lookout logoOne of the rather unfortunate downsides of modern smart phones is that they sure do cost a lot of money. Even with a renewed contract of special sale, you can end up paying hundreds of American dollars for a good cell phone. These things are expensive. So, you definitely don’t want to lose it. It would be pretty awful to spend a couple hundred dollars on something that gets stolen.

Thankfully, there are some solutions. Android is open-source and highly modifiable. This allows for developers to build some impressive anti-theft apps which should stymie any thief. If your phone is lost or stolen, these apps can help you recover it with a minimum amount of difficulty. Here are the best ones we found.

Best Apps to Locate a Missing Phone:

Tasker

Tasker is an incredibly useful app we use for other purposes, such as saving battery (our Evo 4G automatically underclocks itself when the screen is off). The uses for Tasker are so wide and varied that you’re really limited only by your imagination.
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One of these functions is finding a lost phone. Tasker operates through a two-part system of action and reaction. When the system performs an action, Tasker automatically starts the reaction you specify.

This system can be set up to find a phone. For example, we set up a system in which our phone blares Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” when we text it “FIND.” This should sufficiently embarrass any would-be thief into leaving behind the phone.

With Tasker, you can set up the phone to really do anything. Respond with GPS coordinates, shut down, endlessly loop Rick Astley, lock itself… the possibilities are endless. We suggest this page to get an idea of other creative security measures.

Download Tasker or Check the Tasker Trial Version

Lookout Security and Antivirus

Lookout can do a lot of things but is unfortunately hampered by a fairly serious design flaw. But before we get to that, let’s look at all the good things. For fourteen days you can test all the fun features of Lookout Mobile Security, and there are a lot of features.
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Once you enable LMS to have administrator privileges to the Android system, the app takes total control of your device. This is not as powerful as granting an app root access, but it still is quite serious. Be careful what apps are granted admin privileges.

The app comes with a handy antivirus that automatically scans all apps, every week. These are useful features, but we’re here for the recovery stuff. LMS lets you control your device and remotely control it from mylookout.com.

The web services are fast and responsive. It located our phone in less than a minute. MyLookout also comes with options to set off a siren noise and remotely wipe the phone’s data. All of these are standard security features and they work well enough…
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…Except for one small problem. Lookout operates through internet, not the phone connection. We were able to foil all of LMS’s features through the ever-so-brilliant method of not connecting to the internet. If you decide to buy Lookout, you had better hope potential thieves live in areas with high-speed internet.

Download Lookout Security and Antivirus

SeekDroid Lite

SeekDroid doesn’t come with many features in the free version. The pro version, though, comes with lots of helpful stuff. If you insist on not paying for it then you can still use text to locate, text to set off alarm, and message popups. Between those you can locate a lost phone.
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Premium users enjoy extra features on SeekDroid.com such as a virtual fence. If your phone’s GPS detects that it has left a certain preset area, then the alarm bells start going off. Those alarm bells record every place the phone goes through a “breadcrumb” system.

The paid features also make the app quite difficult to delete. The app can hide itself (on a remote command, no less), set off an alarm, lock itself with a new password, or wipe the data. SeekDroid basically gives you a whole lot of control over your Android phone.

Download SeekDroid Lite.

Prey

Prey was definitely the easiest to set up and use. One customizable text message starts the Prey service and another can stop it. The app also makes it easy for you to give and take away its admin permissions. Of course, the app comes with a custom password so that thieves can’t take away those same permissions.
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From the Prey website you can remotely set off an alarm, send alert messages, and lock/unlock the phone system. GPS tracking is also included.

In the app itself is an option for SIM changes. This is quite clever as it alerts you if any “smart” thieves try to change the SIM card. In all, Prey offers a lot of features for a free price.

Download Prey

Where’s My Droid

Prey might offer a good amount of features for a low price, but Where’s My Droid offers even more. WMD (not to be confused with weapons of mass destruction) lets you remotely set off the ringer at maximum volume.
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The GPS system responds to remote text commands with a series of increasingly accurate SMS messages, all the way down to the street level. The really cool feature about these remote commands, though, is that you can set up a white list of phone numbers allowed to send text commands. Between customizable commands and the white list, that’s an awfully large amount of security.

Conversely, there’s a blacklist of numbers which are not allowed to send remote commands to Where’s My Droid. If somebody tried to hack your phone, we guess this could be useful.

Finally, WMD comes with alerts when the SIM card is changed and a passcode for the app. The only features reserved for pro users are remote lock and wipe. Other than that, Where’s My Droid is a very useful app considering its free price.

Download Where’s My Droid?

Avast! Mobile Security

The app with the most features (among free and paid apps) is, surprisingly enough, free as well. Avast! Mobile Security comes jam-packed with functions and abilities to make your phone more secure than you can ever imagine… provided the phone is rooted.
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First of all, Avast! is almost impossible to remove once granted root access. It comes with a built-in firewall to prevent hacking. It can make itself invisible in the app drawer or disguise itself as another app. With root, AMS can survive a factory reset.

To make doubly sure it can’t be deleted, the app can disable the USB port. It also runs in short bursts to save power and reduce the window of being shut down. Seriously, Avast! is darn near undeletable.

Secondly, it comes with some very cool features. There’s the usual notification when the SIM card changes, but AMS can also operate a white list of allowed cards. This is very cool.
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Thirdly, Avast! has a robust system of remote SMS commands. With the right message you can wipe the internet history, block calling, send notifications, restart the phone, set off a siren, lock it, track it via GPS, wipe the entire memory, and even listen in through audio surveillance. That’s right; you can actually spy on anybody who’s unfortunate enough to steal your phone.

As great as all these features are, Avast! Mobile Security has to come with a major caveat. Their privacy policy is a little scary. Consenting to the user agreement allows them to collect data on how the phone works and anything virus-related. This is to improve their virus detector and is fairly understandable.

However, they may also collect the URLs of every site you visit. This data may or may not be personally identifiable. It can be held for a year after the app is deleted and sold to third parties for advertising purposes. Understand what you sign up for when you agree to the Avast! terms of service.
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Even with the scary TOS, Avast! Mobile Security is still the best anti-theft app we found. It is quite powerful and should help anyone find their phone, no trouble.

Download Avast! Mobile Security.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of great anti-theft apps. They tend to be a little pricey, though. Shop around and compare features before signing up for any service. Tasker is a fairly cheap way to protect your phone. If you don’t mind the privacy policy, Avast! is essentially invincible. The important part is that there’s a mobile security solution for everyone.