17
Aug
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Next in line for our Mobile Security App Shootout is SeekDroid, an app that has no problem standing out in the crowded security app arena thanks to its sleek interface, smooth functionality, and manageable price tag; not to mention the adorable James Bond - style Android on the splash screen.

At a Glance

From the moment I saw the icon for GTMedia’s SeekDroid app, I suspected I had a winner on my hands -- and I haven’t been let down so far. The application itself is centered totally around helping find your lost or stolen device, so it won’t get you out of the woods if your handset is infected with malware.

The app sets up in seconds and has all of the phone-side options readily available once you're logged in. I was highly impressed by the web end of SeekDroid, which looks incredibly polished and functions flawlessly.

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Immediately upon signing in to SeekDroid's web interface I was greeted by the slick dashboard, which conveniently has a full Google maps experience waiting to pinpoint your device's location. The controls are listed immediately to the right, divided into "menu" and "advanced" for reasons which are not immediately apparent. Reports gathered by the online controls are displayed in minimalist dialog boxes, so there is no waiting for an email to arrive showing your handset's status or location.

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Menu

The "menu" portion of the control panel features three simple components: Locate, Alarm, and Cell Info. I was pleased by how snappy the response was for each of these, and the status message below the menu itself assured me that things were going according to plan. The locate function, once pressed, refreshes the map to show your device's location. If GPS is enabled on the device, it will be accurate right up to the address, otherwise it is still pretty close to spot-on. The Google Maps frame located squarely in the center of the screen allows you to use many popular Maps features, like zooming and street view, making it even easier to pinpoint exactly where your device has wandered off to.

The Alarm function enables a full-volume alarm on the phone, which has to be manually turned off by whoever is around, which also forces them to see a custom message selected by the user.

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The Cell Info button follows the lead of the other features in giving you what you expect, and then some. It brings up a handy report, not only of the device’s active phone number, but the IMEI/MEID information and last 10 calls (made, received, and even missed calls included).

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Advanced

The Advanced grouping includes Hide, Lock, and Wipe buttons which are fairly self-explanatory and just as easy to use as the rest of the options in the dashboard. The Hide button tells your device to stop showing the SeekDroid icon in the launcher tray, which requires a reboot to accomplish; “unhiding” the icon is as easy as pressing the same button again.

The Lock function is the one place where SeekDroid performed inconsistently. Initially upon setting a lock code and pressing “lock,” my Evo’s screen would shut off, but if I switched it on quickly, no PIN would be required. After several tries I finally got the lock feature to work, but the initial hiccup leaves me less than comfortable about this function’s reliability.

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The Wipe feature is pretty cut-and-dry. Click the button, confirm, and all of your device's user data will vanish without trace. From the phone application, the user can choose whether the wipe button will clear internal user data, the SD card, or both.

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Final Thoughts

Overall, SeekDroid is a pretty simple operation. But simple as it may be, GTMedia has made sure that all of its features are executed in style and brought together for a very pleasant user experience. The app is not without it's faults however, so let's have a look at the good and bad points of choosing SeekDroid as your main security solution.

Pros

  • Price - While the app isn’t free, $0.99 is hardly unreasonable, and the ease of using the online control panel alone is worth more than one dollar.
  • Tablet Support (kind of) - This is another app that is compatible with both tablets and phones, but only supports one device at a time, due to its connection with your Google account.
  • Beautiful Design and Ease of Use - The app is simplistic yet polished, and the online interface leaves nothing to be desired in terms of organization, aesthetic, and functionality.
  • Google Maps Functionality - An improvement over the static map clipping of Android Lost, the full Google Maps integration into SeekDroid’s online controls was just as impressive and smooth as I’d expect.
  • No Need to Hide the App - Even if you forget to hide SeekDroid from your launcher, the app requires that you log in each time it is opened, adding security without adding hassle.

Cons

  • Race to Factory Reset - If your device is stolen, the thief may well know enough to go ahead and wipe the device immediately, which will eliminate SeekDroid as well as your data.
  • If Data is Switched Off, You May Be Out of Luck - SeekDroid does not have the option to control your device via SMS, nor does it have the ability to switch on data or wifi, both things that Android Lost is readily able to do. This means if the person who’s found your phone so much as turns off data, you may be in the market for a replacement device.
  • No Support For Multiple Devices - As with Android Lost, SeekDroid can only control one of your devices at once. If you install to another device using your Google account, the first device will be forgotten.

While SeekDroid has a handful of flaws feature-wise, it does what the developers claim it will do, and does it well. The app has a crisp, polished user experience that could make dealing with a lost phone slightly more pleasant than one might imagine, but I would be much more enthusiastic about the purchase if the issues above were addressed.

For those not willing to pay $0.99 for an app like SeekDroid just yet, GTMedia also offers a free lite version, which includes only the GPS functionality of its one-dollar counterpart.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Keith

    I was unable to replicate the lock screen bug you were talking about on my Inspire 4G. I locked my device, then kept turning the screen off and on. It would always ask for the PIN. How did you get the bug to come up?

    • Liam Spradlin

      I think it had something to do with my device specifically, because after doing more testing today, I am able to get the lock function to work smoothly. The review is being updated soon to reflect this.

  • Paul

    I switched from Seek Droid to Cerberus: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.lsdroid.cerberus

    The web interface is not as polished as SD, but it has more useful features like remote audio and photo capture. More importantly you can control Cerberus from another phone with sms messages if your phone doesn't have an internet connection, and it sends sms to alternative phone numbers on sim card change.

    • Keith

      This app looks pretty good. I am going to try it. It may replace SeekDroid on my device. Thanks for this info!

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      That's actually the target of the next review in the series.

  • ndcart

    Must be a device specific issue on the lock screen error. I have an Incredible and it works perfect every time.

  • aaron

    do theft aware it has awesome root support but is pricey

  • http://www.trackandprotect.com John R

    Perhaps you should test "TrackandProtect". This tnp is used as oem by both manufacturers, insurances and operators and has true global coverage, no need for roaming, as it uses SMS as carrier for sending commands from server to phone and back. The fact is uses SMS also means NO battery drain at all, but it will costs some as the (dutch) company (www.klomptek.com) behind tnp needs to send out these commands by sms all over the world. But it's a very good service. Recently it was honoreed by the Webby Awards, and even chosen to be embedded in the new Meego OS. What i like most about TnP is the fact that it is 100% designed for its purpose: not to fancy but to collect as much data as possible to make Police reports, like location, IMSI, phonenumber, Operator ID and even a mugshot of the person that tries to break the passcode ;)

  • Eddie

    Initially bought this off of Market, but when I saw that password to the app is stored in cleartext in app preferences file, with root+recovery console, just one adb pull away, I imeddiatelly uninstalled. Too bad my 15 minutes refund on market has passed.

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  • http://nirdvana.com Tyler Style

    Cerberus beats the pants off SeekDroid IMO. It has more features and, most importantly for me, the ability to control the app both via SMS and a web app. Plus it can integrate into the kernel, preventing reset wipes, and can be used on multiple devices. Also, when I reviewed SeekDroid (along with a bunch of other security apps,http://www.nirdvana.com/2011/06/19/android-security-apps-review/) I never could get it to use GPS to pinpoint my device's location.