Because Apple tightly controls the iOS ecosystem, they’re able to build a massive, crowdsourced network of devices that can help locate other devices. Apple, like many other companies, recently released a Bluetooth tracker, and thanks to the Find My network, the AirTags are arguably the most effective tracker on the market. The only other company that can build a network of devices as large as Apple’s is Google thanks to the existence of the Google Play Services app on nearly every Android device. It seems that Google recognizes this fact and is preparing to build its own crowdsourced network of devices.
Google Play Services version 21.24.13 rolled out today in the beta channel, and after we decoded it, we discovered the following strings were added:
<string name="mdm_find_device_network_description">Allows your phone to help locate your and other people’s devices.</string> <string name="mdm_find_device_network_title">Find My Device network</string>
The new strings clearly suggest that Google is working on a “Find My Device” network leveraging Google Play Services to “[allow] your phone to locate your and other people’s devices.” Google already has an app called “Find My Device” available on the Play Store, but it can only find devices that are signed into your Google account. If this “Find My Device” network goes live, then you’ll be able to help other Android users locate their lost or stolen device.
Although Android can be found in many different types of devices, it’s likely that a large percentage of the over 3 billion devices running the OS worldwide is made of smartphones. The vast majority of Android smartphones sold outside of China have the Play Services app preinstalled, which could mean they’ll be eligible to participate in the “Find My Device” network. For background, Google Play Services is one of the key components of Google Mobile Services (GMS), a suite of Google-made apps and services that the company distributes to smartphone makers seeking to sell an Android device. GMS also bundles the Play Store, the largest app store in the Android ecosystem. Device makers seeking to preinstall the Play Store on their Android devices must also include many other components of Google Mobile Services, including Google Play Services among other apps.
We don’t have more details on this “Find My Device” network yet, but we’re continuing to dig into the latest Google Play Services release and will update this article if we learn more. We’re particularly interested in learning more about device compatibility and whether or not it’ll be opt-in or opt-out.