Marc Saltzman / For USAToday
If you've ever lost a smartphone, you're well aware the cost to replace the hardware is the least of your worries. What resides on the phone including private personal or corporate information isn't something you want falling into the wrong hands.
Locking a smartphone with a password or PIN isn't enough. To really secure your device, you should take advantage of free services that let you remotely wipe the data from a lost or stolen phone.
You can also locate your device on a map to retrieve it though if it's stolen, you should give the information to the authorities rather than trying to handle it yourself.
There is a catch, however: You need to set up these free services before you lose it.
So long as you're proactive about it, and spend the five minutes to sign up before it's too late, the following is what you need to protect your smartphone whether it's an iPhone, Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry.
There are two official ways to locate your misplaced iPhone: sign into iCloud.com on a computer and select Find My Phone or launch Apple's Find My iPhone app on another iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) or on a Mac. Find My iPhone is available for free at the App Store.
For both, you can see where your device is on a map, along with the date and time it was last located there, along with the phone's current battery level (top right corner).
If it isn't locked with a PIN, you can do this remotely. And why not send a message that will appear on the screen, such as your contact info or a small reward offer, if a Good Samaritan finds it?
Alternatively, you can have it ring loudly, even if the device was on mute in case, say, you left it between couch cushions.
Or wipe the data clean if you don't want to take a chance of it being accessed.
There are many third-party apps to track, lock and wipe a missing Android phone.
But Google's own Android Device Manager, launched last fall, is available as a free download from the Google Play store. Or you can log into android.com/devicemanager on a PC or Mac.
For either method, you'll first be prompted to sign into your Google account.
You might have your phone ring loudly in case it's somewhere nearby (even if it's on silent/vibrate). If it's not nearby perhaps left at a friend's house, in the car or at a restaurant you can locate your Android phone on a map in real-time.
Remotely add a screen lock to your device, if it didn't already have a password, PIN or pattern lock on it.
Failing all this, if your phone can't be recovered, or has been stolen, you can easily wipe all of the data on your device.
This service is available on devices running Android 2.2 or above.
If you own a Windows Phone, such as a Nokia Lumia device, and you've misplaced it, Microsoft's Find My Phone is a free service that might be able to help.
Go to windowsphone.com on any Internet-connected computer or mobile device and sign into your Windows Live ID associated with your phone.
Like the other apps highlighted in this article, Find My Phone makes it easier to recover your phone or to prevent someone from using it without your consent.
You can ring, lock, erase or show your phone on a map.
After logging into windowsphone.com with your password, click Find My Phone and follow the instructions. Microsoft suggests making a hard copy of your phone's location if your computer is connected to a printer.
Alternatively, click Ring to hear your phone if it's in earshot. Click Lock to lock your missing or stolen device (only if you haven't set up a lock screen previously) and perhaps type a message to display on your phone's screen (usually an alternative phone number or an e-mail address, so you can be contacted). To wipe your phone clean, click Erase and then select I'm Sure from the confirmation screen.
Finally, BlackBerry owners can download the official BlackBerry Protect app from App World, and sign up for the free service.
If your BlackBerry is missing in action, you can log in to a website (blackberry.com/protect) to see the smartphone on a map and remotely scrub its data, so no one can access it.
Or you can set a password and lock it remotely, make your BlackBerry ring loudly or display a message on the homescreen instructing whoever finds it on how to return it.
As a proactive measure, BlackBerry Protect as its name suggests also lets you wirelessly back up your contacts, text messages, calendar, memos, tasks and bookmarks; this is all done automatically after you choose how often you'd like to back up your data: daily, weekly or monthly. Then you can wirelessly restore your backed up data when switching to a new BlackBerry.