How to make the most of Google’s Find My Device Android network

How to make the most of Google’s Find My Device Android network
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Losing your phone is one of the most stressful predicaments of modern-day life. We’ve all been there: You pat your pocket, swiftly scan every surface in sight — then suddenly feel your heart drop at the realization that your Android device and all of its contents (including, potentially, all sorts of sensitive company-connected materials) are no longer in your control.

There’s certainly no scenario in which losing your phone is a good thing. (Understatement of the century, I realize.) But with the advanced and just recently upgraded phone-finding system now built into Android at the operating system level, seeking out and then managing a missing device is more manageable than ever. And despite what some security suite services may try to convince you, you don’t need any third-party software to do it.

Android’s native Find My Device system can precisely pinpoint any Android device — phone, tablet, watch, you name it. It also works with a new series of special AirTag-like trackers that can be attached to keys, briefcases, and other important items. And it’ll show you your device’s exact location on an interactive map and — when relevant — give you tools to remotely ring it, lock it, or wipe it entirely and send all of its data to the digital beyond.

Best of all? You have to do shockingly little to get it up and running. It’s mostly just a matter of confirming that the system is active and then remembering how to tap into it if and when the need ever arises.

So take a few minutes now to learn the ins and outs of how the new Find My Device network on Android works and what it takes for your devices to be discoverable. Then, if you ever have that heart-dropping moment, your phone will be 100% ready — and so will you.

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Find My Device on Android, part I: Preparation

Most reasonably recent Android phones should be actively enrolled in Google’s Find My Device Android network by default, but there are a few critical settings that are worth double-checking to confirm everything’s connected.

First, head into the Location section of your Android device’s system settings and make sure the toggle at the top of the screen is turned on. If it isn’t, Android won’t be able to access your phone’s GPS and thus won’t be able to perform any Find My Device-related location functions.

Find My Device Android: Location access
The “Use location” toggle is a critical foundation for Google’s Find My Device Android network to function.

JR Raphael, IDG

Next, pull up the Google section of your phone’s system settings and scroll down to the line labeled “Find My Device.” Tap that, then make sure the “Use Find My Device” toggle on the screen that comes up next is activated. And last but not least, tap “Find your offline devices” and consider which of the available options seems most suitable for you and your future finding purposes.

Find My Device Android: Options
You’ve got all sorts of options for how your device can connect to Google’s new Find My Device Android network.

JR Raphael, IDG

All set? Good. Now, let’s break down what your options are when that dreaded moment becomes reality.

Find My Device on Android, part II: Action

The best part about Android’s Find My Device system is that, being a Google product, it’s easily accessible from almost anywhere. If you ever can’t find your phone, choose the most convenient option and go, go, go:

1. Use the Find My Device Android app on another phone or tablet

Got an Android tablet — or maybe a secondary phone for some specific purpose? Install the Find My Device Android app on it. In fact, go ahead and do that on all your active Android devices this minute so the app will be there and ready in case you ever need it. As long as you’re signed into the same Google account on the secondary device as you are on your primary phone, finding your phone will be as simple as opening the app, confirming your Google password, and then selecting your phone from the list on the app’s main screen.

Find My Device Android app
The official Find My Device Android app is an incredibly easy way to track down any device associated with your Google account.

JR Raphael, IDG

From there, you’ll see your phone’s last known location on a zoomable map. And you’ll be able to ring it — for a full five minutes at a time, even if it’s set to silent — and optionally lock it or erase it as needed.

No secondary Android device? No problem: If you have a friend or family member with an Android phone or tablet nearby, kindly ask them to install the Find My Device app onto their device. Open it and find the option to sign in as a guest. Type in your Google account credentials, and then take a deep breath: Everything you need to find your phone will be right at your fingertips.

(Side note: The Find My Device Android app is strictly about finding a missing device — nothing more. It doesn’t actually have to be on your device in order for the device itself to be discoverable.)

2. Pull up Android’s Find My Device website in a browser

If you don’t have another Android device handy, you can still get to Android’s Find My Device function from any web browser — on a laptop or desktop computer or even an iPhone or iPad.

The main Android Find My Device site is at google.com/android/find. It’s basically identical to what you’ll get in the Find My Device Android app:

Find My Device Android: Website
Google’s Find My Device website puts all your device tracking data at your fingertips in any browser, on any type of device.

JR Raphael, IDG

You can also find an alternate version of the Android Find My Device function within Google’s My Account site. That site provides the same basic info but seems to go back further in your device history — so if you’re looking for a device you haven’t used in a while and that device doesn’t come up on the main Android Find My Device site, you might give it a whirl to see if it shows up there.

And that, my friend, is all there is to it. Consider yourself protected — and you know what? Go get yourself a cookie. You’ve earned it.

Want even more Googley knowledge? Come check out my free Android Intelligence newsletter to get three new things to know and try in your inbox every Friday.

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