I am starting this article by giving some facts of Google:
- Google innovated online search.
- Google innovated keyword tool & search engine optimization.
- Google innovated online advertising.
- Google innovated online stores & payment gate.
- Google innovated online, smartphone apps.
- Google innovated cloud services.
- Google DIDN’T innovate much to find lost Android mobile phones!
Yeah, the last one is quite strange for anyone who is possessive about Google and its unabated enthusiasm to bring out or take over new innovations, more often than not.
It is true that Google did pay some attention towards this topic but the solution, like their other apps that are being offered now, is not reaching to one and all. This tool is limited to enterprises and the paid customers that use commercial Google Apps. Millions of others smart phone users who are hooked onto many of Google’s services are looking for a freeware from their favorite brand but it appears that their waiting is going to be much longer than that of Vladimir and Estragon’s in ‘Waiting For Godot.”
The Lost Android!
Millions of poor souls are out there struggling in this world filled with hurried life. They lose many valuable including their favorite Android phones. They wouldn’t have minded much if they have lost the tee shirt signed by Madonna but they breathe heavy sighs for the lost Android. They get haunted by that lost phone’s features and the price they have paid for it.
It is quite natural for these souls that Android looks much younger and lucrative than dear old Madonna and so there are no wonders felt when the loss results in to heartbreaks. But most of these poor souls who use Google services have been left in the lurch to find third party solutions. The funniest part of this saga is that the poor souls have to buy either the cheap or high priced anti theft software from Google Play. Isn’t it getting weird now?
Why Android Won’t Make Built-in Anti-theft App?
As safety is more important than sarcasm, let us keep the holy Google aside for some time and take a look at the software that help poor souls to find their lost Androids. There were few brave souls out of the poor souls’ lot who posed a question as to “why not the Android itself make built-in anti-theft feature?” It’s a genuine concern because Android is backed by Google since 2005. But, here, the poor souls should get little insight by getting little deeper in to the subject.
Google kept Android development as an open source with the founding of Open Handset Alliance by bringing together other players from software, hardware and telecommunication segments. Due to this, Android, in its core functionalities, does not include any Google apps. They need to be installed like any other add-ons of Android.
Lucky & Unlucky Users
Lucky are those who use paid Google Apps or Microsoft Exchange server who can locate, lock, ring or wipe their lost Android phone by using the features available therein. Actually speaking, these four options must be part of the smart phones and must be available to all users. But the reality is something different.
Smart phone users who don’t use Google Apps or Microsoft Exchange Server need to depend on third-party solutions through which they can do those four core activities i.e. locate, lock, ring/message & wipe their Android phone, if lost.
Fumble Through the Rumble
Google Play, the digital distribution platform from Google, is a busy online market place on which more than 700,000 apps are stacked and more than 25 billion buyers do the shopping. But when we browse through Google Play to find Android mobile security software, we come across with a scenario of ‘Beach of Normandy’ on the D-Day of World War 2.
Seriously, this simile shall sound so apt when one witness the heaps of third party software that can make the buyers to fumble through the rumble!
On Google Play, mobile security solutions for Android phones are available in all price ranges. They are being offered by all sorts of players. One can find the big wigs of top notch security software solutions are competing with the unknown and obscure sellers. This is making the users to feel unsecured on the world’s largest selling platform.
The Big Players
Being left to fend themselves, users now have to focus on the security software solutions for their beloved Androids. There are quite a few, best-in-class applications on sale like LookOut Security, Cerberus Anti Theft etc.
LookOut Security has the Free and Paid versions. The free version contains following features:
- Virus detection and removal from apps, email attachments etc.
- Anti-virus scheduler with daily/weekly scanning options.
- Find your Smartphone on Google Map with simple login in to Lookout.com
- Know the latest location details that the Smartphone was put in to use (need to log in to Lookout.com for this)
- Make the Smartphone to scream or make loud alarm even if it is in silent mode.
- Automatic backup of contacts.
By upgrading to LookOut Premium i.e. the paid version, users can avail additional features like:
- Blocking the malicious URLs that can do identity theft.
- Privacy Advisor feature lets the users know the data access levels of each app installed on the phone.
- Remote locking from Lookout.com to arrest undesired usage.
- Custom message can be added to get the lost mobile.
- If the phone does not return, users can remotely wipe out the data to ensure that the Android is not misused by unsolicited people.
- Call history and images can be saved automatically for easy retrieval.
- Images, contacts and/or call history can be transferred from Android to any new device through Lookout.com
In addition to the English, LookOut offers the product in many languages like German, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish etc.
Cerberus Anti Theft has a free trial offer for one week and must be purchased before the expiry of the same. The lifetime license is priced at 2.00 Euros on Google Play. This is one time payment and does not have any monthly or yearly renewals. One Cerberus account supports up to five Androids.
Features of Cerberus include:
- Tracking & locating the phone.
- Locking the device with a secret code.
- Make phone to generate loud alarm even it is in silent mode.
- Retrieve the details of last calls made & received from the phone.
- GPS localization features can be turned on through Cerberus account even if that feature was put off in the Android. This feature works only in versions
- Phone can be tracked even without internet. This can be done by the remote controlling of SMS service.
- SIM Checker feature allows the owner of the lost Android to send SMS though the original SIM is changed.
- SMSs generated by the Android owner through Cerberus account will not be stored on the gadget thus protecting the owner from getting noticed by the thief.
Question Still Remains
There is no doubt that the above apps are useful to have them on Android phones but the question still remains as to why Google cannot offer the solution on its own?
It is not worthwhile to think that Google wants to make money by selling solutions that can find lost Android gadgets. Because, it is already offering some sort of solutions like Latitude which can identify the location of a smartphone albeit as paid app. Hence if someone thinks that Google is eyeing to make huge bucks by selling Android security solutions does not hold water.
The commonly attributed reason for Google’s hold up on security solutions is the Android fragmentation bug. The SDK of Android is device centric and thus restricting the apps developers to create solutions that can run on any Android version. Also, the quick releases of different versions are adding fuel to the fire. In 2011, Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced that Android 2.3 with ‘Gingerbread’ would sort out the fragmentation issue. But “not quite” say the experts as the fragmentation issue of the versions older than 2.3 have still remained.
Some observers have ascribed another reason for Google’s silence on lost phone solutions by saying that Google wants other players to develop apps. They cite the ‘open ecosystem” adopted by Google. They say that this is quite surprising as Google with its Play feature was successful in making the app and music stores of the mobile network carriers to go dumb!
On the other hand, lost phone security solution has become a hot bed for many OEMs. The competition is to intense that the smartphone manufacturers like Blackberry, Apple and Microsoft also have started offering the software. Even an obscure and little known brand like Palm is offering its own software that boasts to have all the features of a top class software!
Whatever is the reasoning from Google, smartphone users should have not been left to fend themselves from thieves and online fraudsters by self-searching the important tools like anti-theft and anti-spam apps. Users are ready to shell the money to buy a genuine product. It is a known fact that ‘trust’ is the stepping stone for purchasing and Google commands lot of trust from its users. Given the magnitude of the complexities that Google handles through its various mission-critical apps, it should not be a major task for it to implement lost mobile feature.
As the adage goes ‘better late than never’, let us hope that Google would roll out its built-in Android security software sooner than later.