What Happens to a Lost Smartphone?

Avast "Lost" and Tracked 20 Phones In the U.S. to Find Out Where They Went

Redwood City,California, Oct. 28, 2015 – Avast Software, maker of the world’s most-trusted PC and mobile security, today revealed the results of their experiment to lose and track twenty smartphones in the United States. Ten phones were each randomly placed in New York City and San Francisco.

Prior to dropping the devices, Avast installed three security apps on all the phones:  the free Avast Anti-Theft app, Lookout Mobile Security, and Clean Master. Each phone was marked with contact information on where to return the device if found. Of the 20 devices, only four phones were returned to Avast; the others enjoyed colorful journeys.

Finders Keepers

Over a five-month period, Avast analysts used the Avast Anti-Theft app to track the lost devices and observed the following: 

  • The majority of lost devices were wiped clean using the factory reset feature
  • Avast Anti-Theft was the only security app that survived the factory reset
  • One device appears to have traveled via a transatlantic cargo ship before settling in India where the phone is currently being used.
  • One device flew to the Dominican Republic
  • One device landed in a pawn shop
  • One device appears to be with a taxi driver zigzagging the streets of San Francisco

"More than 3 million phones are lost each year," said Gagan Singh, president of mobile at Avast, "Fortunately with Avast Anti-Theft, users have the means to track and recover a lost phone – or remotely wipe the data on it if it’s not recoverable. With all the personal data we store on our phones today, it’s a good idea to have a way to either find your phone or delete the content if you lose it."

Good Samaritans

While the majority of the lost devices continue to wander the world, four people returned the phones they found to Avast. One of the finders, Quiana W. from Brooklin, said: "I know how it feels like to lose things – wallet or phone – so I was trying to pay it forward."

Avast Anti-Theft provides users with remote recovery options to help them recover lost or stolen devices. The free app uses GPS, Wi-Fi, and mobile networks to locate lost devices. Users can also remotely lock mobile phones to prevent access to personal data and settings, and even take a "theftie" – a photo -- of the person who stole the device. Avast Anti-Theft is available for free and can be downloaded here