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Tip: Serial Number Can’t Recover Stolen Smartphone

My smartphone was stolen five days ago. Is it true that I can locate it by searching for its serial number?This reader is sadly out of luck. While you can now put a lost or stolen phone’s serial number on a blacklist to prevent it from being reactivated in the U.S., that database won’t help you find it — and it doesn’t put phone thieves out of business either.Serial number smartphone

The wireless carriers completed setting up that missing-phone database in November. To add your device to that list, just contact your carrier; if you bought your phone from that service, you shouldn’t need to know its serial number (technically, an IMEI, short for “International Mobile Station Equipment Identity,” or MEID, as in “Mobile Equipment Identifier”).

Otherwise, now would be a good time to look it up and write it down. On an iPhone, it’s either printed on the back or on the SIM card tray, and you can also copy it from the Settings app (select “General” and then “About”). In Android, it may be stamped on the back, or you should be able to look it up in the Settings app by tapping “About phone” and then “Status.”

Now would also be a fantastic time to set up your phone with a find-my-phone app — Apple and Google’s free, built-in tools can locate your phone, lock its screen and even remotely wipe it, but they don’t work until you switch them on. In iOS, you enable the Find My Phone feature in the Settings app’s iCloud area. Activating Google’s Android Device Manager is a little less obvious; you have to open the Google Settings app you may never have touched before.

(In Microsoft’s Windows Phone, the free “Find My Phone” feature should be active once you add a Microsoft account to the phone, but you may want to adjust its settings to ensure it keeps a more current record of the device’s location.)

Third-party apps can do this job, too; prior to Android Device Manager’s arrival, I’d recommended Lookout and Android Lost for the task.

In iOS 7, Apple’s service can do one thing that those others can’t — prevent an iPhone from being used by anybody else again, even after a complete reset. This “Activation Lock” also defeats two possible workarounds for that stolen-phone database, electronically altering a phone’s serial number or selling the device in another country.

Other manufacturers could add such a feature, but the carriers don’t seem interested. For example, Samsung asked them to preload a “kill switch” app last year after adding support for that feature to the core software on some of its Galaxy-series Android phones, but they declined. Instead, you need to download Absolute Software’s LoJack app yourself, then pay $29.99 a year to use it.

CTIA, the wireless-industry trade group, says such a feature would wind up being used maliciously. (Should that make me feel better about the security of their systems? Perhaps not.) As long as they hold that view and continue to sell most of the phones used in the U.S., it may take legislation to change matters.

Tip: Scan business cards in Evernote’s iOS app

The digital transformation has yet to put a dent in the market for business cards; if anything, it’s made it easier to obsess over the design of one’s own cards. As a result, my desk is overrun with the things.

Evernote’s iOS app can now help with that problem: In December, the company added a business-card scanning feature to its popular note-taking software that automatically digitizes the text on a card. If you want, it can then add that person’s data to your contacts list and cross-reference it with LinkedIn.

After some initial problems on my iPad Mini (I had to log out of the app and then back in to to get it to start digitizing cards properly), I can report that it works as advertised. You can scan five cards for free, after which the feature requires Evernote’s $45/year Premium service.

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