Almost since the smartphone became the carry-around device of choice, developers have scrambled to find a way to help users locate misplaced handsets. While many good ones have come to market, Google has now decided to release its own solution to help you find lost Android phones, and tablets as well.
Simply having the search giant and Android maker jump into the market certainly is capable cutting into the business developers such as Seek Droid, Find My Droid and others. So, what is Google offering and can it compete with those existing apps in the market?
No Mobile App Required
Yes, you read that correctly – you do not need to install any software on your device. Every Android device requires that you activate using your Google account. The company, therefore, already knows what you have. There are exceptions to this – for instance, the service does not work with my Kindle Fire HD. This is because Amazon’s tablets run a highly specialized version of Android, and setup requires your Amazon account information, not Google’s.
The search giant also runs what is arguably the besting mapping system in the world. Combining these two factors makes Google uniquely qualified to handle the task, perhaps better than any other company.
How It All Works
Before you get hype up, we must inform you that this feature is only available for Android version 4.3 and above. Head to your device settings. Scroll down to find “Security” and click to open it. Then select “Device administrators” and then select “Android device administrators” and choose “Activate”. Now you are ready to move on.
Google has set up a special Device Manager web site to make all of this work. When you arrive on the site, you will be greeted with a large full-screen Google Map (in my case North America). It will then attempt to locate your device and pinpoint it on the map. This all takes place surprisingly quickly.
As the map zooms all the way in, it will pinpoint your location or, rather, the location of your device. This has been surprisingly accurate in all of my tests.
Once you are pinpointed on the map, the boxes on the left will populate with more detailed information. In the upper box, you will find a drop-down list of all of your devices, with an option to the right to rename a particular phone or tablet. This is followed by the name of your location (nearest town) and a message telling you that Google feels it has you within 25 meters. That last bit changes, though I have never seen it exceed 100 meters.
Finally, at the bottom, there are two buttons – the left is designed to “ring” (yes this works for tablets also) your chosen device. The right one is labeled “erase device”, but is greyed out. This is because I have not enabled “factory reset” on my devices. The lower box explains this and gives the option to send the enable option to the phone or tablet.
This is by far the simplest solution for lost and stolen devices, and its all free and easy to use, no matter how many devices you own. No mobile app to install, incredible accuracy and, given that it’s Android, Google is far less likely to suddenly decide to kill it off, as they have done with so many other seemingly good ideas like Reader.