What you need to know
- The updated Find My Device app uncovers more details about Google's rumored crowdsourced tracking network.
- The crowdsourced network may allow other Android users to locate a device you've marked as lost and pick it up for you.
- You can designate a "co-owner" who can view the location of your lost device using a cryptographic key.
In June, Google was spotted building its own version of Apple's Find My network designed to help track lost Android phones using crowdsourced means. Now, more details about the tracking network have emerged, courtesy of a new update to Google's Find My Device app.
XDA Developers' Mishaal Rahman discovered new strings of code in the latest version of Find My Device that show how the rumored tracking method will work. The app already displays key information about the most recent known location of your device and the time it was last tracked, although this relies on an internet connection or Bluetooth. The crowdsourced network of some of the best Android devices with Google Play Services enabled will help locate your device once you've marked it as lost. The Find My Device app will then tell you if that device is in close range.
The feature comes in handy for situations when your device gets disconnected from the internet or goes out of Bluetooth range, in which case the chance of tracking it is slim. Once your lost device has been found, the Find My Device app will send you a notification and Google will then ring the phone.
After that, you can pick up the device yourself or let someone else, a "co-owner", fetch the phone for you, as indicated by code in the Find My Device app. You can assign a co-owner of your lost devices by generating an encryption key and handing it over to someone you trust, although they can choose to accept or reject it. This cryptographic key can be embedded in a QR code or saved in an external storage location. Co-owners will then be able to view the location of your lost devices or even your whereabouts if you have your phone with you.
These hints were spotted in version 2.4.043_df of the Find My Device app, although Google doesn't have anything official to say about the crowdsourced network as of this time.