Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why I love Android

Earlier this week I misplaced my beloved Samsung Nexus S. I only realized when arriving at home my Android device was missing. After a frantic backtracking of the places I had visited just before, the phone was nowhere to be found. Every time I tried to dial the phone I heard it ringing but no one picked it up. I suddenly found myself in great distress as I very much live by my Android phone.


There are several apps for locating a lost Android device. However, they require you to have had the foresight to install the app before the phone is lost which - to my regret - I had not done. So my chance of recovery was looking ever slimmer.

Then, I came across Lookout Labs' Plan B. Lookout Labs claim that Plan B can locate your device after it has been lost even if you did not install it beforehand. Sounds unbelievable right? Well here's the punchline.... it actually worked!

Somehow Lookout Labs has found a way to install the app remotely from a browser via the Android market - pushing the app to the lost device. It will start tracking the device immediately and the phone's GPS location is sent to your Gmail address every minute. If you are unable to locate the device within 10 minutes you need to SMS the word 'locate' to the device and the tracking will continue for another 10 minutes.

Immediately the emails started coming in. I could see the phone was still in the area where I suspected I lost it and from the email updates it became clear the the 'finder' must be on foot following the road. This gave me hope that I could still recover my phone.

I called up a friend for some backup and we got in the car - me with my laptop running a 3G USB modem on my lap tracking the phone.
When we approached the location where Plan B claimed the device was located we saw a man walking towards us on the side of the road. As there were no one else in the vicinity it was apparent that - if Plan B was right - this person had the phone. We pulled over the car and got ready to confront the man. Fortunately, my friend is the level-headed sort and managed to talk the person into revealing that he indeed had picked up the phone and give it back without any hostile confrontation taking place.

You can see some of the screenshots of this quite intensive hunt for the Nexus S below. I just love that Android is open enough to allow Plan B to work. Surely, for most other platforms this would be close to impossible and the device would be unrecoverable. I also admire Lookout Labs for developing Plan B to work as well as it does. Well done!



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