If you’ve ever lost your Android phone you’ve probably turned to Google’s Find My Device service, and this can be a slick way to locate your handset – as long as it’s signed into your Google account and has an internet connection. But soon, you might be able to use a crowdsourced network of Android devices to locate your missing gadgets without that.
That’s because XDA Developers has found reference to a 'Find My Device network' in code for the latest Google Play Services beta. There was also a string that reads 'Allows your phone to help locate your and other people’s devices.'
It sounds then like Google is building a Find My Device network that would allow other Android devices out in the world to locate your device if it’s nearby – probably over Bluetooth – and send the location to you.
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In or out
From the wording it sounds like you’d need to opt in, but that it would be an all or nothing situation, in that you wouldn’t be able to leverage this device network to track your device if you didn’t also agree to allowing your phone to help locate other lost devices, and vice versa.
In any case, this crowdsourced network sounds a lot like what Apple is doing with its Find My iPhone service, and with AirTags, which rely almost entirely on being nearby to an iDevice. It would also allow Google to launch a rival device to the AirTag if it chose to, so you'd be able to locate anything the tracker was attached to.
But there are even more Android devices out in the world than there are iPhones, so Google has the potential to build the most powerful and robust device finding network yet. Of course, whether it will remains to be seen, as while the presence of this code likely means Google is exploring the idea, it doesn’t guarantee the Find My Device network will ever see the light of day.
If it does though, perhaps we’ll get some official news about it in upcoming Android 12 betas, or in the final Android 12 release, which is expected in or around September.