It can be all too easy to lose your mobile phone, as they are often in our pockets, handbags or gym bags, meaning they can easily be dropped or misplaced.
To find out more about just how many phones go missing in the UK, and the most common places where handsets go missing, we spoke to over 1,000 smartphone owners, and the results are in.
On average, UK adults will lose two mobile phones in their lifetime. With 74% of the UK’s population owning a smartphone, that’s an estimated 98,324,688 handsets currently missing right now.
Where is your phone most likely to walkabout?
When it comes to the locations you are most likely to misplace your phone, leaving it in a bar or restaurant is the most commonplace for people to leave their phones behind. We found that a quarter of people surveyed (24%) have lost their phone whilst eating or drinking at a bar or restaurant.
With data from the Department for Transportation stating that 4.8 billion bus journeys and 1.8 billion train journeys were made in the UK in 2018/2019, it’s not surprising to find that an additional quarter of UK mobile phone users surveyed (24%) admitted that they have lost a phone whilst travelling on public transport.
The most common places people have misplaced their phone are:
- Bar or restaurant (24%)
- Public transport (24%)
- Out in public, such as dropping it in the street or a park (23%)
- In the house (17%)
- At a friend’s house (5%)
- At the gym (3%)
So which age-group is most likely to lose their phone?
People aged 25 to 34 have lost three phones so far on average, meaning they’re most likely to say goodbye to their handsets on a regular basis.
Those aged 65 and over appear to be a fairly safe pair of hands however, with the majority (86%) of over 65s surveyed only having lost one phone in their lifetime.
Which cities are home to most missing mobiles?
Our study found that on average, Belfast, Edinburgh and Manchester residents are the most likely to lose a phone. Residents in those cities have lost three phones on average in their lifetime.
This works out at roughly 800,603 lost phones in Belfast, 1,191,641 in Edinburgh and a staggering 6,060,768 lost phones in Manchester.
How to reduce the risk of losing your phone
Accidents happen and sometimes losing a phone is inevitable. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure your phone makes its way back to you if left behind somewhere (although we can’t promise these will work).
1 - Enable the ‘Find my Phone’ app - Firstly, whenever you get a new handset ensure you have set up ‘Find my Phone’. Most manufacturers, including Apple, Google and Samsung have this feature features built into their software, but you generally have to sign up for an account.
If you have an iPhone, enable the ‘Find My iPhone’ app which can be accessed via ‘Settings’ > ‘Your Name’ > ‘iCloud’. Scroll to the bottom and tap ‘Find My iPhone’. If you’re an Apple Watch user, you can connect and pair your watch to your iPhone, so you’re able to use your watch to find your missing phone. Once paired, swipe up from the bottom of the watch face and tap ‘Find iPhone’. Your iPhone should ring out with a ping sound if nearby.
Samsung offers ‘Find My Mobile’, which requires signing up for a Samsung account. This not only allows you to locate your phone and protect your data, but it can also be used to unlock your device if you forget your password. Simply head over to findmymobile.samsung.com. If you’re a Galaxy Watch user, you can pair your devices together. The find my mobiles app is pre-installed so it is easy to use.
If you’re on Android, download the ‘Google Find My Phone’ app, not only does this allow you to locate your phone on a map, but it also lets you ‘Enable lock and erase’ securing your device and permanently deleting your phone's data.
If you’d prefer to use an app, Apple and Android have various apps available that are able to locate your device such as ‘Device Locator’ (iPhone) or ‘Family Locator’ (Android).
2 - Only use silent mode when it’s needed - We all fall into the habit of putting our phone on silent mode when at work or at night, but this can cause problems if we misplace our mobiles. Try to only use silent mode when it’s really needed and switch back once it’s no longer required. For most Android handsets, press and hold the phone’s ‘Power’ button, then select ‘Silent Mode’. For iPhone users, use the switch on the side of your phone. When the switch has an orange bar, your phone will be on silent.
3 - Add a lock screen message - If you do lose your phone, having handy information such as ‘if found’ available on your lock screen can help reunite you with your handset if you leave it whilst out or misplace it. iPhone users can add a personal note to the lock screen using ‘Find My iPhone’. For Android handsets, go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Security & Location’. Tap ‘Screen Lock’ > ‘Settings’ and ‘Lock Screen Message’, where you will be able to input a message.
4 - Keep it out of sight - It may seem obvious, but when you’re out and about, always make sure your mobile phone is out of sight if you’re not using it. Always keep your phone in a secure pocket or zipped handbag, especially if you’re in a bar or restaurant when you’re likely to not need to use your phone much.
5 - Register your device - To keep your phone extra safe, register the handset with Immobilise, the UK National Property Register. This is a free service that police forces across the UK have used for over 10 years to reunite people with their lost or stolen property. To register your handset, you need your IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. To find this out just text #06# to reveal the 15-17 digit number.
What to do if you do lose your phone
If you have enabled ‘Find my Phone’ apps, your first port of call if you misplace your phone should be to utlise these. The simplest method to find your phone is to use the app to ‘ping’ your phone; assuming your phone is reachable, you will be able to hear this ‘ping’. Keep pinging the phone until you find it.
If you think you’ve left your phone further afield, use another device, such as Apple watch for iPhone or Galaxy Watch for samsung, or log onto the manufacturer’s website and use the dedicated ‘Find My Phone’ page, for example, Google: google.com/android/find. Assuming you have set up your account, your phone will be able to broadcast its location to you. A map will appear showing your location and the location of your missing device, including a number of options, such as, Play Sound, Enable lock and Erase this device. (If you believe your device has been stolen, we do not advise you to go looking for it.)
Contact your network provider
If you do lose your phone and cannot locate it, there are some ways you can help reduce the impact of it being in the wrong hands.
As soon as you notice your handset is missing and you’re unable to find it, contact your network provider and inform them that it’s lost or stolen. Reporting your lost phone to your provider as soon as possible (recommended to be done in 24 hours of it going missing) will also reduce the risk of paying for unauthorised phone usage.
Your provider will be able to blacklist your phone and cancel your SIM, so no one else will be able to use it for unauthorised calls, downloads or internet access. Your provider will also be able to tell you your phone’s identification number (IMEI) – keep this to hand as you will need it if you need to report your phone as stolen to the police. If your phone has been stolen, as well as contacting your provider, contact the police and make a note of the crime reference number, as you will need this if you want to claim on your insurance.
Recover data and files
If you’re an iPhone user, you may be able to recover data and files from your missing handset using a third-party data recovery software. You can restore your iPhone data (as long as it has been backed up) by using either the ‘iTunes Backup’ recovery mode or the ‘iCloud Backup’ recovery mode, depending on which method you used to back up your data.
Stellar Data Recovery or iPhone Back UP Extractor have handy guides which explain the process of recovering data in detail.
For Android users, you may be able to recover any lost data, files or images by accessing your Google Drive account online. Samsung has a useful guide, which explains in detail the steps to recover lost data using your Google Drive account, or Samsung Cloud if you have a Samsung handset. For both methods to work, you need to have previously backed up and synced your data with either the Samsung Cloud or Google Drive.
Transfer to a new SIM
Most network providers will be able to provide you with a new replacement SIM if you’ve lost your phone or had it stolen, so make sure to ask when you report your phone missing. To keep you going in the meantime, you could consider purchasing a Pay As You Go SIM or a SIM-free phone.