other purposes, and those uses lead to them reading stories from across the web. News Corp will likely find it to be far more difficult to get a large base of readers regularly coming to Knewz when they can already get news from a wide variety of other sources.

Knewz could launch later this year with both an app and a website, the Journal says. News Corp still isn’t certain the service will launch, with the spokesperson characterizing the company’s work as an exploration.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 wallpapers hide the notch

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Similar to the Samsung Galaxy S10 series, the South Korean company has launched wallpapers that hide the Galaxy Note 10 notch.

Samsung contacted popular Instagram illustrators to make wallpapers for the Note 10. Samsung reached out to Ketnipz and Gemma Correll, Ketnipz has 1.2 million followers.

The single hole punch on the Note 10 is the screen cutout for the handset’s front-facing smartphone camera.

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Apple readying camera-focused Pro iPhones

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Apple Inc. is readying a clutch of new hardware for the coming weeks and months, including “Pro” iPhones, upgrades to iPads and its largest laptop in years.

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is planning to announce three new iPhones at an event next month, according to people familiar with the situation. The handsets will likely go on sale in September, contributing to fiscal fourth-quarter sales. But the real test will come in the crucial holiday season. That’s when the company is banking on a combination of new hardware, software and services to drive revenue higher, following a huge miss at the end of last year.

Also coming in 2019: refreshed versions of the iPad Pro with upgraded cameras and faster chips, an entry-level iPad with a larger screen, new versions of the Apple Watch, and the first revamp to the MacBook Pro laptop in three years, the people said. Updates to key audio accessories, including AirPods and the HomePod speaker, are in the works, too, these people added. They asked not to be identified discussing private plans. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Beyond these unannounced products, Apple is gearing up to launch a refreshed Mac Pro and its accompanying monitor, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, and Apple Watch software updates, as well as its Apple TV+ video and Apple Arcade gaming subscription services.

Here’s what to expect:

iPhone:

Apple is planning to launch three new iPhones, as it has done each year since 2017: “Pro” iPhone models to succeed the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max as well as a successor to the iPhone XR. The main feature of the Pro iPhones will be a new camera system on the back with a third sensor for capturing ultra-wide-angle photos and videos. The extra camera will let users zoom out and capture a larger field of view. The sensors will capture three images simultaneously and use new artificial intelligence software to automatically correct the combined photo if, for example, a person is accidentally cut out of one of the shots. The new system will also take higher resolution pictures rivalling some traditional cameras. Photos taken in very low-light environments will improve, too.  The high-end handsets will have significantly upgraded video recording capabilities, getting them closer to professional video cameras. Apple has developed a feature that allow users to retouch, apply effects, alter colours, reframe and crop video as it is being recorded live on the device.

Another notable new feature: A reverse wireless charging system so that a user can power-up the latest AirPods in the optional wireless-charging case by leaving it on the back of the new Pro phones. This is similar to a capability that Samsung Electronics Co. rolled out for its Galaxy handsets earlier this year. The high-end iPhones will look nearly identical to the current models from the front and feature the same size screens, but at least some colours on the back will have a matte finish versus the existing glossy look. The new models should hold up better when they’re dropped due to new shatter-resistance technology.

The phones will include a new multi-angle Face ID sensor that captures a wider field of view so that users can unlock the handsets more easily — even when the devices are flat on a table. Apple has dramatically enhanced water resistance for the new models, which could allow them to be submerged under water far longer than the 30-minute rating on the current iPhones.

The new models will have updated OLED screens that lack the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch technology. Apple is replacing this with Haptic Touch, which essentially mirrors 3D Touch’s functionality with a long press, as it did with the iPhone XR last year.

The iPhone XR’s successor will gain a second back camera for optical zoom, the ability to zoom in further without degrading quality, and enhanced portrait mode. Apple is also adding a new green version.

All of the new iPhones will have faster A13 processors. There’s a new component in the chip, known internally as the “AMX” or “matrix” co-processor, to handle some math-heavy tasks, so the main chip doesn’t have to. That may help with computer vision and augmented reality, which Apple is pushing a core feature of its mobile devices.  None of the new models will include 5G, but next year’s will. They’ll also have rear-facing 3-D cameras that will boost augmented reality capabilities.

iPad:

After launching new mid-tier iPad Air and iPad mini models earlier this year, Apple is planning to refresh the iPad Pro and its low-end iPad for schools.

The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros will get similar upgrades to the iPhones, gaining upgraded cameras and faster processors. Otherwise, the new iPads will look like the current versions.

The low-end iPad’s screen will be 10.2-inches. That means Apple will likely no longer sell a new model with a 9.7-inch display, discontinuing the original display size after using it for nearly a decade.

Apple Watch, AirPods, and HomePod:

After revamping the Apple Watch last year with a new design and bigger screens, this year’s changes will be more muted, focusing on the watchOS 6 software update, and new case finishes. References to new ceramic and titanium models have been found in an early version of iOS 13, Apple’s latest mobile operating system.

Apple is working on new AirPods that are likely to be more expensive than the current US$159 model. New features will include water resistance and noise cancellation with a launch planned by next year. Apple introduced a new version of the entry-level AirPods in March with hands-free Siri support and longer battery life. Apple is also working on a cheaper HomePod for as early as next year. The current US$300 model hasn’t sold very well. The new model is likely to have two tweeters (a type of loudspeaker), down from seven in the current HomePod.

Mac: 

Apple is planning a revamped MacBook Pro with a screen over 16-inches diagonally. The bezels on the new laptop will be slimmer so the overall size of the laptop will be close to the current 15-inch models. The new laptop would mark Apple’s largest since the 17-inch MacBook Pro was discontinued in 2012. It’s part of an effort by Apple to retain and woo professional computer users.

Apple is also launching the previously announced Mac Pro and 32-inch XDR Pro Display later this year.

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