23
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Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

Lookout Labs

Lookout Inc's Lookout Mobile Security app is one of the most popular and trusted security apps on the Market, and while the company is going to continue active development of its flagship product, today it is launching Lookout Labs - a separate Android Market developer account dedicated to "pushing the bounds of mobile apps."

Plan B

Introduction

The first fruit of Lookout Labs' labor is a brilliantly simple yet very useful app called Plan B. Plan B was only made possible recently, after the release of the official Android web Market. The app is designed to be the last resort for finding a lost (or maybe even stolen - more on that later) phone and getting its latest position emailed to the account associated with the Android Market. It is only useful if for some reason you forgot to install Lookout, Theft Aware, WaveSecure, or any other tracking apps (you do have at least one installed, right? Right?!), because otherwise, you know, you would just use them instead.

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Why It Works

Here is the beauty of Plan B - because of the way the Android web Market works, you do not need to have your phone on you to install apps on it anymore, which makes it possible to push Plan B after the loss, from any browser, as long as you have your Google credentials.

What It Does

Immediately after the push, Plan B should start up and start sending you a series of messages zeroing in on your precious baby's location with increasing accuracy. I put it to the test and immediately following the installation, started receiving the following emails a few minutes apart, identifying my EVO 4G's location down to 6 meters:

Note: I have replaced my exact coordinates here for privacy reasons.

  1. Plan B is locating your phone. We will send a map link shortly. http://mylookout.com
  2. Plan B http://maps.google.com/?q=37.3872314,XXXXX&z=16 within 95m http://mylookout.com
  3. ... 3 more similar messages here ...
  4. Plan B http://maps.google.com/?q=37.38790690898895,YYYYYY&z=16 within 6m http://mylookout.com

Caveats

One thing that the Lookout Labs folks were quite specific about was the purpose of this app: to find a lost phone. It is not meant to be stealthy and will show itself very clearly to whoever may be looking at the screen. For this reason, it is probably not the most reliable way to recover a stolen phone, although it can still prove effective if the thief is not constantly checking the screen.

In the best case scenario, there is a chance it will send out at least a few emails with coordinates before the thief shuts it down. In the worst... say good-bye to your phone forever.

We reached out to Lookout for the reasons behind this decision and got this in response:

We have specifically designed this app for the "lost phone" case and for privacy reasons we chose to go ahead and make it clear to whomever may be holding the phone that it is being tracked.

Security apps with location capabilities always have to be especially careful to avoid cases where the app could be used as a remote surveillance system on an unsuspecting user. For the initial launch of this app, we chose to follow the more conservative route.

Caveat #2: Plan B is currently only available on select carriers in the United States. The latest list I was able to confirm as working consisted of the 4th major U.S. carriers - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

Conclusion

Overall, I'd say Plan B is exactly what plan B is supposed to be - your last resort. When you don't have another option, and the feeling of desperation starts to settle in, remember Plan B. At that point, there is no reason not to try it.

Unlike most reviews, I am not going to say "go, try it out right now" because... well, it's not time to use Plan B until it's time to use Plan B (unless, of course, you are just testing). Just make sure to leave a mental note in your brain.

Download Plan B

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • Kane

    Someday this is going to save my phone. I just know it.

  • Christo Acosta

    I saw the links to Lookout, Theft Aware, and WaveSecure, but is there any good place that pits these together and does a good side-by-side? I used TheftAware a while back, however I had just downloaded the demo, and when I jumped back and forth between ROMs, it just created a whole lot of confusion... If it's the best option, though, I'm totally ok with purchasing it!

  • houtx

    after installing, I immediately starting receiving text messages from vtext.com, is there a correlation?

  • Phil

    This is not good. One of the reasons I was ok with the market web install system was because I thought an app could not just start running simply after install with no user interaction. This means that a malicious person with gmail accounts could install apps on your phone and have them immediately run without your knowledge. Or am I missing something here?

    • Christo Acosta

      They still require your login information... If they have this, I'd be worried about more than just what Apps they're running on your phone. Make sure you stay on top of having a secure password, and change it after any leaks such as the Gawker one.

  • reddragon72

    So this just fallows the app "wheres my droid"? If you install WMD from the market it will install and run automatically, and have the default "wheres my droid" txt lookout. So if your phone is lost just install WMD from the app market and wait about a min and then txt your phone "GPS my droid" and you will start receiving txt messages with the location.

    So much for Plan B, already been done.

    • J Diddy

      Plan B improves on that by offering more sampling with improved accuracy. WMD simply sends a single text message that, typically, uses network location information.

      I suppose, you could text "gps my droid" a lot to try to get a better result...

  • CodeMonkey

    Thanks.
    Nice failsafe addition to my existing set lockdown and tracking set:
    - Tasker: lock, alert, locate and lockdown (all 3 together) profiles triggered by coded SMS
    - Prey - remotely activated security and tracking.

  • http://bodhilfilmore.posterous.com Bodhi L. Filmore

    Didn't work, on two android mobiles we tried. Very annoying

  • http://lookoutandroid.com Lookout android

    I run lockout it doesn’t take up much mem space so dont mind

    Teh clue though is in the permissions though, its obvious to me what an app should be doing and if its asking for the ability to make phone calls or send texts then i aint gonna install it

  • Michelle T

    So about a week ago I lost my phone in the Miami airport and subsequently installed this program. Tonight I am getting emails with gps locations of my phone in New Orleans. I am in NY. What do I do with this info? Will the N.O. police help in this situation? Is the person holding the phone aware that it is being tracked? I have since hooked up my like to a new Droid 2 so calling it wont work. Will emails go to both phones? Thanks for any suggestions. I have all sorts of important info in that phone. Stupid, I know. I really need it back.
    Michelle

  • http://www.theftaware.com Reinhard Holzner

    The problem is - if there is a) no internet connectivity or b) a hard reset done -> no market account - can not install. :-)

    Check out Theft Aware, we have ROOT support which will even survive hard reset. 70% price promo running now btw!

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