Tips and tricks to keep track of your smartphone
Why your smartphone screensaver needs to be a photo of you
As a kid, I was world’s worst friend to sneak around with. I’m the person you’ll remember after the slumber party is over. Why? I clearly took that children’s story about “Hansel and Gretel” to heart. Everywhere I go, I leave “bread crumbs” behind.
If I hug you, there’s about a 90 percent chance there will be a trace of one of my favorite perfumes or my favorite glitter lotion on you. Without checking my Google Tasks checklists, I will absolutely forget something at your home during an overnight visit.
And for at least two decades straight, I just could not remember to close kitchen cabinets. My parents always knew when I came to visit while they were gone because the kitchen cabinets would be open if I decided to grab a drink of water — even if I washed the dish I used. But this bad habit has treated me well for one reason alone — if I lose something, Good Samaritans always know how to find me.
These are real-life stories in which people helped me retrieve my smartphone and ID. They may be helpful to you, too.
- Make sure your locked screen shows email previews. The first time I lost a smartphone, I had no idea it was missing. I got all the way home and saw an email message on my laptop from someone telling me he had my phone. I asked him how he knew my email address. He told me he pressed the power screen, and a preview of a “new message for email@example.com” showed up.
- My lock screen photo has a photograph of me in it. Puppies, babies and loved ones are cool, but save them for your social media photos. This is the one time when having a screensaver of your own selfie is not terribly vain. It helps the person identify whether the phone really belongs to you and potentially helps them find you before you can get too far. The second time I lost my phone, a coworker emailed me after recognizing my face.
- My wallpaper has a photograph of me in it. If you have your phone set to a timed lockout position, generally two minutes is fair. That can be a pain if you’re watching a video or performing exercise segments. Turning off the locked feature when you’re in a “safe” location also increases the odds of someone nearby easily breaking into your phone. But should you decide to do it anyway, for identification purposes, make sure you’re in that wallpaper photograph, too.
- I use Lookout to keep track of my phone. I gave up on a landline at least more than a decade ago. But if I’m home alone and place my phone in a random place, Lookout will play the ringtone so I can figure out whether it’s in my condo somewhere or further away.
- I made sure my GPS tracking device outranks my Do Not Disturb settings. Because entirely too many people who call me are early risers or night owls, I am adamant about my smartphone being completely silent during a set time period. I’m a heavy sleeper. But when something wakes me up, that’s the end of my entire night of sleep. However, when my phone was lost once, it was during this quiet time period. Make sure that remote tracking software is the one app that can override your Do Not Disturb permission settings.
- Make sure there’s a “Contact Me/Contact Us” option on your website. More often than not, introducing myself to people can turn into a long-winded discussion and repeated corrections of my name. But when I lost my Real ID less than a week after I got it, a receptionist at a nearby dental office contacted me. (The ID fell out of my pocket while I was cleaning up during a dog walk.) Moments like these are when unusual names come in handy. The same rules apply for your phone. If you already have social media accounts with your real name and/or an official website, make it easier for people to reach out to you if you lost something — phone, ID, etc.