04
Aug
nexusae0_devman_thumb

On Friday, Google dropped a small bomb on Android users everywhere by introducing the Android Device Manager service. It's been a part of Google Apps for your Domain's device administration interface for quite some time now, though, so the product itself isn't new - it's just being newly introduced to regular ol' consumers like you and me.

What's it do? It shows you where your phone is, lets you make it ring, and lets you wipe it. That's really it. You'll manage it through Google Play on the web, and there will be an Android app, too. ADM will be integrated with Google Play Services, and at this point, it's not clear how robust the protection's survivability will be in the event of theft. Will a simple device wipe remove the account association? That seems to be the consensus, given how the feature works for Google Apps customers.

More powerful applications, like Cerberus, can be set up to survive device wipes, take pictures of would-be thieves, and do other neat stuff. It's pretty clear that ADM isn't really meant to replace such apps, if features like those are the ones you really claim to need. But for most people? ADM does the two things they probably want: rings / locates their phone if they can't find it somewhere, and for businesses / the privacy-conscious, allows a remote wipe.

Personally, it's enough for me. I've never used an anti-theft app for my Android devices, but if my phone were stolen, being able to quickly initiate a remote wipe would give me peace of mind. I'd generally have little / no hope of getting it back in such a scenario, anyway. It's my view that if you're so concerned about your phone or information being stolen, you should probably insure it with a service like Asurion, encrypt it, and put up a pin lock. A savvy thief who encounters a secure phone is going to immediately pull the SIM, wipe the device, and sell it before the ESN is flagged. Your personal information is valuable, but selling a $600 smartphone is a quicker, easier, and safer payday. Granted, not all thieves are savvy (see: every LoJack webcam mugshot).

So, what about you - is ADM's find-and-wipe functionality enough to make you get rid of your current anti-theft app (or, if you don't have one, keep on not using one), or do you demand more protection? Vote in the poll, and explain in the comments.

Will Google's Android Device Manager make you remove your current lost phone / anti-theft app?

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David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Antonio

    The really good solution would track devices based on IMEI, and would let the police track accounts linked to devices with reported IMEI numbers, as well as devices with reported IMEI numbers, even if not linked with an account.
    Here, a mere device wipe (or disabling Google Account sync, or pehaps just flight mode) make the whole thing useless.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I don't think Google really cares about solving that problem, frankly. And I doubt ADM will ever work that way.

      This isn't a device recovery service; it's a locate, ring, and wipe service. If I'm Google, I don't want anyone using one of my products to put themselves in a potentially dangerous situation by going vigilante trying to reclaim a stolen phone, especially after it's been wiped and resold, probably to an unwitting buyer. Majorly bad PR.

      The best solution is not to get your stuff stolen. Using a PIN or device encryption reduces the attractiveness of smartphones to identity thieves. More broadly, making stolen phones harder to sell and harder for thieves to wipe (while still keeping data safe) should be the goal. Anti-theft services are definitely a band-aid, not the long term solution.

      • Joris

        I agree with you David. I've used pin/password locks as long as they exist.
        Never ever had my phone stolen in 9 years. Maybe partially because I take care of my phones.

        Best thing to do is remotely wipe the device. If your phone gets stolen it's more likely te be sold to someone who doesn't know it's stolen.

      • Thomas’

        The paradoxical thing is that higher security on your device (phone or notebook) lowers your chances to get your device back. If it cannot be used without a full wipe and reinstall, the tracking software will be removed with all your data, lowering your chance to track it down to zero.

        This is one of the conclusions of
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4oB28ksiIo
        (watch it if you have the time, it's really great ;-) )

      • Grimmjow

        If that solution were implemented and i were a thief, i would gradually come to know that stealing phones is more risk than gain, no?

      • jesuguru

        iPhone already has such a tracking service, and I haven't heard any bad PR for Apple of anyone going vigilante. If someone does something stupid with information, I'd think people would know not to blame the company/service that provided it.

        It's information that doesn't need to be acted on directly by the victim, but at least can be given to police. Ignorance is not bliss here. Greater encryption and wiping options are also beneficial - it's not an either/or scenario.

      • TY

        If a stolen phone can become totally unusable on command of the owner, and everyone knows about it, I doubt anyone would have the incentive to steal a phone.

      • n0th1ng_r3al

        Isn't that the carriers job to track IMEI's, not Google?

    • Grimmjow

      They could do it by installing the App at root level so it cant be wiped.

    • Pierre Gardin

      What about IMEI blacklisting then?

  • ky

    I don't have a third party app to do this... But maybe I will use googles android manager now.

    • http://www.deathbycone.com Jared Kotoff

      Prey's desktop software got my laptop back. So I always recommend it for anti-theft. There is a android version too. They're both free and quite robust.

  • Hans Pedersen

    Where's the option "I'll simply keep using my current integrated tracking service"

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      "No, I'll be keeping my current 3rd party anti-theft solution"

      • Hans Pedersen

        Well, maybe the alternative should say just that.
        All alternatives assume you'll use the Google service, if you haven't noticed?

        • Bariman43

          You really have no choice but to have ADM on your phone, so the option fits.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          It doesn't really matter, does it? The assumption is that you will have the Google service, because it's part of Play Services, which you pretty much have to have on your phone.

          • Hans Pedersen

            My point is, there are more robust alternatives than an installed app service. For instance Samsung Knox will keep tracking the phone after someone makes a factory reset.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Isn't it turned off by default?

      • Avrohom Eliezer Friedman

        How about the option "I have been using ADM (not actual name) for years with Google Apps for Education and now I will have 2 Google ADM's - yay!"

  • Mr. Mark

    i wish there was a way to remotely set your phone on fire by overheating the cpu when it's lost. ah, i can see it now: setting my lost phone on fire when it's really just stuck in a couch cushion.

    • Mr. Mark

      Plot twist: in my mom's basement where keep everyone else's stolen phones.

    • felix

      lol, I'm sure terrorist & saboteurs will happily using Android since then

    • Joris Griffioen

      Probably not even that hard with a custom kernel..

  • blahmoomoo

    If I didn't already get Cerberus free when it was available, I wouldn't get a third party solution. But since I do, no point in getting rid of Cerberus when it has more features. I may use ADM anyway if it's more convenient to ring my phone and whatnot.

    I also have TrustGo Security, which includes the basic features offered by ADM and a bit more, so I guess you could say I'll have triple protection (not foolproof, I know). I don't think any of them have a way to protect against wipe (just uninstalling, unless Cerberus can with root, which I don't have), but that's a risk I'm willing to live with.

    • caustictoast

      If you root you can install cerberus so that it doesn't get uninstalled with a wipe.

      • blahmoomoo

        I meant to mention I don't have root and I don't plan to without a showstopping reason, which I haven't found yet. Plus it's too late to do that without taking a lot of time to restore what I have after the mandatory wipe when unlocking the Nexus 4's bootloader.

        • moehre

          Not with Helium/carbon, whichs backups your homescreen, text messages, Dictionary, wifi and all your app data (and if you want even the apps itself). No root required.

  • Metallinatus

    Can I remotely change the lock screen?
    This is the only feature that seems to be missing for me to make the switch....

  • Thomas’

    If it cannot be wiped by factory reset (or if it will automatically reconfigure) i'll use Android's native solution. Otherwise, i'll keep Cerberus.

  • http://www.marklaflamme.com/ Mark LaFlamme

    I've grown fond of Cerberus and I trust it. Its' what they do. I don't entirely trust Google with this kind of software so I'll just stick with the three-headed dawg.

    • Simon Belmont

      Um. If you don't trust Google, why are you using an Android phone?

      I mean that question in the nicest. By the way, I didn't down-vote you.

  • Amer Khaznadar

    Android Lost was among the apps I've installed on the first day I got an android phone. I've grabbed Cerberus when it was available for free but I didn't see a reason to switch from AL.
    I'll only consider switching from AL to this if it supports all the features I care about. And so far, from what I've read here, it doesn't because there's no control via SMS.

    • quick

      Android Lost is pretty nice. With root and Titanium Backup, I can install it to the system partition making it a system app. That way even if someone factory resets/wipes the phone I can still track it. Also tracks even if SIM changed etc.

      The Google Device Manager will be a decent backup, but lacks so many features I won't be ditching my 3rd party tracking app anytime soon.

      • Elias

        Weird, I haven't found any mention to this in the app description nor in its website. Are you sure?

  • cabbiebot

    Still waiting on it to roll out, here.

  • Michael Fontenot

    Why not both?

  • hot_spare

    hmm.. no.

    Need to be as robust as Avast to be even considered. Avast's remote actions through SMS is awesome.

    • Mastermind26

      Avast! user here, as well. I concur. :)

    • Ricardo Kummel

      Just to point out that I got my TF201 back because of Cerberus.. So, yes, avast is good, but Cerberus is way better. ;)

      I was notified of the device coming online as soon as it connected (I never use pins or passwords because of that).. Besides, taking pictures of the person that got your phone/tablet is awesome..

  • Willie D

    Already have Sprint Total Protection and Lookout Premium offered free by TMobile, so adding this is only good on devices not covered by insurance.

  • Simon Belmont

    I've always meant to grab an tracking/wiping app for my phone and tablet, but just never got around to it. I actually was hoping Google would have delivered a solution long ago, but that doesn't make up for my laziness on trying a third-party app.

    Anyway, since Google is rolling this out, I'll likely just use that and be happy knowing it's sitting there silently waiting to be used (hopefully doesn't have to be). I'm also sure I'll mess around with it once I get it.

  • PhineasJW

    I had already figured out a way to ring my phone remotely -- I just dial the number. :)

    So, ADM really just lets you perform a remote wipe, which is definitely useful.

    As for the alternatives --

    I'm surprised people so willingly trust Avast and Cerberus with all their data -- from the permissions they require, anyone at either company basically has total access to every ounce of information on your phone.

    • nodq

      yeh you are so smart... as if a thief would let your sim card in the phone. that would be the first they would do, remove the sim card of course. i wanna know how you wann call your phone then.

      • PhineasJW

        They're advertising the feature as letting you find a phone that you lost in your couch.

  • Matthew Merrick

    Yes, i most definitely will be using this over AirDroid, for this purpose.
    However, I'll keep using AirDroid for all its other cool remote features.

  • Ryan Stewart

    I guess it will take the place of my apps service doing that.

  • Andrej

    We need a native power manager as well...

  • Owen Finn

    I will continue to use Prey, as it tracks well enough both my phone and tablet. I sold my old tablet over 6 months ago, and I still use Prey to check where it is!

    • Neil

      Presumably you have the new owners permission to do so? Otherwise you are spying on them which would be probably be illegal and definitely be unethical.

      • Owen Finn

        No permission - just curiousity. It's only illegal if I use the information for any gain.

  • Yeppp

    I'm sticking with Cerberus is way much better that ADM
    Hopefully I will never ever use any of them in a real scenario

  • nsnsmj

    I don't use a third party app of this kind, so I'll definitely use this since it's built in (to Play Services).

  • GazaIan

    It won't make me ditch Cerberus, but it's nice to have since I flash ROMs frequently, and it gets a bit annoying to have to keep reinstalling and logging into Cerberus.

  • connor

    Current ADM need an active data/internet connection to work (wifi/carrier). Good but not adequate.They better add support for SMS code command.

    Remember, last line of defense is always a good FDE (full disk + sd card encryption). That will force thieves/founder/authorities/your mom to do full wipe of your phone :D

    .
    for feature, I prefer a remote lock, not remote wipe. Remote wipe has scary potential to be abused. imagine if NSA want to remote-wipe one of leaker's phone, but accidentally redirected to me (lol).

    same with remote ringing. I don't want google accidentally remote-ring me in the middle of night >.<

  • Jeffrey Smith

    My daughter has a (deactivated) phone that she loses around the house on a regular basis. I've thought about finding an app that could ring it in such cases. From the sound of it, ADM should fit the bill perfectly.

  • Felipe Pimenta

    I use Cerberus that I got in the AppGratis promotion, + myXperia and will activate the ADM also...

  • Killer4247

    Google should implement the same thing that apple has done, where if the phone is wiped then you must sign in with the old google account first before it will let you proceed.

  • freakism

    In hope that ADM will be a kick on my lazy butt to get Cerberus. Has all the features I'd like on my phone.

  • http://visionaforethought.wordpress.com/ Oflife

    How about another poll option: "I'll reserve judgement until evaluating Google's offering."

  • Michael Pahl

    Cerberus is still king.

  • Robert G. Ingersoll

    It would have been cool to have an option for: "ADM as main app, 3rd party app as backup" in the poll.

  • Welfi

    I already have two anti-theft softwares on my smartphone: I use the avast! mobile security app with integrated anti-theft and samsung offers this feature since a long time on galaxy devices (just have to create a samsung profile to use it). so there come a third one to my phone, yay. but I ain't gonna dump the others because the avast one is tied to the anti-virus software and the ohter is not deletable =)

  • turdbogls

    one thing i like about my current lost phone app (locatr) is that when i "track" it, it will take a picture from the front camera and send it to me. works great, and nice for if/when someone does steal it/find it. i can also send a message to the person and allow them to call a number to get in contact with me.i can password lock the phone, and also remotely wipe it along with set the ringer off on command. I'll keep it around until ADM can do the same thing.

  • Steve Freeman

    Doesn't Device Manager require a business or school account? With other similar accounts on other systems, you have to provide some sort of proof that you're a business, or school, etc, before it lets you setup an account.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=708741524 Robb Nunya

    Cerberus has a lot more functionality than Android Device manager. No reason to change as of now.

  • Bretton Key

    I think this a good move, and may make it easier to manage.
    Plus I feel with google's take on privacy and security, this service/app may prove to be very useful and have constant improvements.