Q: A friend of mine had her phone stolen, and had to spend weeks rebuilding her digital life. How can I avoid that pain?
A: I’ve had a similar experience, and was semi-prepared. It highlighted the gaps in my preparation, but also underlined what worked.
The single most important step to take in preparing for the possibility of a smartphone being lost or stolen is to have a back-up strategy. That means not only doing backups of photos, for example, but having a full-on back-up and recovery strategy. This means that back-ups are just the starting point. Yes, you must back up, and there are a number of ways to do that. Let’s start with the most common content people don’t want to lose: chat history, and photos. If you have an Android phone, both pics and WhatsApp content can be saved automatically onto Google Drive. WhatsApp backs up overnight, so one can still lose content from the day a phone disappeared. iPhone users can back up to their iCloud account, and Huawei users can back up on the Mobile Cloud app.
That addresses the basics, but does not help restoring the rest of your digital life, and this is where a major life-hack enters the picture.
This works especially if you’ve recently upgraded your phone and still have the old one lying around. If you don’t have a spare, I recommend buying an entry-level smartphone (iPhone users will be out of luck here, but they are the most likely to have previous editions lying around). Then replicate the exact set-up on your primary phone: download the same apps, log into them with the same credentials, and keep it updated as a digital replica of your main phone. In some cases, you can only log onto a single device with the same credentials, but that will be an exception. If on Android, even WhatsApp now allows mirroring on multiple devices.
From time to time, use the backup phone as your main phone, just to make sure everything is up to date. But don’t carry both phones with you or keep the together. Then, if one is lost or stolen, you can instantly move over to the other and carry on, almost as normal, until you can replace your primary handset.