back to article Lost phone? Google's got an app for that, coming this month

Google has announced that it will begin offering a free device location and security service for Android phones and tablets for the first time later this month, addressing a longstanding omission in Mountain View's mobile OS. According to a blog post by Android product manager Benjamin Poiesz on Friday, the forthcoming Android …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Avast and Lookout

    Avast and Lookout have offered these functions for free for years on Android. Plus you get malware scanning of apps, link scanning, etc. Regardless of what Google does with ADM, I think I would stick with Avast and Lookout.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Avast and Lookout

      Why Avast and Lookout? Wouldn't it be easier to use what's builtin? Is there something about what Avast and Lookout do that would make them superior alternatives?

      Seems to me it would be easier for a thief to defeat third party stuff than something that is integrated into the OS.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Avast and Lookout

        @DougS >"Why Avast and Lookout?"

        Built in app scanning for malware, built in scanning of web links for malware, finer control of the locate, lock & wipe features. Both are free, both seem to use a minimum of system resources in my experience.

        >"Seems to me it would be easier for a thief to defeat third party stuff than something that is integrated into the OS."

        Good point. Might be a good idea to use both. If and when the Google ADM becomes widely used, then thieves will focus their attention on overcoming the ADM. So a person might still be wise to still use a 3rd party tool with a smaller user base that the thieves don't want to bother to learn to overcome.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Avast and Lookout

        "Seems to me it would be easier for a thief to defeat third party stuff than something that is integrated into the OS."

        This is an interesting point. Factory resetting the device would defeat Avast (or any other app based solution), and this can be done from the bootloader on most devices. (Pull battery, some key combo - recovery - wipe).

        Now on the flip side of that, if the same method doesn't defeat the OS implementation, then it means a big change for Android. Previously Android only had anything to do with Google's servers *after* you setup your Google account. For the device still to be traceable after a factory reset, it means it is constantly in contact with Google, with or without a Google account added.

        Granted, in both of these situations your data is protected, but my phone has a strong password and is encrypted, so it's the recovery of the device (and a bitch slapping for the thief) more than protection of my data I would want from this feature.

        1. Miffo

          Re: Avast and Lookout

          Given that this works with Android 2.2 and up, it must be an app rather than something integrated into the OS.

        2. Idocrase

          Re: Avast and Lookout

          Avast is designed to be able to survive a factory wipe, if you set it up right and use Cyanogen or one of it's derivatives.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Avast and Lookout

          @AC 04:56 - >"This is an interesting point. Factory resetting the device would defeat Avast (or any other app based solution), and this can be done from the bootloader on most devices. (Pull battery, some key combo - recovery - wipe)."

          Well, at least your device is still wiped, one way or the other.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You have misplaced your phone, why not just ring it?

      Of course that is supposing that it is on, the ringer is on and the battery is charged.

      If it is stolen, claim on the insurance.

      If you've got data on it you need to keep, copy it to the cloud.

      If you don't want others to access it, password protect it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      But isn't this what iOS 7 will bring into the mix, with the new activation lock, which will prevent the phone from being used even if wiped?

      Can Open source Android emulate this? Unlikely at the moment.

      So is this 'feature' an attempt to catch up with Apple?

      1. Robert Grant

        Re: Strange

        They're not copying iOS. Think Windows Phone, 3 years ago.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Strange

          Find My iPhone was released 4 months before Windows 7 Phone.

  2. DryBones

    One would presume that more features will be added as time goes on, too.

    1. dogged
      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I had a windows CE device, Windows Poclet PC device, and WIndows mobile 6.x devices.

        I never saw this feature? I can't believe it was there since day 1.

        1. dogged

          It was definitely there on WM6.x devices such as, for example, my old HTC Touch.

          Perhaps you weren't looking for it?

  3. RobHib

    All I wish...

    All I wish is that my wireless mouse and TV remotes--which continually get lost behind the couch or the dog's taken them--can be found quickly.

    All I want is a button on the laptop or TV that makes the wayward rodent squeak.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: All I wish...

      There is a solution to losing the remote control :). Check out the dimensions.

    2. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: All I wish...

      Dish network did something about it on their remotes. Push lost remote button on the front and the remote beeps and lights up.

  4. Cliff


    Is free for up to 3 devices and cross platform so you can protect your android phone, tablets and laptop. Also does the 'take a photo of the scrunt who robbed me' thing, which combined with the location can be somewhat easy for plod to get a collar.

    1. Adam JC
      Thumb Up

      Re: preyproject

      Been using Prey since I got my HTC One - I've used it no less than 4 times and it's free for up to 2/3 devices I think. Also works with PC/Mac which is nifty, although I won't ever use them. Works spot on!

  5. Timfy67
    Thumb Up

    About time...

    With my advancing years and predilection for fermented beverages, this is one of the most used features on my Windows 8 phone.

    A baked in solution on my Android devices will save a lot of sofa lifting and publican interrogations...

  6. Maliciously Crafted Packet

    Just get an iPhone for gods sake.

    None of this faffing around with antivirus and having to install apps that should come as standard. Android, three years behind the curve... still.

    1. Mark .

      Re: Just get an iPhone for gods sake.

      Let's argue back like an Apple user: But it doesn't matter that Android doesn't have this feature, because I never use it, therefore no one does, and in fact Android is better off by not having it, because it has another way of doing the same thing, a whole new paradigm (though I'm not going to explain what it is). I don't care about grumpy featurism, Android is therefore still better. It did everything first, and Apple users need to be thankful of that. And Android Android Android Android Android, posted from my Android phone.

      (Only 3 years behond? Did you finally get copy and paste, or 3G and apps yet?)

  7. dougal83

    Samsung Dive been going for ages... coincidentally found this as I checked some info.

    lol I could have told you that!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You see there's a problem with those results. First they are flat out contradicted by JD Power surveys, which are the gold standard for consumer satisfaction surveys in the US:

      Really every marketing department refers to JD Power above any other survey. Second as even Forbes (who are not noted for being Apple fanboys) note "Even in Korea, Apple scores higher on customer satisfaction than native son Samsung." :

      Third the survey you have quoted is somewhat contradicted by the multitude of surveys which show more Android users and more Samsung users want to purchase an iPhone as their next phone than iPhone users want to purchase an Android phone (of any description). Even Android Authority admit as much:

      but of course, lol, you already knew that!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the multitude of surveys which show more Android users and more Samsung users want to purchase an iPhone as their next phone than iPhone users want to purchase an Android phone

        Funny that, I work in a company of people who all have iPhones, and they'd all like an Android phone, as it would mean they'd be able to actually make phone calls (you know ones where the discussion isn't fucked up by words being cut off, and where it isn't prematurely ended by the fucking iPhone dropping the connection). We've had iPhones since iPhone 4 came out, andf they haven't improved, and now as they're get older we're getting complaints about how they can't even find a network to connect to for long periods of time.

        The problem with surveys, is they have to give conclusions, when in real life the conclusion is bound to be flawed given it can only ever be based on a limited cross section, and just up the road will be the diametrically opposing view.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Word has it

          That there is a high level of loyalty the the Apple brand, much of course down to what some will say is the lock in effect. Where as android users are not as loyal to any particular manufacturer.

          Personally, I was tied into Google with my previous three Android smart phones and got fed up with firstly waiting for supposedly new functionality updates which were held up for months by the manufacturers and then the service providers and when delivered were already out of date an buggy.

          I made a change over to iOS. At this moment in time I'm not going back, though I will never say never. Big screen phones and debatable functions on the new batch of Android phones don't do it for me.

          Simplicity of function and design is so much more appealing. What next for Android, a built in Leatherman Tool or Swiss Army Knife?

          1. Mark .

            Re: Word has it

            If you want a simple feature phone, that's fine, though you can get those at a fraction of the price. Android is a smartphone, not a feature phone.

          2. Intractable Potsherd

            Re: Word has it

            "What next for Android, a built in Leatherman Tool or Swiss Army Knife?"

            And if it did, I'd buy one! You can never have too many Leatherman/Swiss Army knives on you (I have two Swiss Army knives on my belt whenever I leave the house - a third phone-knife would be a bonus I'd appreciate.)

            What doe have against multi-tools?

            1. Intractable Potsherd

              Re: Word has it

              Last line is scrambled - should read "What do you have against multi-tools?"

      2. Mark .

        We've been hearing about these surveys for years, but despite this, Android continues to rocket ahead in market share, whilst iphone share flails and now this year has plummetted. The gap between even WP and iphone is now far smaller than between iphone and Android.

        Wake me up when these so-called surveys actually translate in a mass shift towards Apple's feature phones, because it hasn't happened in 7 years of overwhelming media hype. That's a fail.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Andy Scott

    It sounds Good in theory

    It sounds good, but only if it will switch the gps on when it's switched off

  10. cambsukguy

    I wish my phone did that, oh wait...

    It has from the first Lumia, also present on my latest Lumia. It only allows location, ringing, locking, backup, wiping and regular automatic location updates (just in case you will use find my phone later - and no, I don't give a shit if the NSA knows where I am). It even posts a location when the power is low in case the battery dies and you still want to find your phone. It is also free and baked-in. Still, it would be better to have it on a phone that requires constant protection from attack, allows easy override when it is stolen and will probably break at the first drop. I guess I am stuck with my bad-ass camera and tough phone with better call quality, sigh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wish my phone did that, oh wait...

      Hey, I also let out a sigh when I read your post....

      1. Ragarath

        Re: I wish my phone did that, oh wait... @AC 08:24

        The difference between your sigh and his is that it dawned on you "He's right!"

  11. Confuciousmobil

    I'm so glad..

    That I have an iPhone again so things just work. I'll leave the fandroids to argue the best solution for their devices. My Nexus is going back on eBay when I get home from hols

    I still don't know why anyone who has tried iOS (I know there are people that will never buy Apple whatever) would put up with Android.

    ITunes is awful, so managing media is easier on Android but is that really worth outing up with the rest of Android? Certainly not for me. YMMV

    1. Arctic fox

      "ITunes is awful....."

      You put up with a phone where the major media handling software stinks? On the grounds of what may I ask?

    2. Benchops

      Re: I'm so glad..

      > YMMV

      Yes it does. As do my requirements of a phone.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm so glad..

      @Confuciousmobil "is that really worth outing up with the rest of Android?"

      From my casual observations, i-device users post more faulty auto-corrected words than Android users.

    4. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: I'm so glad..

      If you want things to "just work", then your iPhone should be replaced with:

      Pencil and paper

      Simple mobile

      Cheap MP3 player

      Portable FM receiver

      Small LED Torch

      GPS unit

      Games console of choice

      All these individual units will work better than the phone. I'll stick with Android because, if it has a problem, someone out there has a fix for it. As I've said before, some people want a Rolls Royce, others want an ancient Land Rover. I prefer the latter, because at least they have a realistic expectation of reliability, and won't get some twat telling them that such-and-such a problem can't possibly happen to this device ...

  12. ElNumbre

    Usual Bug

    So I guess this will have the usual bug, where if you factory reset the phone then any 'monitoring' will be blasted along with the data?

    I've used Preyproject and we've got Airwatch at work, which are both fine, but terminated by a full clear down. It really needs something baked into the rom that even if the phone is wiped that the tracking code is still identifiable and can still be traced to its new "owner". As I understand it, the iDevices have that feature. At least if its a standardised API then vendors will start providing that option, especially Googarola.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is bound to fail

    simply because I fully expect some patent troll to pop out of the woodwork and sue Google for $1B.

    Before anyone asks, Apple has probably done a deal with them already, as has MS.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is bound to fail

      Oh? Recall that Google can COUNTER-troll. They have a patent portfolio of their own (which is why the MPEG-LA patent suit went to stalemate—Google threatened to undermine some of MPEG-LA's patents with some of its own, and the whole matter stalled when VP8 couldn't unseat AVC; however, with new video standards on the burners, Google could try again with VP9.

      The thing is, anyone trying to patent-troll Google could be in for a surprise if Google counters with patents of their own that undercut the trolls, meaning now THEY'RE the ones being sued.

  14. Dr Trevor Marshall

    How do I get rid of this BLOAT - I don't want it

    I am sick and tired of Google pushing bloat at me through Google Play. Google ought not to be able to do this without me being asked "Do you want this."

    I just spent an hour tracking down "Google Settings" which got pushed last week and which takes up CPU cycles and battery power by searching periodically through my phone memory, allegedly to find compromized apks. It popped up on my power monitoring 'radar' long before I read that Google was pushing it in the background.

    STOP this, Google. I am sure that the twits who use Android think it is great, but I think the concept of pushing apps silently at my phone is BRAINDEAD.

    1. Dr Trevor Marshall

      Re: How do I get rid of this BLOAT - I don't want it

      Oops - I didn't mean to imply that ALL Android users are twits - only those who are incapable of downloading this new app as a conscious mental task...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How it works

    The App sends a text message to the phone that reads "hey thief! The dude you lifted this phone from has gone out and bought a Lumia with the insurance money. You've got the crap phone, they've got the good phone! You've got the crap phone, they've got the good phone!"

    This shames the thief into posting the phone back to google. 100% return rates! Great success! Everyone happy!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't it the trend these days that savvy phone thieves pack some kind of EM-shielding back to hold the phones they nick so that they can't phone home and the original owners can't see them? Then they take it back to a Faraday cage at base, take anything of value from it, wipe it and put in their own malware install, and then fence the phone off? I wonder how this new program will do anything about that?

    1. Robert Grant

      What about all the non-savvy phone thieves? So if someone just grabs my phone and runs off with it? It'll still stop them, right?

      Worst case is not the only case. What if they shoot you? I wonder how this new program will do anything about THAT?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        If they shoot you, you've got bigger problems. As for the non-savvy, faraday bags are becoming more common and the thieves savvier. Soon it'll be standard equipment for a phone nicker: if for nothing else than to keep it from realizing it's been stolen and start doing things the thieves won't want: like send GPS coordinates to the police or start emitting loud high-pitched sounds, etc.

        And before you say "pop out the battery", recall that some phones like the HTC One can't have their batteries removed. What I'm saying is that this is likely the wrong approach to the problem. It would be better to take an approach that doesn't rely on owner intervention to activate.

  17. pica

    The device doesn't matter

    If you work with anything approaching sensitive data, someone factory resetting the device is a good thing. You lose the device, but it really doesn't matter that some ned has a new toy, providing the data is gone.

    As for putting it in the cloud...are you on crack?!?!?

    Anything involving personal or sensitive data you hold in a secure location where you can kick the server...and kick the crap out of anyone near them that shouldn't be. LARTs should be used with anyone that thinks the "cloud" is a good idea for anything but pictures of your cat.

    If you are putting personally info of customers/clients in the cloud, expect your CIO to have a visit from the plod when the provider stores it in the states or some other nations with crappy/non-existent date protection laws. Oh you can sue them...ah the EULA says you can't.


  18. All names Taken


    Oh how quaint?

    It is wonderful to see the global giant moved into such modernity.

    What will the world do now earthlings :-)

  19. aelking

    late to the party

    If the article is to be believed, then this isn't something they are building into the OS but an app that people can download and install, whereas Blackberries, iOS and Windows Phone/Mobile have had at least remote wipe and lock for many years integrated into the OS as key features, for the enterprise user at least.

    1. imaginarynumber

      Re: late to the party

      Windows Mobile included phone tracking back in 2009, Apple in 2010. Yet Google are copying Apple?

      And in turn, MS copied other 3rd party providers...

  20. Kurtis

    I have been using an app called Cerberus for the past year or so, it only cost about £2.60 (although I got my licence free during a promotion) for a lifetime license. Cerberus comes with loads more features than Googles offering.

    The app can be installed as a hidden package with a discrete name, or as a normal APK. There is also a flashable ZIP package which will allow the software to remain and track the device even after a factory reset (aslong as the data connection is active).

  21. Reality Dysfunction

    but what about

    I'm confused...

    Android lost has been running for years providing just this functionality through the Google play store.

    Remote lock /wipe/messaging/redirect/ alarm/text to speech/mapping/screen messages and loads more, all for free.

    Does everyone with android not already use this?

  22. The Original Steve


    After moving to WinPho about 2.5 years ago I'm truly shocked this has only just arrived. iOS has something similar, Android has loads of 3rd party apps which do the works but it appears as of today Windows Phone is the only platform where out of the box I can ring (regardless of volume set), lock, wipe and locate my handset using just what's built-into the platform.

    Never thought I'd be saying that sort of thing about WP in 2013!!

    Oh well. better late than never.

  23. Sunrise Omen

    3G only?

    Will this, or any of these services work over WiFI?

    I've tried the HTC one on my old Desire HD, the Samsung one on my Galaxy S3 and ones from other 3rd party developers and when I'm testing it out it never manages to establish a connection/locate the phone/make it ring when I'm connected by WiFi.

    My mobile data is never switched on as it drains the battery too quick, and there is WiFi coverage pretty much everywhere I go so I have no need for it, and if the phone has been robbed, or lost and I can't connect to it to remotely turn 3G on, what's the point?

  24. imaginarynumber

    Apple are soooo innovative

    "If you're thinking this all sounds a lot like what your iPhone does already, you're right. Apple's "Find My iPhone, iPad, and Mac" service has provided these and other capabilities since 2010."

    Actually I was reminded of the fact that Windows Mobile did this a year earlier than iOS

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