19
Aug
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Fourth in our lineup of Security apps is TekTrak, from the developer of the same name. TekTrak exists as one of the lesser-known security apps, but nonetheless delivers on its promises of finding and controlling a lost or stolen device.

At A Glance

Function-wise TekTrak operates as a no-frills security app. It has all of the basics, but not too many of the really interesting features (snapping photos remotely, recording audio, root support) that we've come to love from other apps. The installation process is similar to other security apps, asking for an email address (as your username) and a password before granting access to the online controls.

 

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The online controls have a colorful, pleasing aesthetic and operate on a one-click basis. There are seven basic control categories, plus Multilock and a Geofencing capabilities that are "coming soon." More on that later.

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Main Features

First up is TekTrak's remote location function. Pressing this button activates a simple popup displaying a very sophisticated location interface. TekTrak relies on Google Maps to display location, but gives a little more. If GPS is enabled on your device, the Remote Locate option gives you a satellite image of your device's location, complete with approximate address and Street View thumbnail. TekTrak also offers a complete history of your device's location thanks to its check-in feature which allows your device to transmit location data at set intervals. Personally I wouldn't feel completely comfortable transmitting location data to TekTrak constantly in preparation for my device being stolen, but it is adamant about keeping your information confidential and never tracking you without your permission.

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The remote ring function does what one would expect: triggers a full-volume ring that will continue until you press a button on the device. This (and several other features) cause a notification icon to appear in the taskbar, which alerts whoever is looking at your device that TekTrak is installed and controlling the device remotely. This may only serve as a frustration if your device is stolen however, because uninstalling TekTrak is more tricky than the simple one-click operation.

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Remote Wipe offers two options: a "Data Wipe" and a "Factory Reset" option. It isn't immediately clear what the difference is here, but Arik Waldman, CEO of TekTrak explained that data wipe "does a partial wipe of the phone - contacts, message history, browsing history, email sign-out and more." It is still worth noting however that TekTrak does not plant itself in your device's root - meaning it will not survive a complete wipe.

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Remote SMS allows the user to send a custom message (up to 100 characters) to the phone which will appear in an on-screen popup window. This also triggers the notification icon in the device's taskbar, which remains even if the message is closed.

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TekTrak also offers the standard PIN lock/unlock functionality which worked as expected, albeit with a slightly more interesting unlock screen upon turning on the device.

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Last is the remote Wi-Fi control, which allows the user to activate the lost device's Wi-Fi antenna. The feature works as expected, but I'm left wondering how effective it would be in recovering/finding your device if it is not in range of a Wi-Fi network to which it will automatically connect.

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Multilock

Multilock is essentially an add-on app to TekTrak. With Multilock installed, if a user tries to uninstall TekTrak, it will trigger a PIN unlock screen to lock the device. The code is available from the online dashboard, meaning only the owner of the device can unlock it. To test this, I removed administrator rights for TekTrak, then uninstalled the app as usual -- almost immediately I was greeted by the PIN unlock screen generated by the app.

Unfortunately, the same does not apply to the Multilock plugin itself -- despite being hidden from the app tray by default, Multilock can easily be uninstalled like any other app.

Geofencing

The TekTrak dashboard lists its Geofencing feature as "coming soon." This is a feature that could make TekTrak much more interesting, as it is a feature that I have not seen on any other security apps yet.

Geofencing , for those unfamiliar with the term, is essentially the process of creating geographically-based bounds (or fences) by using GPS. When a device travels outside the fence, a notification is generated and sent to a phone, email address, etc.

While this could be a fun feature that sets TekTrak apart from the crowd, I am anxious to see just how it is implemented, as well as how effective it will be as a function for finding a lost or stolen device.

Final Thoughts

TekTrak offers a limited array of features, no question; it does what it sets out to do and does it in style. The online interface is clean and provides simple functionality that works efficiently and effectively. Having looked at these features, we can take a closer look at the positives and negatives of entrusting your device's security to TekTrak.

Pros

  • Free Functionality - TekTrak has a free option which allows you to use the online controls two times (or more if you refer friends. One referral = one extra use).
  • Sophisticated Location Service - I was impressed that the location function provided a Street View thumbnail and approximate address.
  • Check-ins and location history - If check-ins are enabled via the device's TekTrak app, you can follow the location of your phone without constantly pinging for location.
  • Multilock - Even if your device's captor is smart enough to remove the app by disabling administrative controls, you are still protected (unless the thief uninstalls Multilock- which is an easy task, despite being hidden from the app tray). Which is one of the more interesting solutions to keeping an app around that I've seen.

Cons

  • Price - The full (unlimited use) version of the app is $4.99 per year- a price that seems a bit steep for what the app is capable of, compared to similarly priced apps (such as Cerberus, which only requires a one-time purchase).
  • No support for multiple devices - Considering the price, this is also a let-down -- it would be great to be able to control multiple devices from the same dashboard.
  • No Honeycomb support - The app can run on 2.2+ tablets, but Honeycomb support is still in the works. Additionally the app can only function on tablets with 3G enabled, to ensure location functionality.
  • No SMS support - If data is turned off, there is no way to control your device. The Wi-Fi activation tool may help this if your device happens to be in range of an open wireless network.
  • No root support - If your phone's captor is smart enough to do a factory reset, this app is toast. Likewise, doing a factory reset from the online panel will achieve the same effect.
  • No ability to pull SMS/Call logs - While not the most useful feature of a security app, it is something fairly basic that adds a nice bit of functionality and information when looking for your device.
  • Very conspicuous - The app cannot be hidden from the app tray and many of the functions cause a notification in the device's taskbar, alerting your device's captor that there is a security program installed. This seems dangerous because if a thief has any knowledge of security apps, they'll likely know how to get rid of them.

Overall TekTrak has a lot of potential to be an effective solution among security apps, but it lacks several key features that would really convince me to trust my device to it. For the price, you'd be better off looking at other options, unless you are willing to pay $4.99/year for style and a simple interface. At the current moment, however, you can grab TekTrak free of charge (including one year of service) from GetJar.

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.

  • Kevin

    What i am missing in these shootouts is the standalonliness of the apps. Most of them have the possibility to track them online, which scares me a bit because i do not want my tracking data being saved online. You'll never know where it will be used for. So having the alert constantly is in one way a good thing in my opinion, but i rather stick to security apps which send data only to places which i approve. For instance, sending an sms to a (girl)friends phone when a security issue arises.

  • Franco

    Read the topic i was slowly getting sucked into this and thought it sounded really good.I liked all the ability's it had but then had too stop and rethink when i saw this "con" listed "No SMS support - If data is turned off, there is no way to control your device. The Wi-Fi activation tool may help this if your device happens to be in range of an open wireless network"

    whats the point in the app if you have no control over it when data off,would this mean if some stole the phone and turned data off then it gone for good.since not long after it stolen it would be wiped and reset by the tea-leaf.

    If i reading it wrong then i withdraw my comment and apologize but if it right then...no point.

    • http://www.liamspradlin.com Liam Spradlin

      You're correct, there's no way to control it if data and wifi are disconnected. Unfortunately many security apps out there still don't support SMS control.

      • Arik

        The Wi-Fi enabling helps find the phone more accurately, as the application uses Wi-Fi triangulation as part of geolocating the phone. And without data, the application cannot send its location to the website, regardless of SMS pushes being enabled.

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