Aug 23, 2013
Google has recently launched a way to locate and erase Android devices remotely with the Android Device Manager. This free service has been automatically enabled and allows Android users to find their Android device whether it be in another room or another city, and to remotely erase it if necessary. Oh, and it’s been enabled automatically on most Android devices running 2.2 and up.
Just go to the Android device manager online, and a selected Google connected Android device will be displayed on a map to a relative accuracy. If you can’t find it, it’s possible to cause it to ring for five minutes, disabled only by unlocking the device. This can be handy for hunting down a device if you just can’t find it in your home, or if you’ve found where it is, but just need to hunt down its exact position.
It’s possible to remotely erase a device, but this needs to be enabled on the Android device itself. Android Device Manager can send a notification to the device to enable the administrative service to erase the device remotely, but it’s easy to imagine that future Android versions will allow this to be enabled initially. Right now, there’s no app complement to the service, but the site does work from mobile browsers.
Users behind a firewall will find that devices can’t be located, until Android’s push notification ports are open again. iOS in general seems to handle firewalls better by falling back on common HTTPS ports that are generally open in all situations, so this feature is a bit less secure than what Apple does.
However, it also has the benefit of being automatically enabled for the vast majority of Android users automatically, instead of needing to be set up with a separate app. This will come in handy for users who lose their phone, and then discover that hey, we can find where it is, and hopefully recover it.
This may have an impact on similar ‘device location’ and recovery services that are out there – some of them offer more extended features than what Google’s offering here at the outset, but hey – this is free and automatically enabled.