Tip o’ the Week #272 - Finding your phone (again)
(breaking the fourth wall)
Inevitably, when writing the Tip o’ the Week for 4½ years, the odd topic is revisited, sometimes because there’s a notable improvement or update, and sometimes just because it makes sense to do so. I try to keep the stuff that’s written about here as broadly relevant as I can, and with a particular style of humour that tries – though on one or two occasions, fails – not to offend anyone. Please keep the ideas and feedback coming, as it wouldn’t be possible to send this out every week without you, the dear reader. Oh, and a bottle of red wine on a Thursday night. Yes, that, too.
Recently, a colleague’s better half lost her phone. More accurately, she accidentally laid her phone down for a few minutes and, when returning to that place to retrieve it, found it had vamoosed. As it happens, some opportunistic light-fingered vagabond had made off with it.
What to do? Well, if you can get to a network connection somehow (even a friend’s phone) , then you should be able to locate your handset. This is a capability that’s been in Windows Phone for a while, but the web UI is being jazzed up a bit. It’s possible to:
Find your phone (it shows up on a map)
Ring your phone (with a distinctive ring, even if the phone is set to silent, so you can zone in on it)
Wipe your phone (if you know it’s a goner, like the aforesaid colleague’s wife who called the phone and spoke to the thief, who promptly informed her what she could do with rest of her evening, before hanging up and turning the phone off)
You do need to make sure it’s enabled to start with – best check now, as you won’t want to discover that your phone isn’t reporting its location, the one time when you need to find it. Just go to the settings and look under find my phone.
If you sign in to the WindowsPhone.com portal, you’ll see where the phone was last contacted, and you can ping it (which sends a text to the phone, and makes the phone report its location if it can) by clicking Refresh.
The updated UI for the Find My Phone function only seems to appear on the latest IE/Windows 10 build, but it provides a little more info – like when your phone was confirmed to have been found/locked/wiped etc.
If you know you’re phone’s never coming back, you can wipe it – so your data doesn’t end up in a baddie’s hands, but your phone is reset to factory defaults so will still be a functional device that could be used again.
There is a movement to allow remote “bricking” of phones – the challenge being that it probably could be too easily exploited and unless the phone commits some kind of self-immolation at a hardware level, it’s always going to be possible for a savvy hacker to re-activate the device. The best thing to do is, just don’t lose your phone. Natch.