“You want me to what?”
This was my wife’s reaction when I asked her to ‘steal’ my travel phone. I was doing a test run of Prey’s anti-theft features on their application that I had recently installed. She agreed after I reassured her that the authorities would not be involved in the experiment and that I only wanted to track the hypothetical thief that made off with my phone.
She agreed on one condition: “Do not/not set the alarm off in my office”
She had already heard me testing Prey’s various features, one of which is the alarm you can remotely trigger to locate your phone if you lose it, or just to mess with a potential thief. This feature would be especially handy if someone in a café slyly stuffs your phone in their bag while you run to the loo and then stays put, playing innocent.
Not just for phones though; the Prey app can be installed on tablets and laptops as well. Which is perfect since on some occasions I will bring my tablet so I can write from the road while the experience is still fresh, otherwise traveling light means I don’t bring anything more than my travel phone with me.
What can you do with it?
After you install you can log into the app and run a bevy of cool features (Parens indicates service package level):
- Sound the alarm (Basic): An unmistakable, high pitched noise to either locate the device, or expose the nearby thief.
- Send a message (Basic): There’s nothing more satisfying than sending a potential thief the following message: “I know what you did and I’m watching you.”
- Lock device (Basic): Keep your data from being corrupted by locking the down the device. Prevents others from being able to log in.
- Camouflage (Basic): Hides the Prey application from view, which prevents a potential thief from deleting the app before you can retrieve the device. Great feature!
- Remote Data Wipe (Personal): Is it a lost cause? Take the nuclear option and wipe the device’s data. I may have to replace the device, but I’ll sleep better at night knowing my identity and data are safe.
- File retrieval (Home): Remotely download files from the device.
- Geofencing (Basic): A great option to incorporate into Family Travel. Set up a zone around the amusement park (or school) and the app will alert you if they leave the premises.
Prey has a great on-boarding process that helps familiarize new users to the platform and encourages people to try features that might seem scary at first: “What happens if I sound the alarm?” or “What happens if I set the phone to ‘missing’?” This familiarizes the user with how to engage these features if necessary; I personally really enjoyed knowing what would happen if I had to use these features in the event of loss or theft. After two emails from my Prey ‘guide’, I installed the program on my tablet and my travel phone as well.
Easy installation and start up:
For the phone I went to the app store and did a quick download, created an account and logged in
On the tablet I went to the Prey site, and downloaded the installation file for my specific platform (Windows).
After the initial install, I quickly upgraded my plan to test out the full suite of features.
Test run results:
I set my travel phone to ‘missing’ and dropped it in my wife’s bag as she left for work. Prey sent me a notifaction every ten minutes as to the device’s location on a map, the technical specs of the device, connected IP address, connected WiFi name and nearby WiFi points to help with Geolocation. All the features listed above worked great, I even wiped the phone (which I needed to do before my next trip anyway).
I noticed only two limitations to this technology:
*These are limitations on the technology in the phone itself and by no means a negative connotation to Prey’s app. It’s good to understand what tech can and cannot do, so I will list them even though I can offer no good solution.
- It requires that your phone be on and connected to the internet. If your phone dies or if it’s overseas and you’re not connected to the Internet or a WiFi point, then you could be out of luck. Once a perp does connect your stolen device to the Internet; however, you’re back in business.
- You have to access your account in order to lock down the phone and/or take advantage of the recovery features. This means getting back to a computer, potentially the one in the hotel lobby before you can lock it down and track it. Assuming you remember your password to log in, that is.
But JC, what about my personal data?
Prey is all about protecting your device AND your data, they even make their source code available to inspect just in case you want to verify their claims. This was taken directly from their site:
“We should mention that sensitive data is gathered only when you request it, and is for your eyes only ‐ nothing is sent without your permission.”
Even with the basic package, Prey is packed with great features, easy to install and fun to get familiar with. Whether you plan on travel, work in cafés or are just a person with a tendency to lose things, Prey is a no-brainer. I included Prey in my list of top five travel apps for a reason: Peace of mind while on the road.
*My opinions here are my own. I would; however, like to thank Prey for providing me with a full access, Home account in order to fully test out the application’s features.