I've got a brace of Android smart-phones, both HTC, one with my current contract and the other, the hand-me-down from my last upgrade, a PAYG on another network.
Up until now, I've stuck largely to the addition of free 'apps', as there always seems to be a free version of most things as long as you don't mind an ad or two on them.
Like a lot of people, there's always that nerve-wracking moment when I can't quite remember where I last saw my phone.
For most people, the solution is simple - just ring it and see if you can hear it anywhere about your house. There's just one snag with that solution. Because I work in schools, I'm expected to keep my phone at the very least 'on silent', which then tends to be the default setting for it, at home or at work.
One application that I've found very useful in these circumstances is FindMyPhone, which cost me the princely sum of £0.69p. All you need to do to track down a recalcitrant phone is text it with the message RINGME (you can change this). Then, whether on silent or not, the phone rings loudly.
Likewise, you can also send a text with FINDME. This then e-mails you an estimate of its position with a link to Google Maps. This is only fairly accurate if you are a way from the nearest mast(s). It gets a lot better, i.e. accurate to within a few feet if the phone:-
a) Has a GPS facility
b) Can 'see' the sky either by being outdoors or by being near a window.
This is all well and good, and more or less takes care of locating your phone especially if you've left it under a cushion on the sofa or in the car.
However, I've signed up for the princely one-off sum of Euro2.99 (about £2.44 according to Paypal) to a facility called Cerberus. This is a sort of hybrid 'find-my-phone' facility controlled from a web site called https://www.cerberusapp.com/ with a lot more features, some of which would more or less render the phone secure and useless if stolen or genuinely lost. You can also cover up to 5 phones with it in a domestic environment.
BELT AND BRACES
You obtain the Cerberus.apk file from the Android market (now Google Play Store) or from the Cerberus web-site.
It loads with the minimum of fuss, and can even be downloaded as a more anonymous utility called System Framework, thus any would-be thief might take just that little bit longer trying to uninstall it.
You can set up a new account from either the application or the web-site.
So what makes this the one to beat? Well, from what I can see, it tracks the IMEI number of the phone, not the telephone number. It also takes a note of the SIM card's serial number and will e-mail you when any attempt to use a different SIM is made. It's obviously best to make the receiving e-mail address something that you can access from anywhere but on the phone itself, otherwise any would-be thief is going to get the distinct feeling they're being watched and spoil the fun, possibly by turning the phone off or dumping it 'in't cut' as my dad would say.
IT'S A DIABOLICAL INFRINGEMENT OF CIVIL LIBERTY, SO IT IS!
They're my phones, so there!
Not only can this facility identify the phone's location, but it can also force the taking of pictures to give a more precise clue as to the current location. It can even wait for the first touch of the phone's screen before taking the picture, which if the phone has a front-facing camera will give you a lovely mug-shot of who's using it, which is promptly e-mailed to you as a file attachment.
I can see lots of potential here. Was your juvenile daughter REALLY at a 'sleep-over' at Tracey's, or was it more like a 'leg-over' at Terry's or does the location history option suggest that one followed the other.
This might seem like an invasion of privacy, but heh, if I'm paying for the phone, I get to find out where's it's been!
You could always make them jump out of their skins by sending it an Alarm message, along the lines of 'nah-nah na-nah-nah, we know what you're doing!'
Believe me, the alarm really does sound like a fire alarm going off in the room, and would no doubt be a very effective aid to coitus interruptus!
Seriously, this would be an ideal application one for those, like me, that leave their phones on 'silent' too and then can't find them as this over-rides silent settings.
You can lock your phone remotely so that next time a full switch-on is required the user will be locked out by a 4-digit PIN. After all, if a phone really has been stolen it may well run out of battery life before the thief can get to a suitable charger. Oh yes, and it reports %age battery life too!
You can check a call log and a text log and even set it recording audio. I've tried all of these in my HTC Desire S and they all work. For some reason my phone doesn't know its own telephone number, but the serial number of the SIM card is known, both to the phone and Cerberus, and that's how it knows when someone puts in a new SIM.
You can even call the phone after someone has put in a new SIM, this being the advantage of having the IMEI tracked, not the phone number. At first I couldn't see how this worked, but having tried it, I see where's it's coming from. In calling it, you specify a number from which you want the call to emanate, for example your home land-line. The call is then set up both ways like a 'ring-back' does. The home phone rings and the mobile phone receives notice of the incoming call from your home number. Presumably, it would pay to be near the other phone so that you can have a good ol' swear and a-cuss at whoever answers your 'ex-mobile'. Having changed the SIM, the miscreant is going to wonder how the hell you did that!
D'you know, it's almost worth 'losing' your phone just to see the voyeuristic fun you could be having with it!
ANOTHER USE FOR IT?
The emergency mode really interests me, not for right here and now but for when this phone becomes my next hand-me-down. Emergency mode sets up real-time tracking of the phone, the accuracy of which still depends on whether it can get a GPS signal and/or how close it is to cell masts. The interval is user-definable
Just think...find a way of concealing a permanent power feed to the phone and secrete it in your car dashboard. Voilà, one anti-theft tracker and a damned sight cheaper than the official product.
I was also thinking of having one implanted at the bottom of my wife's handbag (let's face it, she'd never find it in there!) so I can tell which shop she's in - only joking dear!
NOW FOR THE BITS IT CAN'T DO
Annoyingly, there are two features you can't implement, unless your phone has been 'rooted' - this being a method of gaining deeper access to the phone's operating system. However, anyone tempted down this route had better know what they're doing as your network will wash their hands of you if anything goes wrong with the phone. They're keen enough to do this anyway without giving them extra 'ammo'.
The two features in question are 'screenshot' and 'hide/unhide'.
The first is self-explanatory I guess - I'm assuming that it will e-mail you with a view of what the user is doing at the moment, and the second hides the application from the list, with or without its spoofed name that I mentioned before.
For something costing £2.44 for life-time coverage of up to 5 mobiles (which you can chop and change as often as you like), this is excellent value for money, and it's not all about theft. If for example a family member is driving home over a long distance and you don't like the idea of them having to make phone calls on the move (hands-free or not) just to give you an ETA, you could use this to track their progress or lack thereof as they struggle with the M6 on a Friday night.