They might not mean what their name says but they are essential nevertheless
What do I mean by “not meaning what their name says,” you ask? “Anti” means “against” so “anti-theft” should mean “against theft.” Since there is no equivalent to a car’s steering-wheel lock or tire or wheel lock in software, whatever you install on your cellphone won’t prevent someone from running away with it. So most anti-theft software don’t really prevent theft. If you search for ‘anti-theft’ at App Store you’ll see this:
They all say anti-theft but, except for alarms that sound off when your iPhone is touched or moved, these apps are mostly for using after your iPhone is stolen.
However, even if not all thieves are discouraged from stealing your phone, anti-theft apps will still give you other important features you can use after your iPhone gets lost.
They might not have something resembling steering-wheel/wheel/hood locks, but cellphone anti-theft software have other features that work like those in car anti-theft devices:
- Alarm – Numerous apps that sound off an alarm whenever someone moves, gets near or uses your phone, like Anti Theft Alarm Lite, Anti Theft Alarm System Free, Anti Thief (and Anti Thief Lite), Secure My iPhone Free, and Theft-Alarm
- Kill Switch – Allows you to remotely lock and wipe your data off your missing iPhone. This is a feature of Apple’s iCloud so there are virtually no other apps competing with Find My iPhone. Find My iPhone (it also works with iPads and MacBooks with GPS) allows you to sign in to iCloud using another iPhone or log on to iCloud using a web browser. You can then track your stolen iPhone and choose to either remotely lock down or wipe the data from it. Only remotely wipe your data from your iPhone if you no longer expect to recover it.
- Tracking – A function of iCloud and Find My iPhone, as mentioned. Other similar apps: Prey Anti-Theft, GadgetTrak, Lookout Free, Phone Trace 4, Device Locator. Note: keeping the GPS function always on drains your iPhone’s battery more quickly than with the GPS off.
The best anti-theft apps will have all three feature groups and more (like SIM change detection). They will hide their presence (and your remote activities) from whoever took your phone. The thief will not be aware that you are tracking your phone, getting a list of incoming and outgoing calls, recording the thief’s picture and voice, locking it, etc. And whoever stole your iPhone will not be able to delete or uninstall the app either.
What if my iPhone gets stolen before I installed an anti-theft app?
Tough luck, you’re pretty much left in the cold. For Android phone users, there’s Plan B. This one allows you to install phone locator software from the web after your Android phone is lost.
Plan B’s makers, Lookout Mobile Security (the same company that makes the popular Lookout mobile security app) still hasn’t figured out how to do the same trick on the iPhone. Apple is strict about how you install programs on their products. They have not yet made installing an app possible just by logging in to the Apple App store in a browser running in other devices.
But, in addition to phone tracking, your iPhone already has built-in anti-theft features you can use even without anti-theft apps installed yet.
Anti-Theft Features in the iPhone
- Lock Screen – Activate Passcode lock (accessible from your iPhone’s general settings menu).
- Data Encryption – Users of new iPhones (after 2008) benefit from automatic hardware encryption of their data — also present in some Blackberry phones (but not in most Android phones). Data encryption scrambles your data inside your iPhone. This way, even if thieves access your data, they still won’t be able to see the information inside it without your password.
But the bottomline is whether you use paid, free, or built-in anti-theft software for your iPhone, there’s really no substitute for common sense. Don’t give thieves the opportunity to steal your iPhone.