Android 15 could allow devices to be tracked even when switched off

location tracking settings in Android
(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

What you need to know 

  • Android 15 is expected to introduce a Powered Off Finder API.
  • This API will enable compatible devices to be tracked even when switched off.
  • The feature is expected to be available on the Google Pixel 9 series, and the Pixel 8 series.

Google has been hard at work on its Find My Device network but has not yet made the system widely available to users. However, recent reports suggest that a Powered Off Finder API will be a standout feature of Android 15 when it rolls out, most likely in the second half of 2024.

As reported by Android Police, the feature will allow compatible phones to be located even when they are switched off. The system works by allowing the handset to broadcast Bluetooth beacons to other Android devices that are part of the Find My Device network. The receiving devices will then encrypt and upload the device's location, transmitting the beacon to Google’s server and allowing the device's owner to see where it is.

According to the report, this feature will only work on devices with specific hardware support that allows them to power the Bluetooth controller even when the phone is shut down. For that reason, it will not work on all Android devices.

It’s expected that the Google Pixel 9 series will be the first compatible handset to benefit from this feature. But interestingly, it also appears that the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro will also be able to support the API, as well as the upcoming Pixel 8a. Older devices, including the Pixel 7 series and the Pixel Fold, don’t appear to have the necessary software support to operate Powered Off Finding.

Find my device at Google IO 2023

(Image credit: Android Central)

This would make sense; back in April 2023, we reported that Google was working on a Find My Device feature. Google even announced the feature at I/O 2023, stating it would arrive “later this summer.” At that point, it was believed that the feature was being designed to work with the Pixel 8 when it launched later that year.

The release of Powered Off Finding was subsequently pushed back while Google and Apple collaborated to solve the problem of unwanted location tracking. While Google offers unknown tracker alerts that can detect Bluetooth trackers, including AirTags, an equivalent does not currently exist on iOS. At the moment, Apple devices can detect AirTags but cannot detect trackers that aren’t connected to Apple’s Find My network.  

Google and Apple have been working together since May 2023 to create a joint specification based on Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers (DULT). The hope is that Android devices will soon start to benefit from this feature. 

Steven Shaw

Steven Shaw is a full-time freelancer, but before he changed his career at the start of 2021, he was in the retail industry, leading teams to achieve goals in selling technology products, such as smartphones, tablets, and more. Graduating from the University of Cambridge with a Masters in Medieval History, he's always had a passion for the topic, alongside technology and many Simpsons quotes.