Hands-on: Android device manager confirms that, yes, Google really is watching

Google's Android Device Manager, a web service designed to help track lost or stolen phones and tablets, began rolling out Wednesday, using your Google account to keep an eye on you.

Accessing the service while logged into a Google account takes you to a Maps page, where you get a drop-down menu listing every device that's associated with your account, and the option to locate them or force them to ring at top volume for five minutes, even if they've been set to silent mode.

[MORE MOBILE:  Death in China prompts Apple to offer iPhone charger disposal and discount]

With a little setup, Device Manager will also let you remotely wipe a lost or stolen gizmo, providing additional piece of mind to BYOD business users.

While I didn't want to test the remote wipe feature on my own smartphone -- an HTC One running on T-Mobile's network -- simply activating the remote wipe capabilities in the Device Manager sent a notification prompt to my phone to let me easily set the appropriate option locally.

I can confirm that the ringer works well, even with a pair of headphones plugged in for good measure. I hope I didn't startle too many people in the office.

The location feature seems to use Google's standard wireless positioning technology, locating the Network World offices to within about 1,000 meters. It seems to stop working if you toggle location services off in the settings menu, however, so a canny thief could circumvent this feature pretty easily. (It doesn't look like it should affect other functionality, however.)

It's a pretty substantial step forward for Google -- Apple has offered a similar "find my iPhone" feature for years, but Android users have heretofore had to pay for a third-party security app for that type of capability.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

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