You’ve misplaced your Android device but you don’t have a friend around to call your number so you can track it down. Well, now you can find your phone by Googling it.
In a brief Google Plus post, the search giant unveiled its newest feature for smartphones running the latest version of the Android mobile operating system. Users whose devices have gone AWOL can ask Google via their desktops to “find my phone,” and the search engine will take it from there, according to the post.
After typing in the instructions, Google will return a map image showing the location of the device, along with a “Ring” icon. “If the pesky phone is hiding nearby, Google can ring it for you — or you can see it on the map if you, say, forgot it at the bar,” Google noted.
Expanding on Android Device Manager
The new feature actually simply builds upon something Google has offered since August 2013, when it rolled out its Android Device Manager. Designed to help Android owners find misplaced devices — or secure lost or stolen devices — the online Device Manager site enables users to order their phones to ring, or locate them on maps in real time.
Like Apple’s Activation Lock, which came out around the same time, Android Device Manager lets device owners remotely add screen locks to prevent their personal information and contacts from getting into the wrong hands. For devices that appear to have gone missing for good, Device Manager also lets users erase all the data on their phones or tablets.
Just last month, Google expanded the capabilities of the Android Device Manager to integrate with Android Wear. That means people who have smart watches running on Android can use their wearables to find lost or misplaced devices by either selecting the “find my phone” option or simply telling their devices, “OK, Google. Start. Find my phone.”
Remote Controls = Declining Thefts
The growing availability of remote phone controls — especially so-called “kill switch” technology that can remotely render a lost or stolen device unusable — is believed to have contributed to a decline in smartphone thefts and robberies in many areas. The technology has become more widely used since the Secure Our Smartphones (SOS) Initiative was launched in 2013.
Co-chaired by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and London Mayor Boris Johnson, the SOS Initiative aimed to reduce violent crime associated with smartphone thefts. The theft of Apple iPhones, for example, has often been described as “apple picking.”
Since the initiative was launched, a growing number of phonemakers — starting with Apple — began rolling out kill switch capabilities for their phones. As more phones can now be disabled remotely, police in many cities are reporting that smartphone-related crimes have been declining. New York, for example, saw a 16 percent drop in cellphone robberies from January 2013 to December 2014, while San Francisco saw cellphone robberies decline by 27 percent.