You love your smartphone and the convenience it brings to your daily life, but having the latest and greatest comes at a cost: you are a potential target for phone theft. Luckily, there are plenty of mobile security solutions out there to help protect you and your data.
For iPhone owners, there are two measures of protection easily available from Apple. The first of these is the “Find my iPhone” app and service. This app/service allows you to put a lock on a lost/stolen phone, or even erase all data and settings to protect sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands.The second measure is the new Activation Lock coming to iOS 7 devices. This feature makes an iPhone unusable after a wipe, unless the original owner reactivates it with their Apple ID and password.
Enough about Apple though, this is Android Authority after all! So what does Google provide to help users find their phones? Unfortunately, there is no free “find my phone service”, though users who pay for Google Apps for Business, Education, or Government do have access to these types of features.
In other words, if you are just an ordinary user looking for a cheap or free solution, you are left fending for yourself. Luckily there are quite a few great security app choices already out there on Google Play.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular solutions available right now:
This security app comes with free basic functionality that can locate your lost/stolen device. There is also an anti-virus scanning feature and a way to backup your contacts online for restoring them to your new device.
The real magic happens for premium users. For $3 a month, you get access to safe browsing and remote locking/wiping functions. There are also privacy reports on apps and an advanced backup feature.
Avast Mobile Security & Anti-Virus
Arguably one of the best parts about Avast is that it is completely free, yet still offers a wide range of features.
Not only do you get virus protection, but there are quite a few anti-theft features as well. With Avast you can remote lock or wipe your phone, sound an alarm, or even locate the device. You can also lock your SIM card or prevent USB debugging mode on the phone.
Cerberus is quickly becoming one of the most popular Android security solutions on the market. The app is also very affordable at around $4 for a lifetime license.
Some of the features offered with Cerberus include an alarm function, the ability to place a message on your phone screen, and remote wipe your phone/SD card. You can also retrieve your SMS and phone log, or you can even start audio or video recording remotely.
TrustGo Antivirus & Mobile Security
Like Avast, TrustGo is a free security solution with plenty of great features.
The TrustGo app brings with it a security scanner, secure browser, remote wiping and locking features. You'll also find a system manager that claims to help with your device's overall performance.
Keep in mind that’s just a fraction of what’s out there. Do a quick search on Google Play and you will discover that Android security apps come in all shapes, sizes and prices. There are also solutions offered directly from some manufacturers, like Samsung’s “Find My Mobile” feature.
Still, why doesn't Google offer its own built-in free or low-cost security solution? The massive amounts of existing Android security programs show that there is clearly a market for such a thing.
Android’s open nature, fragmentation and technical aspects
The most obvious reason has to do with Android’s open nature. There are tons of Android devices out there with different hardware specs, software, apps and OEM customizations.
This wide range could make it difficult to roll out a unified, built-in security app or “find my phone” feature for Android. Of course if solutions like Cerberus and Avast can work across a wide range of devices, regardless of skins and customizations – it seems silly to think that Google couldn't do the same thing.
There appears to be nothing from a technical sense that holds Google back from releasing its own security app for everyday users, at least that I'm aware of. Especially when we consider Google already offers a feature like this for those with paid Google Apps.
Existing security solutions and partnerships
Could it be that existing partnerships are getting in the way? There are already OEMs and carriers that have their own security solutions in place. As already mentioned, there are also tons of Android security apps found on Google Play.
Part of the beauty of an open system is freedom of choice. It could be that Google doesn't want to get in the way of its partners by offering their own solution.
Of course, Google isn't afraid to offer other services and apps that are also offered by partners.
Perhaps Google just doesn’t want to get involved?
There’s also the possibility that Google simply doesn’t want to get involved directly with your phone's hardware if it gets lost, stolen, etc.
Right now, if something goes wrong with an Apple device, where do you take it? To Apple of course. The same goes for an HTC, Sony, Samsung or just about any device out there.
If you lose your phone, you either go to a third party app or you deal with the OEM that designed your phone. Google might prefer to keep it that way.
Sure, they already offer phone wipe services for its business users, but that’s a niche group. A built-in (or even free downloadable) Google “Find my phone” service would require Google to devote more resources into developing and maintaining such functions for a wide range of users. Such a service might not cost us users any money, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't cost Google a pretty penny to roll out such a service.
Honestly, why bother offering your own solution if plenty of other developers, OEMs and carriers don’t mind doing it for you?
Should Google offer a consumer-targeted security solution?
Regardless of why Google doesn't offer its own “Find My Phone” features for everyday Android users, it is still one of the few things that most other platforms have that Google doesn't offer (at least not outside of Google Apps for Business).
As Android users, we aren't used to others having features we don’t, at least not when it comes to features that matter. So should Google go ahead and bring out some kind of free/cheap security app feature that allows phone wiping and tracking?
While it would be nice to have the option, if Google hasn't brought it out yet – it’s clearly not a priority for the company, and they likely have their reasons. Whether its infrastructure, the open nature of the platform, or something else entirely.
Ultimately most of us techie-types probably don’t care one way or the other. After all, it’s not exactly hard to find a good, 3rd party solution. That said, it would be a welcome feature for those new to Android, whether its their first smartphone or they are coming from locked down rival platforms like iOS.
What do you think, should Google add a security service of their own? Or do you feel that existing solutions do the job well enough that it isn’t necessary for Google to get involved here?