For many people, a smartphone isn't just a tool for keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues – it can be their whole world.
Calendars, contact lists, reminders and more are all stored on handsets so if a phone is lost or stolen, it can be like being thrown back into the dark ages. You might even have to start relying on pen and paper to keep track of things.
And it's not just the inconvenience, as many people now carry around the equivalent of a whole library or home entertainment system in their pocket – what can amount to hundreds of pounds worth of paid-for apps and media. So a misplaced device can be hugely costly, far beyond just the value of the gadget itself. And this is before you even consider any sentimental value of things like photos that are stored only on the device.
So why then do so many people seem to be careless with their handset? According to data from McAfee and Transport for London, more than 15,000 devices were lost on the London Underground alone in 2013. And of these, only 2,300 or so were returned. That's a lot of photos, text messages and apps that have just disappeared into the ether.
But even if you do take care of your phone, there's always the threat of opportunistic thieves – these can be hard to spot, as many pickpockets can be miles way before you even think to check what happened and they don't exactly advertise themselves with a mask and stripey shirt – so its vital you take steps to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of phone loss or theft – and have plans in place for what to do should the worst happen.
Lock down everything
You might scoff and say this is obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many people still don't even take the basic precaution of setting up a protected lock screen for their device – probably because they're too lazy to type it in every 30 seconds when they reach for their device.
But while a PIN-based option is the most basic, there are other ways of making your handset secure if you have trouble remembering numbers or just can't be bothered. For instance, there's pattern-based ones that require you to make a pretty shape if that's easier for you to remember, or biometrics that can use the phone's front-facing camera to only unlock when it sees your face, you as long as you don't have any extreme plastic surgery, you can get into your device without any sort of code.
Apple's newest iPhone 5S even has a fingerprint scanner, which might seem like a pretty toy, but is also a great way to keep a phone safe without the inconvenience.
So if you have a phone stolen and sensitive personal details compromised because you didn't take the time to lock it, you've only got yourself to blame.
A clean slate
If you are worried about what might happen if confidential, personal or potentially embarrassing information falls into the wrong hands – financial details, website login details or that Justin Bieber album you're ashamed to admit you own, for instance – then there are several apps available that can help by remotely wiping a device of data should it be lost or stolen.
This could be a particularly important step if you're using your device for business purposes – something that's becoming increasingly common as enterprises recognise the growing power of the smartphone and how it can help staff work outside the office.
Getting shouted at by the boss because your firm's most private secrets are now in the hands of the competition isn't good for your CV, so this should be a must. In fact, many firms that operate a bring your own device policy will make having such a program a requirement before they allow access to company applications and documents.
Hey, there it is
With location features now included in all the latest smartphones, it can be easier than ever to track down your phone should you misplace it – again provided you have the right apps installed.
Android, iOS and Windows Phone all have a range of options for GPS tracking, that will enable you to login via a PC and see where your phone is right now – perfect if you're always forgetting which coffee shop you've left it in (though it probably isn't accurate enough to to help if it's buried somewhere under a pile of junk in your spare room). If you think your phone has been stolen, this can also be great in helping police track down the culprit.
Regardless of whether you think it was lost or stolen, you should report it to your network provider quickly so it can be blocked. This way, if someone stumbles across the device, they won't be able to rack up a huge bill in your name. If theft is the most likely reason why you can't find your device, get the police involved quickly and let them know what, if any, tracking apps you have installed.