Four years after the app Where’s My Droid started helping people find their lost Android smartphones, Google has finally introduced its own service to track down lost or stolen devices.
Android Device Manager will let users go online to spot devices on a map or ring their phone at maximum level, regardless of the current setting. If the phone might be lost for good, phone owners can remotely erase all of the data on the device.
The service will come “later this month” to devices running Android version 2.2 or above, Android security engineer Adrian Ludwig said in a blog post Friday. Android’s most recent version is 4.3.
The new service comes amid a rising concern about smartphone theft. More than a dozen security apps provide similar functionality to what Google will now offer.
But one feature missing from Google's service is the ability to take a picture using the device’s camera. Several apps offer this feature as part of a suite of services costing as much as $30 a month. It's been branded as a way to identify thieves or figure out exact locations.
Other apps allow the tracking and wiping service to be activated by sending a text message to the phone from another device. It’s unclear if Google would allow that. Ludwig said that there would be a device manager app, suggesting that a user could sign into the app on someone else’s smartphone to use the service.
Google said the service will not work if a thief or someone else resets the phone. Google declined to provide additional details about the camera and texting features.