Will Android Device Manager be the last “Find My Device” app?

by: Joe HindyAugust 12, 2013

Android Device Manager

Android Device Manager has received a lot of press lately and for good reason. It’s a solid little application that will find your phone wherever it might be. It also gives you a small selection of tools to either help you find your phone or erase it as the situation warrants. With this awesome new feature out, the question has to be asked. Will this replace the competition?

There are a lot of “find my phone” type applications. One of the most popular apps that strictly finds your phone is called Cerberus and there are many more like it. The “find my phone” functionality is even baked into some anti-virus apps. So there is no lack of options when it comes to using this feature.

Is Android Device Manager enough to kill of the competition? We’ll make this quick and easy and answer with a resounding no. There are several reasons for this and even though most of the reasons are pretty simple, the bottom line is that even if Android Device Manager is a great app, it’s still a very young app that doesn’t have a lot of features.

Since Cerberus is the benchmark for everything a “find my device” app should be, we’ll compare Android Device Manager to it. Let’s begin.

  • Cerberus has every feature that the Android Device Manager has. This includes a website interface to track, the ability to wipe the phone, and the ability to ring the phone to help you find it. Another common feature is neither app shows up in the app drawer. Cerberus hides itself while Android Device Manager hides in the Google Settings app.
  • Cerberus adds a lot of functionality. You can lock the device with a code, control via SMS, prevent unauthorized users from installing apps, record audio using the phone mic, and get a list of calls sent and received.
  • One of Cerberus’ most unique features is the ability to detect whether a new SIM card has been dropped into your device. Obviously this is for GSM devices only, but it would be nice to know if someone’s put a new SIM in your phone to use it as their own. The SIM Checker feature also tells you the new number of the phone. It’ll also tell you what carrier and network the device is on. These are all very, very handy things to be able to do.
  • Rooted users can actually prevent people from uninstalling the app unless they wipe the device and flash a whole new ROM.
  • If Cerberus is found and uninstalled, you always have Android Device Manager there to back you up. Two is always better than one. Especially when neither service runs a background process unless ordered to remotely and, therefore, consumes no battery life.

We could go on but the point has pretty much been made. Android Device Manager is great, but it cannot stack up to the competition feature for feature. It is simple and easy to use. It gives you the bare essentials that you need if your phone is lost or stolen. The bottom line, though, is most “find my device” apps are capable of these exact same things and more. It’s also highly likely that Google didn’t release this to squash the competition, but rather add a service that will help you that’s always installed no matter what. Perhaps its biggest feature is that it’s a Google service and virtually no Google services constitute as bloatware.

We would love to know what you think. Would you rather use Android Device Manager instead of a third party service? If you have the time, feel free to leave us a comment to tell us what you think.

  • Corkdigs

    Cerberus also takes a photo when an incorrect PIN is entered which is handy too.

    • JosephHindy

      I saw that but I know that there are a lot of devices that this won’t work with (or does work and takes an “all black” picture, etc)…so I didn’t include that one…but on devices it does work on, it’s awesome :D

      • mumusen

        On Nexus 4 it works like charm :D

    • mobilemann

      i was lucky enough to get a full license for free of Cerberus on one of those free app day pushes, or from gratis or somewhere. Does it allow unlimited tracking and look ups? All the early “find my droid” stuff always had limited amounts of time you could use the product like, only x amount of lookups per month.

      • bdec

        Cerberus license is for a lifetime, and valid for up to 5 devices, which is a really good value for €3.

  • Ray

    I was using Avast Mobile Security for device tracking. Since Android Device Manager hit, Avast is now gone. ADM will suit me just fine. I don’t need another app to configure and another username and password to remember.

    Sorry Avast – your software is brilliant, but Google just killed you off.

    • melhiore

      “Sorry Avast – your software is brilliant, but Google just killed you off.”

      Avast and ADM are two different tools, Avast happened to have build in device tracking but no, Google did not kill Avast…

      • Ray

        Sorry, I didn’t mean Google killed it off completely, for everyone. For me personally, Google just killed off Avast. Especially considering this is all I used the software for. It was rather pointless in every other aspect… for me anyway.

        • melhiore

          In that case yes, Google killed Avast :)

    • Frederico Silva

      How come? ADM has three features: Tracking, Ring and Wipe. Avast has many more, but the most importat one is the SMS control.

      If someone switches the SIM card or the Google account, with ADM you’re phone is dead. With Avast it sends the new SIM number to a trusted number and then you can keep controlling it.

      I’ve seen comments like this many times and I still can’t understand why ADM is better than Avast. Please enlighten me.

      • Ray

        I never said ADM was better. It just suits my needs better. If Avast works for you, that’s great, stick with it.

        • Frederico Silva

          Duuude, chill. I was just making a point and asking for some insight, no need to become all agressive..

          • Ray

            Sorry, I didn’t think it was aggressive – or mean for it to come across that way.

            Basically, because ADM is simple, it’s tied to my Google Account, and no additional software, usernames and passwords are required, that’s why I prefer it. It does exactly what I want/need without having to go through a whole setup and configuration process.

            The only thing I do miss from Avast is the firewall but I’ve managed fine without it so far and to be completely honest, I don’t really need it though – it was more of a luxury/bonus. If I do feel the need to use a firewall again, I will probably just use AFWall which is a dedicated firewall.

          • Frederico Silva

            No worries man, I didn’t express myself that well also.
            Yeah I acknowledge your point, makes sense.
            One question about the firewall though, why do you feel the need to use it? I thought the danger of getting virus on Android was pretty minimal (installing trusted apps from the Play Store)

          • Ray

            I was actually usually it to block access to the internet for some games and apps such as Angry Birds and others that request ridiculous amounts of information. For most of the those apps/games to function correctly though, they required access to the internet so a firewall become kind of useless which is why I don’t use one at the moment.

            Instead, I just use XPrivacy to block or send incorrect information while still being able to use the app. I’ve also stopped wasting my time with apps/games that request unnecessary information. All Angry Birds games have been removed and I will never spend another cent with that money hungry and greedy company ever again.

          • Frederico Silva

            Yeah that was my next option, the virus or blocking apps from accessing internet. But doesn’t Android have the ‘Restrict background data’ option in ‘Data usage’? Or do the apps work around that?

          • Ray

            ‘Restrict background data’ only stops mobile data from being used as far as I’m aware.

            I found the firewall the easiest way to manage it anyway. You get presented with a big list of apps and you just tap a button next to each of those you want to block and it’s done.

          • Frederico Silva

            Hmm, interesting, might try it sometime.. Thanks for the insight man!

          • Trueislander

            This back and fourth between Fred and Ray are exactly why AndroidAuthority.com is one of my favorite tech sites. So respectful and friendly I thought a kitten meme might pop out of the screen!

  • EliasAlucard

    MyXperia is a better solution for now, though obviously not as universal as ADM.

  • SkylaC90

    I have and love Cerberus, I don’t think i’ll ever switch from them and so i’ll use ADM as a backup or in conjunction with Cerberus.

  • mrjayviper

    it’s my only “theft protection” app.

  • Paul Taylor

    I have Lookout for the same feature – but let’s be honest, your average Joe Public who never got round to installing a find-my-phone app yet is hardly more likely to do so now. ADM already does everything that many people want.

  • mydroidhaswood

    If only Cerberus worked on their web interface…
    I mean, it really isn’t a joy to use, but it does the job.
    Even AVG is introducing some Cerberus features into their security app.

  • kosijer

    Google stores your IMEI number in your Google account and the biggest hit would be to enable tracking the phone by IMEI. My Note2’s IMEI still appears in the list of my devices after 4 months after it was stolen, but because it’s wiped straight after, there’s no “find my phone” app that can help me. So, we should persuade Google to attach the IMEI with the user’s email and at least don’t allow thieves to use another account as long as it’s not allowed by previous user.

  • Simon Belmont

    Probably not until Google beefs up the feature set (lock screen locking, PIN control of deactivating the feature, etc). Though, it’s a good basic solution. I like ADM and I’m using it as my main solution for finding my devices. It’s good at doing that (and ringing/wiping).

    The best part about ADM is that mostly everyone running Android should AUTOMATICALLY have at least the ability to track their phone without having to install anything. That’s better than nothing if something dire were to ever happen.

  • akdtox


  • Trent Richards

    I honestly wasn’t aware of those extra features that cerberus and others have. ADM is a great added service by Google though.

  • Ruz

    And what happens when u sell your phone to someone else you may know or dont know.. or rather put it like what happens when u buy a second hand premium phone from the owner u know or you may not know? This will surly put security a big question mark where people cant afford to buy premium phone

  • Mobile Phones Fan

    One of Cerberus’ most unique features is the ability to detect whether a new SIM card has been dropped into your device. Obviously this is for GSM devices only, but it would be nice to know if someone’s put a new SIM in your phone to use it as their own.

    Are you saying Cerberus specifically limits this feature to GSM-spec devices or are you unaware that LTE devices use SIM technology, too?

  • ziplock9000

    No because it’s not working for me, I have stock 4.3 on an N4 with Device Manager set up correctly. It can’t find my phone or ring it.

  • Trueislander

    I’m not familiar enough with either Avast or ADM to know if they include a Signal Flare feature like Lookout. But I absolutely LOVE this feature, especially on my chronically battery-eating GNexus!

  • WynBrks

    I thought the answer was “Probably”. Is Android Device Manager the last (best)? Not yet. However, the question is “Will it be”? Since it is coming from Google, there is a strong possibility it could be. Until then, I am not uninstalling “Where’s My Droid”!

  • Dan

    It has been a month since I activated ADM on my Galaxy Note device and the ADM website still hasn’t seen it! It says:

    “No active devices
    Before you can use Android Device Manager, you must have an active Android device.”

    But I have one right here you dummy. I just bought a few apps a week ago and Google Play knows I have a GNote and that it is compatible with the apps I bought. Did they not hear the ching-ching sound from the till? Meanwhile Avast can see my device and on its website it shows my location to within 500 feet (GPS is off). Not bad at all!

    Avast just killed ADM!

  • Thinking_ahead

    My phone was stolen, and now the device is no longer being listed on my Google device manager. I did not delete it. How was this accomplished, and how can I undo this? I would like to get the phone back if possible.

  • Rs

    ADM Can’t find my phone

  • Sharps

    AVG classes cerberus as Malware…