Looking After Your Mobile Phone

For many people our mobile phones are an extension of us. Messages, photos, emails, social media - our phones often store (or give access to) huge amounts of our lives.

If you were to lose your phone, what memories & contacts might you lose? If your phone was stolen, what personal information could the thief access?

Whilst we (sadly!) can't help you avoid losing your phone, there are steps you can do now to limit any damage should the worst happen. Jump straight to topic:

Set up a screen lock for your phone

Mobile phone pin

Go on hands up, how many of us have ever lost a mobile phone?

Now pause and think about all that your phone can do:

  • Can you send and receive emails?
  • Do you use banking apps?
  • Is Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram installed?
  • Do you have private text messages or WhatsApp chats on it?
  • Personal photos?

How would you feel if a complete stranger had easy access to all this, whether from simply finding your lost phone - or maybe even by pickpocketing you?

To keep control over your data the single best thing you can do is to enable a lock screen so that only you can open and access it. Unlocking your phone may be in the form of a PIN number, a swipe pattern, or (if your phone offers it) face or fingerprint recognition.

You can set this up in your phone here:

  • For iPhones:  In Settings go to Face ID & Passcode.
  • For Android phones:  In Settings go to Security and select Screen lock.

Most phones will allow you to configure when this check is needed. You might for example only require a PIN number after 5 minutes of inactivity (rather that every single time you want to access it), or to allow you access to notifications without the need for any identity check. Set whatever is best for you.


Mobile phone pin

For even better defence, you can set a PIN for your SIM card too. This will prevent a phone thief from being able to put your SIM card into another phone in order to receive your text messages - for example those that may have security codes in, if perhaps the thief is trying to reset your password on any internet accounts.

You can find these settings here:

  • For iPhones:  In Settings go to Mobile Data and then SIM PIN
  • For Android phones:  In Settings go to Security and select Sim card lock.
    • Some Android phones do vary, so check your manufacturer's help for more information, such as Samsung | HTC | Sony.

Note that you may need to enter the default network provider's PIN number before you can set a new one; you should be able to find this with a quick Do a web search.

You'll will need to enter the SIM PIN every time you restart your phone, so it's important to make sure it's a PIN that you can remember easily. If you enter it incorrectly too many times you'll need to contact your network provider to get a "PUK" code to unlock it.

Enable the "Find my phone" feature

The 'Find My' iphone app icon

The 'Find My' iphone app icon

Many modern smartphones come with a "Find My Phone" feature to help locate it if it's ever lost (for as long as it still has power & a phone signal).

This also often comes with other abilities too, such as to remotely delete all data to stop others from accessing whatever is on your phone.

For help setting this up (before you lose your phone!) see these pages on the manufacturer's own websites: iPhone | Android.

Keep your phone's software updated

Updating your computer

If you have a modern smartphone, update the phone's software regularly to ensure it's protected against the latest technical threats.

For how to do this see our guide to updating your phone's software.

Disable notification previews

Updating your computer

Some phones will, if set up to do this, display new messages on screen even when the phone is locked. Whilst this can be convenient (so you don't have to unlock your phone just to read a message) it can also be a huge help for thieves.

If they try to hack into any of your accounts then they'll now be able to read any security codes sent as a text message - even without needing to unlock your phone.

To disable notification previews on the lock screen see these pages: iPhone | Android.

Look after your data

Use public wifi with care

Using a public wifi connection (or "hotspot") can expose your personal data to several risks, such as your emails or messages being captured and stolen, if you don't take the correct precautions. See our guide on how to use your phone on public wifi hotspots securely.

Keep your phone backed up

Our phones often contain a lot of information that's important to us, for example phone numbers, photos, messages, and app data. Make sure you don't lose all this (for example if you lose your phone or it just stops working) by backing it up regularly. Many phones these days make it easy, allowing you to "sync" your files & contacts to your home computer.

See our guide for backing up your data.

If you lose your phone

Mobile phone lock screen

If you ever lose your phone (which most of us probably have at one point in the past!) then find a computer and change the passwords for the different accounts that your phone has access to straight away, just in case a thief does manage to access your phone. This could for example be your email accounts, Facebook, Instagram, or even a dating website.

See our dedicated guide for what to do if you lose your phone.

One other thing worth considering right now - ie before you lose your phone! - is would you know how to contact friends or family if you lost your phone? Can you remember any important emergency phone numbers for friends or family? It's worth keeping at least one number written down and carried with you at all times, so you can still contact somebody in the event of an emergency if you can no longer access your numbers for whatever reason (even if it's just a flat battery!).

Before you bin a phone....

Before disposing of your phone at the end of its life, make sure you perform a factory reset to delete all your data & prevent others seeing it. Who knows where your phone may end up!

See our guide to securely wiping your phone clean.

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