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Two Android phones on a beige background showing the Find My Device feature tracking an object

Find my Android device: what is Google’s new tracking network and how does it work?

Google’s Find My Device service has been around for a long time and serves as a way to quickly and easily locate Android phones and select other devices. But it’s also quite limited, as it only works with devices that have location capabilities and are connected to the Internet. Very soon, Google will change all that.

It will do so through a new Find My Device network, announced at Google IO 2023 in May, that can use Bluetooth trackers paired with over a billion Android devices worldwide to locate objects even if they’re offline or lack tracking capabilities. location. , so more devices will be trackable.

Below you’ll find full details on what this new Find My Device network is, how it works, how you can set it up, and when it will actually launch. We will also see if the search giant Google, an AirTag-like tracker, is suitable for this network.

Network Find My Android Device: What is it?

An Android phone against a beige background displaying a warning about Apple AirTag tracking

(Image credit: Google)

Google’s Find My Device network already exists, albeit in a limited form. If you’ve been an Android user for any length of time, you’ve probably interacted with it. But in its current form it’s not really a “network,” as it doesn’t leverage other Android devices to help you find your lost items.

With the new network Find My Device will, and this update will also add support for various Bluetooth trackers (like those from Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee), as well as a few other devices, like Pixel Buds and headphones from Sony. and JBL.

Additionally, Find My Device will let you detect unwanted AirTags and other trackers (in other words, ones that someone may have hidden in your belongings to stalk you). In fact, this feature has already been implemented, but the rest is yet to come.

Overall, this will be Find My Device’s biggest update since the service’s original launch in 2017.

Find My Android Network: When will it launch?

Google originally planned to launch its new Find My Device network in the summer of 2023, but soon Google blog post since late July, the company has revealed that it is delaying the launch.

He made this decision because he wants to wait until Apple fully rolls out unknown tracker alerts to its Find My service. Currently, if you have an iOS device, you can get alerts for unknown AirTags, but not for other Bluetooth trackers.

Map Apple AirTags on an Android phone showing unknown devices

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Apple is working on updating the feature to work with other trackers as well, but Google and Apple have been working together on this update so that alerts can be sent across Android and iOS platforms. The specifications for this cross-platform warning system have not yet been finalized, so Google has decided to “suspend the implementation of the Find My Device network until Apple implements the protections for iOS”.

In theory, the system’s specs will be finalized later this year, but it’s unclear whether that means Google’s Find My Device network will also launch later this year, or if we’ll have to wait even longer.

Network Find my Android device: how will it work?

Right now, if you lose your Android phone, assuming you have Find My Device enabled, you’ll be able to see its last known location on a map. If it’s online with location services enabled, the location should be updated, otherwise it won’t.

If it’s online, you can also do things like remotely play a sound to find it again, or if you think it’s stolen, you can remotely block it, sign out of your Google account, or even delete it. It’s a useful feature, but it requires your device to be online for an updated location, and it only works with select devices, like Android phones and Wear OS watches.

Two Android phones on a beige background showing Find My Device tracking an object

(Image credit: Google)

The new Find My Device network has none of these limitations. For one thing, it will work with Bluetooth trackers, including those from brands like Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee. This means that even if the item you want to track doesn’t work directly with Find My Device (for example, if it’s a wallet or your keys), you can connect a Bluetooth tracker and track it that way.

Also, items don’t need an internet connection or location services to be tracked, as other people’s Android devices on the Find My Device network will be able to locate them if they’re nearby via Bluetooth, so you can see their approximate location on a map. Considering the number of Android devices in the world (over a billion), it is likely that this network will be able to locate the missing items practically anywhere.

It’s a similar idea to what Apple’s Find My network already does, and Google says that, as with Apple’s network, location information is encrypted, meaning that no one else but you, not even Google itself, can tell where the tracked elements are.

Unknown tracker alerts screen on an Asus phone with keychain and AirTag behind it

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The other part of this major Find My Device update, the part that’s already here, alerts you to unknown trackers that could be used to stalk you. We’ll explain how to set this up below, but once you’re up and running, your Android phone will automatically notify you if an unknown tracker is detected traveling with you.

You can also manually scan and detect unknown trackers (like an AirTag or Tile tracker) by scanning your Bluetooth for any unknown trackers that have traveled with you. This last point is how it differentiates a Bluetooth tracker that is tracking you from one that is nearby (as might happen when you are around other people).

If an unknown tracker is detected, you will be shown a comprehensive map of where the tracker was first detected and the route it followed you on. You’ll also have the option to play a sound so you can locate it more easily and receive instructions on how to disable it.

That said, this feature can initially only detect AirTags (although that will change) and in our anecdotal experience we’ve found that Google’s Unknown Tracker Detection feature doesn’t always detect AirTags very quickly or always successfully play a sound on them. they, so there might be some bugs to iron out.

Network Find my Android device: how will you set it up?

Since Google’s Find My Device network hasn’t launched yet, we don’t know for sure how the setup will work, but the leaks have given us a good idea.

These mainly come from Mishaal Rahman (an Android leaker and journalist) who made a detailed post on X (formerly Twitter) about the setup process.

Apparently, you’ll first get a notification on your phone asking if you want to “add this device to the Find My Device network.” So in its current form it looks like you need to join the network.

If you say you want to, you’ll be presented with an introductory screen, explaining what the Find My Device network can do and asking what level of participation you want your phone to have. The options (aside from turning the feature off) are “no network,” which will basically cause Find My Device to work for you as it always does, without accessing the larger network of Android devices.

Or you can select “only with network in high traffic area”, which is the default. This, as the name suggests, will let you use the Find My Device network to find your device in busy areas like airports.

Or you can select “with network in all areas,” which takes advantage of the Find My Device network to locate your devices anywhere, even in low-traffic areas. You can see screenshots of these options in the images below, shared by @Nail_Sadykov.

Leaked images of Find My Device network setup screens

(Image credit: @Nail_Sadykov)

From the way it’s worded, it sounds like the option you choose will apply to both your network usage to find lost items, as well as your phone’s level of engagement with the network to find other people’s devices. For example, if you select the “no network” option, your phone won’t register with the network to help other people find devices, and you won’t be able to use the network to find yours.

However, as noted above, your devices location is encrypted, using your Android devices PIN, pattern, or password, so only you (or the people you share your devices with in Find My Device) can view their location. When you register a device for the first time, you will be prompted to enter the PIN, pattern or password for another one of your devices already on the network, so Google can verify that it’s you or, if you’re registering your device, you’ll presumably have to enter the PIN, pattern, or password for that device. However, that could all change before the launch of the network.

As for the unknown tracker component of this big Find My Device update, this is now available and should be enabled by default. But to check or turn it off, go to Settings > Security & Emergency on your phone (or Settings > Personal Security if your phone is running Android 11 or lower), then scroll down and tap “Unknown Tracker Alerts.”

You will then see the ‘Allow Alerts’ toggle which should be automatically enabled – you can turn this off if you like, but we suggest most people leave it on, as it will help prevent stalking attempts. On this screen, you can also manually scan for trackers near you that are separate from their respective owners.

Network Find My Android Device: Is Google Making AirTag-Like Trackers?

With Google’s launch of a Find My Device network that works with Bluetooth trackers, it would make sense to launch its own Bluetooth tracker, something to rival Apple’s AirTag, and reports suggest this is in the works.

According to the leaker, these Google AirTags could have the code name “grogu”. Kamila Wojciechowskaand are apparently under development by the Nest team and will support UWB (Ultra Wideband) and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to track their location.

Google’s AirTag-like tracker also apparently has built-in speakers (so it can sound an alert to help you locate it) and is said to be available in different colors. This all comes from a single source, so we’ll take it with a grain of salt, but it’s a believable claim.

What’s unclear is when this Bluetooth tracker might launch, but we’re guessing it could come soon after Google rolls out its new Find My Device network.

Meanwhile, support for third-party trackers, including those from Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee, is known to be planned, so there’s no need to wait for Google to roll out its own version.

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