One of the biggest fears when losing a mobile handset isn’t just that a new one will have to be purchased, but rather how the lost device could be used. Will someone find the device and have access to personal information and contacts? For many, this is the biggest concern of all. Google announced on Tuesday an update for its Android Device Manger, which was introduced last month. The new feature was added to allow users to have their smartphones ring at maximum volume to make it easier to find when misplaced. When it can’t be found within earshot, the Android Device Manager can then be used to locate the phone in real time via a map. Now the tool has been updated to allow users to track the current location of the device and, more importantly, provide remote access to lock the screen, change the screen password and in a worst case scenarios erase the device’s memory completely via the Android Device Manager website. From this site users will have the option to “Ring,” “Lock” or “Erase”
their device. “While losing your phone can be stressful, Android Device Manager can help you keep your data from ending up in the wrong hands. If your phone can’t be recovered, or has been stolen, you can quickly and securely erase all of the data on your device,” said Android Product Manager Benjamin Poiesz. The Android Device Manager will work on any device with Android 2.2 or newer that is connected to a cellular network or Wi-Fi. If the lost device is in airplane mode, the remote lock will kick in as soon as the device re-establishes a network connection. For this reason Google has urged that consumers should not reuse their Google Account password. The search giant is also reportedly working on an Android app that could help users easily find and manage their devices. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that two of the biggest supporters of the Android OS may be working to develop a system-level “kill switch” for their upcoming handsets and tablets. Samsung Electronics Co. and LG
Electronics Co. are looking at installing a “kill switch” on mobile phones and tablets that would make the devices inoperable if they are stolen. This function is meant to discourage the theft of mobile devices by enabling a manufacturer or carrier to lock the device if the SIM card is replaced or the device’s firmware is hacked. South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning is reportedly in talks with the two South Korean handset makers about introducing this functionality to new smartphones. This could see a roll-out as early next year as a way to curb rising phone theft. Officials in South Korea maintain that a so-called kill switch is still the most effective solution to reduce the theft of handsets because the functions are integrated into the OS and firmware and can’t be deleted. “Consumers should remain cautious and take phone safety measures by themselves, noting that it is ultimately their responsibility to protect their phone,” Lee Dong-hyung, chief of the
Telecommunications Policy Bureau at the ministry told The WSJ in August.