How to improve your chances of recovering a lost Android phone

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Password-protecting your smartphone makes sense, as it prevents unauthorized users from accessing your data.

But it can also work against you. Suppose, for example, your phone gets lost. If a Good Samaritan finds it and wants to return it, he or she won't be able to do the necessary detective work. (And it's not like you'd want them poking around your data anyway.)

Fortunately, Android 4.0 offers a solution in the form of lock-screen contact information, which will display the message of your choosing even on a passcode-protected device. Here's how to set this up:

1. On your Android phone, head to Settings, then look for an entry called Lock Screen. (I found this under the Personal section on my Samsung Galaxy S3; on your phone it might be under Security or somewhere similar.)

2. Tap Lock Screen, Owner Information.

3. In the field provided, enter whatever message you think might help someone return the phone to you--your e-mail address or office phone number, for example. You could even set up a Google Voice number solely as an "emergency recovery" number, just in case you don't want your personal number readily visible on your lock screen.

4. Make sure Show owner info on lock screen is checked, then tap OK.

And that's all there is to it. Now, if someone finds your phone, they still won't be able to bypass your security, but they will have the info they need to get in touch with you.

Now there's just the simple matter of what kind of reward befits the return of a lost phone. My feeling: $20. Your thoughts?

While you're mulling that over, be sure to outfit your phone with some kind of tracking app so you're not relying solely on the kindness of strangers. You can't go wrong with Where's My Droid, but it's just one option of many.

Want to learn more? Check out TechHive's recent roundup of Android security apps.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PCWorld ForumsSign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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