It has taken a long time, but Android users will soon have a tool to help them locate misplaced phones and remotely wipe their data in case it’s lost or stolen.
Today, Google introduced Android Device Manager, which offers several different methods for dealing with a lost phone. With it, you can set off your phone’s ringer at maximum volume (even if your device is in silent mode) to help you try to locate it.
You can also track your device in real time on a map. Finally, it gives you the ability to remotely erase all your data in case it’s truly lost or in the hands of a thief. While this type of feature has long been available on the iPhone and Windows Phone devices, Android owners have had to use third-party apps like Phone Locator and Lookout Mobile Security to get similar features.
All that is required to use Android Device Manager is a Google account. The native solution from Google is a welcome addition, especially as cellphone thefts continue to rise. According to a Consumer Reports survey, 1.6 million people had their smartphones stolen in the U.S. last year. There are numerous groups — the phone industry, law-enforcement agencies and legislators — working on ways to reduce the number of thefts. For example, last year, the FCC and a number of the country’s top wireless carriers launched a national database that tracks stolen phones and prevents them from being used again.
In the short term, tools like Apple’s “Find My iPhone” and Android Device Manager can be good ways to locate a missing gadget, even if it’s just stuck between your couch cushions, and can give you the power to secure your data. Android Device Manager will be available later this month, and supports devices running Android 2.2 or higher.