Having your mobile phone vanish can be terrifying. There goes your means of communicating, your calendar, your alarm clock, that cool driving game you downloaded the other day… the whole lot.
But don't worry - it needn't be lost forever. And even if it is, it's not the end of the world. Here's what you need to do next.
1. Try and find it
All right, yes, you've already tried to find it. But here's the deal: your phone may not be irretrievable. Hopefully, it's just misplaced on the bus, at a pal's house or even just between the sofa cushions. Start by giving your phone a call to find out where it is.
No luck? Time for something more technical.
For a lost Android phone
Android Device Manager is, thankfully, installed on all Android devices and turned on by default - and it's designed for exactly this situation.
Find a web browser, and do a Google search for 'where is my phone.' Provided you're signed into the same Google account on both the browser and your missing phone, a map should come up tracking your phone's location. There will also be a 'ring' button: click this, and Google will override your current sound settings, making the phone ring with an obnoxious-sounding ringtone on full volume.
Alternatively, find a friend with Android, and log onto Android Device Manager on their phone. You can track your device, make it ring, and wipe its data if the situation looks drastic.
For a lost iPhone
For iPhones that have gone astray, log onto your iCloud account and choose the Find My iPhone option. You should be able to see your phone's location on a map, and make it ring.
If things look a bit hopeless, you can activate Lost Mode. This'll lock your device with a password and display a message of your choice - so you could set it to show your contact details and pray that a kind soul gets back to you, or leave a 'screw you!' message to the thief if you're so inclined. It suspends Apple Pay too, so nobody can make payments from your credit or debit cards. There's also the option to remotely erase all your data.
For a lost Windows Phone
Windows Phones have a similar security function called Find My Phone. Log into your Microsoft account online, select your missing phone from the list of devices, and click on 'Find My Phone.' A map should come up with your phone's location logged on it. From there you can make your phone ring, lock the screen with a message, and erase your data if you need to.
Things to remember
- If you manage to track your phone to somewhere you haven't been to lately, it's likely that someone has it - either a helpful person who picked it up or a nasty thief. So stay safe! Don't ever go there alone, and don't hesitate to ask local authorities for advice.
- Bear in mind that phone tracking apps, including Find My iPhone and Android Device Manager, will only work if your phone is switched on, and usually only when it's connected to the internet. However, anything you change will take effect the second your phone is online.
- Only erase your phone's data as a last resort, if you're sure you won't get it back - once you've done so, you'll be logged out and won't be able to track the phone any more.
- Change your passwords! When an account is logged in on your phone, you risk it getting compromised.
2. Contact your network provider
Still not found it? Yikes. The next step is to make sure you don't get charged for calls, texts, and data from your missing phone.
Contact your network, and they'll be able to block your SIM so no calls or texts can be charged to it. Some can even block the IMEI, a code unique to your handset itself, so no one else will be able to use it even with a different SIM.
A lot of networks have caps - usually of £100 - so you won't have to pay any more than that if a thief starts making long-distance calls on your lost phone. However, you'll need to make sure you report it to the network within 24 hours of it going missing.
Some networks even have ways of tracking, locking, and erasing data remotely on your phone - EE has Clone Phone, for instance, and Vodafone has Vodafone Protect - and if you have insurance too, your mobile can likely be replaced. Of course, they'll also need proof that you reported it to the police as lost or stolen. So our third step is…
3. Report it to the local police
If your phone has absolutely, definitely, without a doubt been stolen by a thief, do this as soon as you can - before you even contact your network. You may be able file the report over the phone, though some will need you to come in to the station. And as well as letting you make a report, the police will be able to give advice on what to do next.
4. Get a new phone
Sometimes the worst happens, and your phone is indeed gone for good… which really, really sucks. So once you've mourned the loss of your loyal handset, it's time to look into getting a new one.
For a handset that won't break the bank, or at least a decent one to use temporarily, check out our five favourite cheap phones.
Or why not take the opportunity to upgrade? Here are our five best phones for 2017.
And now you've got a new phone, make it secure! Set up a lock screen with a password, install a good tracking app - we like Prey and Cerberus - and jot down important stuff, like the IMEI number.