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Find My Device may soon let you find your Pixel phone even when it's off

Phone powered down somewhere? No big deal, Find My Device will still be able to help you locate it.
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Published onSeptember 20, 2023

TL;DR
  • Find My Device helps you locate your lost Android device or accessory.
  • At the moment, it requires the device to be online and powered on to report its location.
  • This caveat could go away soon, though, as code in Android 14 hints you’ll be able to locate a Pixel phone even when it’s powered off.

Android’s Find My Device service helps you locate your lost smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, or earbuds. All you need to do is open the app or website and choose the device you want to pinpoint on a map. So long as the device is online and has network connectivity, Find My Device can ping it for its current location. You can then remotely send a command to have it play a sound, lock it with a message on the lock screen, or wipe it.

Find My Device on map

These are all useful features to have at your disposal, but they won’t do much good if the device you’re trying to locate is offline. When a device doesn’t have an active Internet connection, it can still ping other nearby devices over Bluetooth, which in turn can report the general location of the offline product. If the billions of Android devices out there start pinging each other this way, it’ll form a gargantuan network of devices that can help locate offline devices around the world.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because I just described Google’s Find My Device network, which is basically the Android equivalent of Apple’s Find My network. Google’s network, unfortunately, hasn’t launched yet because it’s waiting on Apple to hurry up and roll out unwanted tracker alerts on iOS. While we’re waiting for its launch, we spotted evidence that suggests Google is bringing one of the best features of Apple’s network to Find My Device: the ability to locate devices even when they’re powered off.

Most devices that are offline because they’ve been powered off can’t ping other nearby devices over Bluetooth, but many iPhones can. This is because certain iPhone models continue powering their Bluetooth chips, even when there’s not enough power to boot iOS. This won’t last forever, of course, because the Bluetooth chip will eventually shut down when the phone actually runs out of battery.

Google’s version of the feature seems like it’ll work in a similar way. While digging through the first beta for Android 14 QPR1 that Google released today, we were able to manually surface a new dialog on the power-off screen. This dialog has the new Find My Device logo and says, “you can locate this phone with Find My Device even when powered off.”

Android Power Off Finder Notice

The title of the string shown in the dialog is “finder_active,” while the flag that controls the dialog’s appearance is called “pof_active.” This matches information previously shared by leaker Kamila Wojciechowski, who revealed that Google was working on a Pixel “Power-off Finder” feature for the “Finder Network.” The term “Finder Network” is likely a code name for the Find My Device network, while “pof” is likely the abbreviation for “Power-off Finder.”

While our discovery in Android 14 QPR1 Beta 1 lends further credence to Kamila’s initial report, what’s still unclear is what devices will actually support this. This feature isn’t something that can be simply enabled for any device. It’ll likely require hardware support to keep the Bluetooth chip powered when the main processor and OS are shut down. It’ll also likely require an updated HAL that Google Play Services can use to send precomputed “Finder Network” keys to the Bluetooth chip.

We also don’t know when this feature will launch. A recent version of the Play Services app was released with possible support for this feature, but since the Find My Device network itself is still offline, we don’t know if it’s ready to go. We might hear more about this feature at the Google Pixel 8 launch event, though.