We know you take good care of your phone. Of course you do. Who wouldn’t be careful with a device that probably cost you several hundred of dollars? But the fact of the matter is, unless you’re leaving your phone in a locked safe in your bedroom, there’s always the chance that it could get stolen. Over 2 million mobiles are stolen every year in the US and subscriber fraud costs mobile phone companies more than 100 million every year. So statistically there’s a fair chance that one day that mobile could be yours. Which is why we’re taking a look at anti-theft apps. If you’ve got an Android, here are the best apps for protection.
Why Install an App at All?
Other than being careful, there’s not a lot that you can do to prevent your phone being stolen. What you can do is protect your data and possibly even find your phone. A solid, anti-theft app should allow you to lock down or even erase your personal data (such as banking apps, Facebook passwords, and contacts) and allow you to track the phone as well (just in case you happened to leave it somewhere or so that the police can track it down in some circumstances).
Installing such apps isn’t a requirement. But the consequences of not doing so can be severe. Got that Amazon app on your phone? Then your thief is free to purchase things on your account as long as it’s logged in. Got a banking app? Then things are even worse if it allows the thief to transfer funds. Trust us, you want to protect your data in the best way possible, and that means being prepared for the worst.
The Default Option
Android users do have a built-in option for anti-theft precautions, and it’s pretty simple to set up (no downloads or payment necessary, so there’s no excuse not to do this one). Head into your Settings menu, scroll down to the section titled “Permission,” and then hit “Security.” Then simply check the box next to “Android Device Manager.” You can now access your phone remotely from your regular Google account (through Gmail is the easiest way). This default option allows you to remotely lock, track, or wipe data. The upsides are that it’s free and easy; the downsides are that these functions are pretty basic. This means that you might want to opt for a better, third party option, such as one of the below.
Prey is a very inclusive app that allows you to track not only your phone, but also tablets, laptops, and any other electronic device that you may have. Register your device into the app, and should it go missing head to the Prey website and mark it as lost. You will then be able to track or lock your device. Simple. But you can also send a message that will display on your phone’s lockscreen (we imagine something like “Give back my phone”…), make the phone sound a loud alarm, or even take photos with the phone that are then displayed on your PC (giving you a look at the criminal if nothing else).
You can also set up Prey with a “Control Zone” (ideally around your home or workplace), and you’ll receive a notification if your device leaves that zone. Prey is free, but a premium option allows you to add more Control Zones and devices.
Lookout is a great app, but it doesn’t top our list simply because the free version is very limited. Using the free version of Lookout lets you track your device and scan apps you download to see if they’re safe, which isn’t especially impressive.
However, if you’re willing to pay for the premium version you get some awesome features. Premium Lookout lets you limit app permissions, as well as monitoring websites to make sure they’re not stealing any info from you. You can also remotely lock and wipe your phone, and there’s the possibility to back up your call logs and photos at the same time. Finally, you’ll get theft alerts if anything strange happens on/to your devices, and breach reports if any of the services you use are hacked.
Cerberus gives you tons of features. Not only does it let you lock or wipe your phone online (as well as making the phone ring to sound an alarm), but it will also let you do the same thing via SMS (which is great since your stolen phone might not necessarily have an internet connection). You can be alerted if your SIM card is changed; you can also remotely take video or photos, both of which are pretty cool. But the coolest function is something called AutoTask, which lets you set up “if X, then Y” situations. For example, you can set up a task that says “if the wrong password is entered, set off the alarm.”
Cerberus is free for a week, after which you have to buy a yearly subscription (but it’s cheaper than most apps). However, the downside to Cerberus is that it’s pretty complicated to use and isn’t particularly intuitive. If you’re tech minded, Cerberus is the best anti-theft choice out there, but the less device savvy might want to move on to our final option.
Where’s My Droid
Our pick for best anti-theft app right now is probably Where’s My Droid, simply because it offers many of the same features as Cerberus, and yet is much more user friendly. The free version will let you set a passcode on your phone remotely, locate your device, make the device ring, or send an alert if the SIM card is changed (important so you know that the phone number no longer works). All of that is pretty good, but there’s more.
Upgrade to Where’s My Droid premium (for a small, one-time payment) and you get rid of the ads that run along the bottom of your screen. You also add the ability to remotely lock and wipe your phone (as well as hiding the app icon for Where’s My Droid, so no one can delete it), and to remotely take pictures with your device. Upgrade even more to the Elite version (for a yearly subscription) and you can see location history for the device, stats, and can set up control zones (like with Prey).
Protecting your phone is obviously important, and the above are your best bets for anti-theft apps, with some being better than others. Be prepared: download your apps now; you might be glad you did if someone ever gets their hands on your phone.
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