Misplaced keys and smartwatches you take off for “just a second” can cause a significant interruption to your day, but Google’s new Find My Device network is set to bring a solution straight to your smartphones. In the iOS universe, Apple AirTags are already known for helping create an ecosystem of connected devices. Now there are a couple of offline trackers for Android on the market already, but Google’s Find My Device feature rollout could make the entire process a lot easier. The Android Find My Device feature was first announced in September last year, but concerns over misuse and illegal tracking held up the feature’s release.

Apple’s AirTag tracker safety was one of the concerns that held up the release of the feature, but reports suggest that the upcoming iOS 17.5 update has the necessary security features that Google was waiting for. With time and preventive advances in competitor technology, Google finally seems ready to move forward with the release.

Find My Device Android

Image: Google’s interface for the Find My Device feature

Google Launches The Find My Device Network in the U.S. and Canada

The Android vs iOS debate is one that has been dragged on for years but one area where the former had perhaps been a little weak was the quality of the offline trackers for Android devices. Google already had a “Find My” feature on its devices but this relied on an active internet connection to make the tracking possible, which impaired how effective the tracking could be. The current Google Find My Device rollout will rely on a Bluetooth connection that utilizes a crowdsourced device-locating network to triangulate the location of a missing device. Security appears to have been the main roadblock for the release of the Android Find My Device feature and the company reportedly worked with privacy and advocacy groups to gather feedback on their protocols.

“We developed multi-layered protections across three main areas: data safeguards, safety-first protections, and user controls. This approach provides defence-in-depth for Find My Device users,” the company stated in a blog post. The Find My Device network works by relying on the connections of nearby devices to identify the Bluetooth tag of the device you’re trying to locate. “When the owner realizes they have lost their keys and logs into the Find My Device mobile app, they will be able to see the aggregated location contributed by nearby Android devices and locate their keys,” the Google Security blog states.

The issue with crowdsourcing the location reports was the fear of all nearby users having their identity revealed to those trying to locate their device on the network. This would leave them vulnerable and exposed to those who could potentially misuse the information. To address this, Google guarantees end-to-end encryption of the data they collect, only providing them with the location of their missing item and no other details about nearby devices. If the device is close enough that it can be found connecting to the user’s own gadgets, then the crowdsourced report is discarded entirely. Google launched the Find My Device network after putting sufficient safety protocols in place.

5 Ways to Use the New Offline Tracker for Android Devices

The Find My Device network will be available on all devices that used Android 9 or any version that came after, so if you’ve upgraded your smartphone since 2018, your device is most likely eligible to use the feature. Explaining the new Android feature and how you can use the Google Find My Device service, the company showcase five situations where the new feature might come in handy:

  1. Locating offline devices: You can now track your missing device when it isn’t connected to the internet. Pixel 8 and 8 Pro devices can be tracked even if the device has been turned off.
  2. Using Bluetooth tags: Devices that don’t inherently have a Bluetooth connection can be attached to tracker tags from Chipolo and Pebblebee. These can be linked to the Find My Device app. Jio, eufy, Motorola and a few other services should come out with compatible tags soon.
  3. Finding nearby devices: Even when you know your device is close by but can’t locate it, the “Find nearby” button will help you locate the tracker-tagged items
  4. Home Nest: Once you create a list of devices connected to your home base, the proximity indicator can be viewed to identify where devices are in reference to each other.
  5. Building an ecosystem of devices with others: Shared devices can be linked once the owner shares permission with their friends, family, or roommates, making it so that you and your sibling can both locate the car keys that each of you claims the other lost.

How to Use Google Find My Device Service

How to Use Google Find My Device Service

If you’re looking for a “Find My Device” setup guide, the first detail to check will be your device’s Android version. It’s almost guaranteed that your device is running on Android 9 or later versions but you can go into your settings to check just in case. You then need to ensure that your location sharing and Find My Device settings are turned on. 

  • Open up your settings Menu, search for Location, and check that it is turned on
  • Go back to your settings menu, search for Google, scroll down to All services, and check that your Find My Device setting is turned on

The Find My Device app by Google LLC is available for download through the PlayStore and the same can be used to set up your connection of devices. You will be prompted to sign into your Google account so ensure you enter the correct password and log in. You should now have the option to add your devices here and set a lock for the device that will be used to confirm that the device is yours. 

For now, only users in the U.S. and Canada will be able to use the upgraded feature to add additional devices. Starting in May, the Google Find My Device rollout will include the Bluetooth tracker tag connections, which will allow you to link other items you’re prone to losing. TechRadar has stated that Google might launch its own tracker tagger codenamed “grogu,” but there are no official confirmations on that detail yet.

The Find My Device network should be a helpful upgrade considering the usefulness of the “Find My” feature already available on iOS devices. We’re hoping the security measures put into place hold up once the feature is more widely used—a flurry of upgrades and patches will follow in any case once it is more globally implemented.