Upcoming Major Enhancement for Android’s Find My Device Network– here’s how it’ll work

Google’s Find My Device service has been a staple for locating Android phones and a select range of devices, yet its limitations have been apparent, functioning solely with internet-connected devices equipped with location capabilities. However, a transformation is on the horizon.

This transformation is facilitated by the introduction of the new Find My Device network, unveiled at Google IO 2023 in May. This innovative network leverages Bluetooth trackers alongside over a billion Android devices globally, enabling the location tracking of items that lack location capabilities or are offline. This expansion in compatibility extends the reach of trackable devices significantly.

Outlined below are comprehensive insights into the workings of the new Find My Device network, including its operation, setup process, anticipated launch date, and whether Google will introduce an AirTag-like tracker of its own to complement the network’s capabilities.

(Image credit: Google)

Google’s Find My Device network is already in existence, albeit with limited functionality. If you’ve used Android for a while, chances are you’re familiar with it. However, its current form lacks the essence of a true ‘network’ as it doesn’t tap into other Android devices to aid in locating lost items.

Release Date Anticipation: Android Find My Device Network Launch

With the forthcoming Find My Device network update, this dynamic will change. The update will usher in support for various Bluetooth trackers, including those from Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee. Moreover, it will encompass compatibility with devices such as Pixel Buds, Sony headphones, and JBL headphones.

Furthermore, Find My Device will empower users to identify unwanted trackers like AirTags and similar devices that could be concealed in one’s belongings for the purpose of surveillance. While this specific feature has already been introduced, the broader enhancements are yet to be fully rolled out.

In summary, this impending update marks the most significant evolution of Find My Device since its initial launch in 2017.

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The launch of Android’s new Find My Device network was initially slated for the summer of 2023. However, a recent Google blog post from late July disclosed that the launch will be postponed.

This decision arises from Google’s intention to synchronize the launch with Apple’s complete implementation of unknown tracker alerts in its own Find My service. Presently, iOS users receive alerts for unknown AirTags but not for other Bluetooth trackers.

The delay is a strategic move to ensure a synchronized and comprehensive launch of the new Find My Device network, aligning it with the advancements on Apple’s platform.

Apple is actively engaged in expanding its feature to encompass compatibility with other trackers as well. This joint effort between Google and Apple is geared towards enabling cross-platform alerts across both Android and iOS ecosystems. The specifics of this cross-platform alert system are currently under development.

However, the specification for this system has yet to be solidified. Consequently, Google has opted to postpone the rollout of the Find My Device network until Apple implements protective measures for iOS. While it’s projected that the system’s specification will be finalized by the year’s end, it remains uncertain whether this timeline corresponds to the launch of Google’s Find My Device network or if a longer waiting period is anticipated.

How Android’s Find My Device Network Will Operate

At present, if you misplace your Android phone and have activated Find My Device, you’ll have the ability to view its most recent known location on a map. Should the device be connected online with active location services, this location data will be current; however, if the device isn’t online, the information won’t be current.

In instances where the device is online, additional functionalities become accessible. You can trigger actions such as remotely playing a sound to aid in locating the phone. Alternatively, if there are concerns about theft, you can remotely lock the device, log out of your Google account, or even initiate its erasure. This feature is undeniably advantageous, though it necessitates the device being online to provide an up-to-date location. Furthermore, this functionality is exclusive to specific devices, namely Android phones and Wear OS watches.

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The upcoming Find My Device network eliminates all these constraints. Notably, it will be compatible with Bluetooth trackers, encompassing renowned brands like Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee. This means that even if the item you wish to track isn’t inherently supported by Find My Device (such as a wallet or keys), you can simply attach a Bluetooth tracker to enable tracking.

Furthermore, items being tracked won’t require an internet connection or active location services. This is due to the collaborative nature of the Find My Device network, wherein other Android devices within Bluetooth proximity will contribute to locating them. Consequently, you’ll be able to view their approximate location on a map. Given the expansive global presence of Android devices, numbering over a billion, this network’s capability to locate lost items is expected to span vast distances.

This concept mirrors the functionality of Apple’s existing Find My network. Google assures users that similar to Apple’s approach, the location data remains encrypted. Thus, only the owner – not even Google – can access information regarding the whereabouts of tracked items.

The new aspect of the Find My Device update, which is already operational, focuses on notifying users about unknown trackers that might be employed for stalking. The following details provide an explanation of its setup and functionality:

Once configured, your Android phone will automatically issue a notification if it identifies an unfamiliar tracker accompanying you. A manual scan can also be conducted, detecting unknown trackers by scanning for Bluetooth signals. This differentiation helps discern whether a Bluetooth tracker is actively tracking you or simply within proximity (as is common in crowded areas).

Upon detection of an unknown tracker, you’ll be presented with a map displaying where the tracker was initially detected and the route it has taken alongside you. Furthermore, you’ll have the option to emit a sound from the tracker, facilitating its retrieval. Additionally, instructions on how to disable the tracker will be provided.

It’s worth noting that this feature is currently equipped to detect AirTags, with plans to expand its compatibility.

To set up the Android Find My Device network, though it’s yet to officially launch, leaks have surfaced regarding the setup process. Insights from Mishaal Rahman, an Android leaker and journalist, indicate that users will receive a notification on their phones, inviting them to “add this device to the Find My Device network.” Opting in appears to be a prerequisite.

Subsequently, users will encounter an introductory screen explaining the capabilities of the Find My Device network. The setup process will involve selecting the desired level of participation for your phone. The available options, aside from disabling the feature, include ‘without network,’ preserving the existing functionality of Find My Device without leveraging the broader Android device network.

Alternatively, users can opt for ‘with network in high-traffic areas only,’ which is the default setting. This mode employs the Find My Device network primarily in bustling locations like airports, enhancing tracking efficiency in such environments.

(Image credit: @Nail_Sadykov)

The option you select during setup appears to have a dual purpose, influencing both your engagement with the network for locating lost items and your phone’s contribution to aiding others in locating their devices. For instance, if you opt for the ‘without network’ choice, your device won’t partake in the network to assist others in finding devices, and correspondingly, you won’t be able to utilize the network to locate your items.

Regarding the encryption of device locations, this mechanism utilizes your Android device’s PIN, pattern, or password for safeguarding the information. During device enrollment, you’ll be prompted to input this security measure, either from another device already enrolled in the network or from the device you’re enrolling. Google employs this validation step to ensure your identity. It’s noteworthy, however, that details of this process might evolve before the network’s official launch.

Regarding the unknown trackers feature within the comprehensive Find My Device update, this component is presently accessible and is likely enabled by default. To review or deactivate it, navigate on your phone to Settings > Safety & Emergency (or Settings > Personal Safety if your phone operates on Android 11 or an older version). Scroll down and locate ‘Unknown tracker alerts’.

Here, you’ll encounter an ‘Allow alerts’ toggle, which is probably enabled by default. You have the option to deactivate it, although it’s advisable to keep it enabled for enhanced security against stalking attempts. This section also provides the option to manually scan for trackers near you that are currently separated from their owners.

With the forthcoming launch of Google’s Find My Device network that collaborates with Bluetooth trackers, the possibility of Google introducing its own Bluetooth tracker, akin to Apple’s AirTag, becomes quite plausible. In fact, reports indicate that Google is indeed working on such a product.

According to the leaks, these Google AirTag-like trackers might carry the codename ‘grogu,’ as suggested by leaker Kamila Wojciechowska. Allegedly, these trackers are being developed by the Nest team and will incorporate Ultra Wideband (UWB) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology for precise location tracking.

Furthermore, it’s reported that Google’s version will include onboard speakers to emit alerts that aid in locating the tracker. The product is also rumored to be offered in a range of colors. It’s worth noting that these details originate from a single source, warranting a degree of caution, although the information appears credible.

Currently, the launch timeline for this Bluetooth tracker remains uncertain. However, it’s reasonable to anticipate that it could debut shortly after Google activates its new Find My Device network.

In the interim, Google has plans to support third-party trackers, including those from Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee. This means users won’t necessarily need to wait for Google’s proprietary version to make use of tracking functionality.

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