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Find My Device: what is it and how do I use it?
If you’re an iOS user, then you have the Find My network. This network tracks lost or stolen iOS devices, along with AirTag locations. But what about Android users? What are their options when it comes to finding their beloved missing devices? The answer is Google’s Find My Device. Like the iOS counterpart, you can track the location of your phone, Bluetooth earbuds, Pixel Watch, or tablet — and soon tracker tags. It also gives you the ability to manage these devices remotely, and even erase them if necessary. Let’s dive into how it works so the next time your phone goes for a walk, you can take back control.
When you log into an Android device with your Google account, it's automatically registered with Find My Device. That is unless you subsequently toggle it off in the settings. When you go to the Find My Device webpage, the map will show you where the phone was last located. Your phone must also have location settings enabled for the feature to work.
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What is Find My Device on Android?
To try and help owners find their stolen or lost Android smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch, Google introduced Android Device Manager back in 2013. The company updated it in 2017, giving it its new name, Find My Device.
Similar to iOS’s Find My iPhone, Find My Device shows the current location of a person’s Android device on a Google map. They can then leave a message and phone number on the lock screen, play a sound if they think the device is nearby, or erase the device if it’s clear the phone will never return.
Unlike iOS, however, where users have to enable the feature themselves, Android phones are automatically enabled on Find My Device. As long as the location settings are also on, the Find My Device feature will work without much previous input from the user.
How to set up and use Find My Device on Android
As we said, setting it up doesn’t really involve a lot of work on the part of the user. Once you sign into the Android phone with your Google account, Find My Device is enabled. You can disable it later if you want by going to the Security settings, but that would obviously not be advised.
There is also a Find My Device app, but if you only have the one phone, installing the app is a bit pointless if the phone is gone. The app would only be helpful if you had more than one Android device.
How to use Find My Device
If you need to locate a missing phone — and it is logged into your Google account — then go to the Find My Device page. You may be asked to log in there. Then a Google map will come up with your registered phones at the top left. Underneath that, you have three options.
Look at the device’s location and play a sound if it’s nearby
When the map opens, you can zoom right into street level and see where your phone currently is. If it is switched off, you will get the last location that the phone pinged Google at before it went dark. This is assuming, of course, that the location settings are on and any thief has not already wiped the phone.
If you can see that the device is in your home or very nearby, then you can use the Play Sound option to try and find it. Even if your phone is on silent or vibrate, Find My Device will still play a continuous ringing for five minutes so you can figure out where the phone is.
If it’s obvious your device was stolen and you see its exact location, call the police to get it recovered. It is highly inadvisable to attempt to recover it yourself.
Secure the device and leave a message on the lockscreen
If the phone is not nearby, the best step would be to secure the device, which locks it down. Simply click Secure Device, and leave an optional message and phone number, which will appear on the lock screen. That way, if anybody finds the phone, they can call you and arrange its return.
Bear in mind that the secure feature only works if the device is connected to the internet.
Erase the device and say goodbye
Obviously, this is an option that nobody ever wants to do. You would be admitting that your phone isn’t coming back. But if it is obvious that the phone is gone forever, you can remotely perform a factory reset that will wipe all the content off your device. That way, you can at least know that no one will get access to your personal data.
By doing this, though, you will never be able to check for the phone’s location on the map ever again. Once the device is logged out of your Google account, you really have lost it forever. So think carefully before using this feature.
If the phone is switched off, you can only see where the phone last pinged Google before being switched off. If anyone switches the phone back on again, then you will get a new location.
Yes, Find My Device overrides your audio preferences and makes a ringing noise for five minutes.