Google Helps Find Your Stolen Android Device

Android Device Manager allows you to track your phone through a Google Maps type interface.

Android Device Manager allows you to track your phone through a Google Maps type interface.

Earlier this month, Google officially announced it’s plans to put out a device locator feature, similar to Apple’s ‘Find my iPhone” app. The free app is called Android Device Manager, and it’s available now for your mobile device running Android version 2.2 or higher.

At the very least, this app will show you just how easy it is to track the location of your own smart phone. At best, the Device Manager may help you locate your phone or tablet if it is ever lost or stolen. Once enabled, it can show you the location of your device on a Google Maps-like interface. Like other cell phone tracking software, it will find your device by triangulating its signal between cell towers, the WI-FI network it is currently connected to, or its GPS location.

In our own tests, we located our Samsung Galaxy S2 (SGH-T989) to within a mile when connected via 4G to the nearest cell tower. When connected via WI-FI and/or GPS, it was even more accurate- down to street level.

Enable The Device Manager Features

For those concerned with their mobile device privacy, it should be noted that tracking through the Device Manager is not activated by default- you must enable it on the device. Here’s how:

On the Android device, go to Settings > Security > Device Administration > Device Administrators, then check the box next to Allow Android Device Manager to lock or erase a lost device.

Enable Android Device Manager. This screen may vary depending on your device manufacturer.

Enable Android Device Manager. This screen may vary depending on your device manufacturer.

Using Android Device Manager To Locate Your Phone

If your phone is lost or stolen (or you just want to test this app), go to https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager and then log in with your Google account. If prompeted to allow access to your location data, just click “Accept” and continue.

You are now presented with three features:

  • Location, which it should find automatically within less than a minute (time depends on your location, signal strength, etc)
  • Ring, which allows you to activate your phone’s ringer on it’s highest volume for up to 5 minutes, even if it’s set on vibrate or silent. Once found, the ringer can be turned of by pressing the power button once.
  • Erase Device, which is useful if you suspect your device may have been lost for good, and want to wipe all of your personal data. Note that this will erase everything from your device- photos, music, apps, etc., and bring it back to factory default settings. This remote erase may not wipe files stored on external micro SD memory cards.

This is a tracking app that, if used correctly, can actually help protect your personal data from winding up in someone else’s hands. The downside is there is currently no way to remotely lock the device, so make sure you have some type of security enabled (password, pin, or pattern lock). We’re hopeful that remote locking will be enabled in the future. If you’re an Android user, do you plan on enabling the Device Manager? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • janz

    If the SIM of the phone or tablet was removed, can we still track its location? Is there any application which the IMEA No will be registered and not the mobile no.? Thanks in advance.

    • Chris Cooper

      The general consensus is no- you would not be able to do this yourself. A powered-on device without a SIM card can make emergency calls, and when doing so can transmit its IMEI number to the cell tower. So in theory, it’s technically possible the service provider could track the device, but in practice this isn’t something they actually do.

      Even if the device is connected to a WiFi access point, then it knows your device’s MAC address, but it’s not likely that you (or even the police) would have access to that information- only the owner of the access point.

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