Somehow you lost your Windows Phone. It might have been stolen, or it could be down the back of a chair in your local pub. How will you get it back? Hopefully, you enabled the native Find My Phone setting before you were separated from your phone. If you did, you can now use the web-based service to retrieve it.
Impact of a lost Windows Phone
It might be the opinion of some that a lost Windows Phone device isn’t all that big a deal. After all, they’re not exactly iPhones or Samsung Galaxys, are they?
Well, that’s not really an argument. Regardless of the operating system, Windows Phone 8 handsets have a high specification, especially those produced by Nokia. While the operating system isn’t so bloated that it has a need for anything above a quad core CPU at present, there are other aspects to consider, such as high definition displays, storage space and battery life.
When it comes to Nokia devices, then there is also the added element of the camera, which is supported by a Carl Zeiss lens and superb image processing software and the selection of impressive camera apps. Phones such as the Nokia Lumia 920, 925, 1020 and higher have remarkable cameras as good as – if not better than – those on other devices.
Your lost Windows Phone might contain your personal data. It might have a collection of recently-snapped photos, vital emails and documents and apps that are a lifeline to your work. Losing a Windows Phone can be as devastating as losing a phone running any other productive operating system – with cloud applications installed, it could be as risky as losing a desktop computer.
Enabling the Find My Phone service
While you won’t find any third party tracking apps like Prey for Windows Phone, Microsoft offers the Find My Phone service for Windows Phone owners. The service is the same for Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 devices, and requires that you enable the options in Settings > Find My Phone. The service uses triangulation technology to locate it, so you don’t need to worry about having mobile Internet activated – as long as the phone isn’t in airplane mode, everything should work fine.
Finding a lost or stolen Windows Phone device
With the Find My Phone option enabled (see above), you can launch the retrieval process whenever you lost sight of your device.muo-wp8-findmyphone-loginThe first thing you should do is log into www.windowsphone.com and select Find My Phone via the drop-down menu.muo-wp8-findmyphone-mapYou will then see a map, and the approximate location of your phone will be displayed. Various factors affect the precision of this feature; for instance, if the phone was stolen, it might still be in transit, which makes it tricky to find until it stops moving.
Once you know where your phone is geographically, there are three things that you can do to retrieve or disable it.
Ring your phone
If your phone is somewhere close by, the sensible approach would be to ring it. Of course, on the off chance that you don’t have another phone to hand, or cannot guarantee you will find it before the phone rings out, Find My Phone offers a useful Ring feature, which sends an instruction to your Windows Phone to play a special ringtone reserved for this purpose.
You shouldn’t have much trouble tracking down the handset with this feature, as long as it’s within hearing distance. This alert also plays at full volume, overriding vibrate mode or low volume settings.
Remotely lock your phone
Of course, the situation may be more desperate; it could be that your phone is in the hands of someone you do not trust, or has been left in a position where it can easily be found.muo-wp8-findmyphone-lockThe Lock option allows you to display a custom message on your phone’s screen and set a new 4-digit PIN that will be required to unlock the device. You will also have the option to ring the phone when it is locked, so that it attracts attention.
Given that the majority of people are honest, there is a good chance that the device will be spotted, the message read and your Windows Phone will be returned. We can think of seven reasons why someone might return your lost phone, so don’t be disheartened – your phone may well come back.
Erase your Windows Phone
The final option is, of course, the most devastating. In order to protect your data (including access to more information via your phone’s SkyDrive app), you should use the Erase tool to remotely reset your phone. This reverts the handset to factory settings, and will result in the Find My Phone service being unable to track it.muo-wp8-findmyphone-eraseNaturally, this is only for desperate situations, and for you to use the erase option you must check the box labelled I’m sure! Please erase my phone now before proceeding with the Erase button.