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Should Google be Helping Android Users Find Their Lost Devices the Way Apple Does?

April 14, 2013 - Written By Doug Scudder

It is not news to any of us that our phones have become the focal point of our lives in many ways. If you don’t believe me, list off all the phone numbers you have memorized. In my case I can still remember the number of my parent’s LAN line, luckily it hasn’t changed since I was six. That is about it. Without my phone/tablet if I wasn’t at home I wouldn’t be able to call my car insurance company, my landlord or my best friend and I know the number for emergencies starts with a 9 but I’m drawing a blank after that.

That is only the beginning. Many devices have log-ins to a plethora of different services, passwords, credit card information, access to all of our social networks; not to mention private conversations with those we are closest to. Someone who loses their phone often feels like they have lost an appendage. Most experts agree that only about a third of lost phones are ever recovered if there isn’t a security feature installed before the device is lost. That is a scary statistic to say the least.

The iPhone, the Blackberry and even Palm devices all have a remote wipe feature built right in. Most services that come built into other mobile operating systems will even help you recover your device using it’s built-in GPS capability. Google does offer remote wipe and recovery functionality to its enterprise customers, but the rest of Android’s users are left to fend for themselves, at least initially. Isn’t this a giant hole in Android’s viability as an OS? Isn’t Google leaving millions of its customers out in the cold when it comes to protecting what is often a significant investment of time and money?

We should start by mentioning that just because you own an Android device doesn’t make you a customer of Google. Google maintains and develops Android but Google didn’t sell you Android. Even if you bought a Nexus device from the Play Store, you are still getting the same operating system that everyone else gets, Google is just acting as a middle-man for the hardware that runs it using the Nexus brand. Buying an Android phone doesn’t give you the same relationship to Google that an iPhone would give you with Apple. If that bothers you, keep reading.

Android is an open source operating system. Giving Google the ability to wipe any phone it wants remotely would require a fundamental change in what it means for Android to be open source. Google doesn’t get to have root access to every Android device on the planet, that isn’t how this ecosystem works.

Android users are not left out in the cold by any stretch of the imagination. There are a plethora of fantastic options on the Play Store for anyone who wants to take advantage of them. Lookout Security is one of the most popular options. Lookout has partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile as well as many major international carriers. This means that an Android user can easily get all the security they could ever need from a company that they do have a direct business relationship with: their carrier. Lookout provides location and recovery services, remote wipe capabilities as well as malware protection built right in.

Cerberus Anti-Theft is another fantastic choice that bears mentioning. Cerberus can even be set to take a picture any time an incorrect PIN is entered. These types of full-featured and often creative solutions for people who have lost their devices are the perfect example of why Google shouldn’t be including a recovery or remote wipe service built into Android. Google shouldn’t do it because it is already being done.

I have only included two services that can protect your lost or stolen device, but there are many many more that have fantastic options for you. Remember that having an Android device is all about having the freedom to choose for yourself. This means being able to choose from a myriad of launchers, default browsers, and security features. If your device gets stolen and you have no way to recover it, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you aren’t already protected, hit the links below to change that before it is too late.

Cerberus anti theft:


Lookout Security & Antivirus: