'Find My Device' Works Even if Phone is Off

John Lister's picture

Google has launched a "find my phone" feature that can work even after the battery has run out. It's part of a major upgrade delayed by a dispute with Apple, though privacy remains a hot topic.

The big upgrade is to the "Find My Device" network of what Google says is more than a billion Android devices including phones, watches and earbuds. It aims to overcome the problems that it's not necessarily viable (or desirable) for all portable devices to constantly be connected to cellular networks or WiFi, broadcasting their location ready to be tracked by their owner. Instead the idea is that each device can have a unique identifier that can be read over Bluetooth. That means they can be "spotted" by any device in the network and the location relayed.

Privacy Concerns

Naturally that requires some significant privacy measures, including efforts to stop stalkers planting tracking devices on victims. Both Google and Apple have measures in place to alert people when a tracker may be on their person or in something they are carrying. However, the two companies have taken some time to integrate these measures to work across their respective networks of devices.

The tracking will now be available for any phone running Android 9 or later. User options will include locating the device on a map or forcing it to ring, in both cases without the device needing to be connected to WiFi.

There will also be a range of third-party tracking tools compatible with the network that can be attached to keys and other devices. (Source: blog.google)

Dead Battery No Problem

One big difference in Google's latest upgrade is that it's possible to track some devices even when they are powered off or have been lost for so long that the battery is run down. This works by diverting a small amount of power to the Bluetooth chip so that it can remain active for several hours after the phone switches off.

For now at least this feature is only available for Google's own Pixel 8 handset. Its likely it will be added to future Pixel models, though it's not clear yet if it will be available for any other manufacturer's Android phones. (Source: theverge.com)

What's Your Opinion?

How often have been in a situation where finding your phone's location would be useful? How important would it be for this to work even when the phone is off? Do you trust Google and Apple to keep location data adequately secured?

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Average: 5 (6 votes)


Chief's picture

If it still has power it's not dead.

If it is mostly dead,how can it respond?

Even mostly dead eventually becomes completely dead, so how does this work?

Does it require to be near a cell service to work?

Or does this have satellite capabilities?

Much unanswered here.

Dennis Faas's picture

According to the Verge article, there is "reserve power" that channels direct to Bluetooth chip and is active for several hours even after the device is powered off or shut down due to low battery. Also, lithium batteries are not supposed to be 100% discharged as this reportedly runs a risk of degrading the battery substantially more than a shallow discharge. So, even if your phone says it's dead, most of the time it will still hold a charge.

Phil's picture

It's only *mostly* dead.