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How to use Android Device Manager

Authored by: Gary Marshall — Feb 7, 2015

Losing your smartphone is not only terribly inconvenient, it can also be emotionally and financially devastating. The more you can do to protect yourself in the event that you lose your smartphone or have your phone stolen, the better. With Android Device Manager, you can massively increase your chances of not only getting your phone back, but also protecting yourself if it is gone for good. Here is how to use Android Device Manager as an anti-theft tool. 

AndroidPIT Android Device Manager app icon
How to use Android Device Manager © ANDROIDPIT

Find a lost Android phone using Android Device Manager

Google’s Android Device Manager has been around for two years now, and it works for almost every modern Android device through the magic of Google Play Services. It is usually switched on by default, but if it isn’t, you can easily enable it in Google Settings on your phone.

AndroidPIT Google Settings Android Device Manager
Go to Google Settings > Security > Android Device Manager. © ANDROIDPIT

How to ensure Android Device Manager can find your Android phone

Android Device Manager needs two things before it can locate a phone. The device needs to have remote location enabled, which you’ll find in Google Settings > Android Device Manager > Remotely Locate This Device (make sure the box is ticked), and it needs to have location access on too. That’s in Google Settings > Location. If these settings aren’t enabled, then Device Manager won’t be able to locate your device.

Android Device Manager works for tablets as well, but if you have multiple user accounts, only the tablet ''owner'' can turn on the Android Device Manager features (or turn them off again).

If your phone is on, Android Device Manager can help you find it anywhere in the world. / © ANDROIDPIT
Android Device Manager Install on Google Play

Using Android Device Manager

You can access Android Device Manager in two ways: via the Android Device Manager app on another Android device, or via the Android Device Manager website

Once you’ve launched the app or site and logged in, Android Device Manager will attempt to locate your missing device. If it’s on and can get a signal, you’ll see the location on a map; you’ll also see three options to ring it, lock it or remotely wipe it. If the device isn’t on or in an area where it can get a signal, Android Device Manager will report its location when it comes online.

Making a lost phone ring solves most lost-phone problems, and saves marriages too. / © ANDROIDPIT

1. Ring your phone

In most cases your phone will be merely mislaid rather than stolen, so don’t go nuclear with the Device Manager: if the map shows that the phone is nearby, clicking Ring will - as you might expect - make it ring so you can find it. In our experience this feature solves 99% of missing phone problems, and has probably saved several marriages too. 

If the map shows that the phone is somewhere you aren’t, the Ring feature might persuade a kindly stranger to answer it - but if it doesn’t and you suspect your phone has been stolen rather than misplaced, call the cops. The idea of turning up and catching a phone thief red-handed is very appealing, we know, but in reality you’re likely to get punched or worse. 

You can lock your phone, display a message and urge the finder to call you. / © ANDROIDPIT

2. Lock your phone

If you’re starting to panic and Android Device Manager can contact your phone, the next step is to lock it. Once you click the Lock button you’ll be able to enter a phone number; this locks the phone but enables whoever finds it to call you on that number and that number only. If the phone is off when you click on the Lock button, the changes will be applied when the phone comes back online.

3. Remote wipe your phone

Still no joy? Time for the nuclear option. If you choose the erase option, you can remotely wipe your phone or tablet. That’s the same as performing a full factory reset, so it’ll wipe all of your settings, your music, your photos and your apps (but not anything on the SD card, if your phone has one). As with locking, if the missing phone is off then selecting this option will remotely wipe it once it comes back online.

This is the nuclear option: it wipes everything to perform a factory reset.  © ANDROIDPIT

What to do if Android Device Manager can’t connect

Android Device Manager doesn’t track your phone’s location history, but Google Maps does - or at least, it does if you haven’t turned that feature off in your Google Account. You can sometimes discover where your missing phone has been by visiting the Location History page and checking the timestamps. It won’t necessarily tell you where your phone is, but it can tell you where it’s been.

Another option is to use the excellent Android Lost, which works well on older Android devices. The app and website look terrible but work terribly well, although once again the device needs to be online via the cellular network or Wi-Fi for it to work.

Android Lost: looks awful, works well. / © ANDROIDPIT

Precautions to take when your phone isn’t lost

Taking a few precautions can pay dividends if your phone gets lost later, especially if you use it to store sensitive data or stay logged in to your favourite online shops. A lock screen pattern is a must, and if you use SD cards for data don’t store anything sensitive on them - remote wipe doesn’t wipe removable storage. And consider investing in an app such as Lookout or AirDroid. The latter is particularly clever, because it enables you remotely transfer crucial files before you wipe the device. 

Do you have any tips for finding lost phones? How did you find our tips on how to use Android Device Manager? Let us know in the comments.

Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Gary Marshall has been writing about technology since Google was two guys in a garage. He's written for many fine magazines, newspapers and websites, written a range of how-to-books and a novel, co-written a BBC documentary series and dishes out weekly tech advice on BBC Radio Scotland.


Write new comment:
  • iMoresoft Android Manager is the best program I have ever used for device management. You can backup and restore data, install or uninstall apps. It has all the functions for device management. You can check it from here:

  • wenq 6 days ago Link to comment

    I want to recommend a good and simple tool, , you can easily manage the data or files, and the interface is really clear, every step can be seen.

  • Samsung Assistant is a good program which can help backup and manage android phone data ,like contacts, message, photos ,videos ,music ,files etc. See this :

  • okay so, i locked my phone with a 4- digit passcode 1-9,
    went through the prompts -
    where they make you re-do the pin

    locked the phone, then typed the code and now doesn't recognise the passcode and is saying "invalid pin"

    This is definitely the pin code, i have tried every possible pin around this. Spoke to samsung and they told me to put a lock password via- google account (android device manager)
    and said it would take 72 hrs to change. (he also told me to put an alpha character- which i questioned as the options for passcode was only numerics on my phone- and he said it would be fine) stupidly i listened to him.

    fast forward 72 hrs - no new passcode option has come up- the phone has the android device manager sign - so it seems to be activated, but because there was an alpha letter involved obviously it cannot recognise the pin as its only picking up numerics (1-9) , and is still "invalid"

    so now i have gone back to android device managed and tried to change the password again, and it is now not allowing me to change it.

    this is beyond a nightmare as its now 72 hrs over, nothing has been resolved and now samsung has said they originally had misinformed me completely and will need to just go to a service centre and have it restored where all data will be deleted.

    (i have not backed this phone up, and really desperately need all data on it)

    please help.

  • Weiwei 1 week ago Link to comment

    One tool called Android Mobile Manager can instead of Android Device Manager in some parts, you can use it manage your phone data easily:

  • To manage android device, we can use an Android Assistant to manage it on computer with ease.

  • Loie 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    I'd like to share this one with you,, it is a professional android data manager. You can manage the files on pc, and the text messages, contacts , photos and other media files can also be transfered to pc for backup.

  • I think Mobiledic is a best choice for you to manager your Android phone, it can back data on Android cell phone to computer. The data includes contacts, SMS messages, music, videos, apps, ebooks and more.

  • The best Android device management program I have ever used is MobileGo, which has all the features to manage Android based device:

  • I use this android manager to manage and backup files:

  • Samsung Phone Backup is the best Android device manager .With Samsung Phone Backup, you can simply backup and save Android data from SD card and internal memory card to computer .

  • With MoboPlay, the management of your smartphone becomes fun and easy. I recommend it!

  • Ibvaag 2 months ago Link to comment

    Use Samsung Assistant application to help you backup android phone data .And you can also manage android phone data on computer simply!

  • Weiwei 2 months ago Link to comment

    I find a better Android device management tool. Have tried it for a few months, well for me.

  • Ibvaag 2 months ago Link to comment

    Data backup and data manage become very easy , if you have make the backup about your phone data on computer .And you can also manage phone data on computer simply !

  • 9
    AnnieChow 2 months ago Link to comment

    I want to recommend a good and simple tool, , you can easily manage the data or files, and the interface is really clear, every step can be seen.

  • I prefer to use this alternative to android devcie manager:

  • Ibvaag 2 months ago Link to comment

    Samsung Assistant is a good program which can help backup and manage android phone data ,like contacts, message, photos ,videos ,music ,files etc. See this :

  • Ibvaag 2 months ago Link to comment

    Generally speaking,andorid phone users can backup phone data to google account .For good android device manager ,you can choose samsung backup app .....

  • 9
    AnnieChow 3 months ago Link to comment

    Here I'd like to recommend a good and simple tool, , you can easily manage the data or files, and the interface is really clear, every step can be seen.

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