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Google delays its upgraded, more expansive Find My Device network

Google delays its upgraded, more expansive Find My Device network


Also, Android users will soon begin seeing notifications for unknown item trackers that are traveling with them — no separate app downloads or installs required.

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An illustration of Google’s Find My Device software.
Image: Google

Google is delaying the broad expansion of its Find My Device feature, and it says it’s doing so with personal safety in mind since the industry spec proposed by itself and Apple isn’t quite ready yet. “User safety and the prevention of unwanted location tracking is a top priority for Android,” Google’s Erik Kay announced in a blog post today. “At this time we’ve made the decision to hold the rollout of the Find My Device network until Apple has implemented protections for iOS.”

Need to catch up? Back at its I/O 2023 keynote, Google revealed plans to leverage millions of current Android devices to help track down your missing gadgets, including phones, compatible accessories, and a new wave of Bluetooth item trackers. If that sounds similar to Apple’s Find My network, that’s because the execution is very similar. The original plan was to roll out this more comprehensive Find My Device network over the summer.

But now, Google has decided to wait until Apple also implements unknown tracker alerts natively in iOS. Apple already does this for its own AirTags, and eventually, those warnings will also be able to identify trackers that work with Google’s Find My Device network as well. But we’re not there yet, and it seems like Google doesn’t want new trackers released until both major mobile platforms can uncover them.

In their original joint press release, Apple and Google said they aimed to “release a production implementation of the specification for unwanted tracking alerts by the end of 2023 that will then be supported in future versions of iOS and Android.” So Google’s initial summer target for the more expansive Find My Device network might’ve been overly optimistic.

Google isn’t giving a new timetable for when the more powerful tracking network will go live; in the meantime, accessory maker Chipolo has already had to delay its first compatible trackers.

Speaking of unknown tracker alerts, Google says that, beginning this month, many Android phones will begin warning users when an unknown AirTag is detected to be separated from its owner and traveling with them. In other words, if someone is trying to secretly track your location without your permission, you should get a helpful heads-up. This is a native, system-level prompt that won’t require downloading any separate apps like the one Apple had previously released.

“You can tap the notification to learn more about the tracker and view a map of where the tracker was seen traveling with you,” Kay wrote. “You can also tap ‘Play sound’ and the tracker will make a noise to help you locate it without the owner of the tracker knowing.”

Image: Google
You can tap on any unknown tracker alert for more details.
A screenshot of Android’s unknown tracker alert.

You’ll also be able to manually scan for nearby trackers whenever you want to:

To do this, go to Settings → Safety & emergency → Unknown tracker alerts and tap the “Scan Now” button. Your device will take about 10 seconds to complete a manual scan, and then you’ll see a list of trackers that are currently determined to be near you and separated from their owner’s device. 

Perhaps the best thing about this new privacy and safety measure is that it’ll be widely available for phones running Android 6 — yeah, all the way back to Marshmallow — and later. That’s because Google is adding unknown tracker alerts via a software update to Google Play Services. So even if your phone isn’t getting major Android releases anymore, you should be able to take advantage of this new safeguard.

Update July 27th, 2:23PM ET: The article has been updated with clarification on timing related to the industry specification proposed by Apple and Google.