Didja hear? While I was off traipsing through Europe, Google made yet another significant improvement to the Android operating system. And -- once again -- the company structured the upgrade in a way that'll affect nearly every Android user, regardless of Android version. (Nice trend, eh?)
I'm talking about a little thing called Android Device Manager. The feature, announced earlier this month, lets you easily find, ring, and even remotely reset your Android device from any phone, tablet, or computer.
Up till now, you'd have had to go out of your way to install (and sometimes pay for) a third-party utility in order to get such functionality. Now it's built right into Android, whether you realize it or not -- and it's always ready and available, with no added apps or running services required.
It took a little while for Android Device Manager to roll out to everyone, but so long as you're running the now-ancient Android 2.2 or higher, it's patiently waiting for you this very minute. In order to unlock its full potential, though, there's something you need to do.
It's easy: Just grab your phone or tablet, open up the app called Google Settings (look in your app drawer -- it's there), and select the option called Android Device Manager. Then make sure the boxes for both "Remotely locate this device" and "Allow factory reset" are checked. The first one should be activated by default, but the second -- the one that could really save your hide in a bind -- has to be enabled by hand.
Once you've got both those settings confirmed, you're all set. Just go to google.com/android/devicemanager from any mobile device or computer, and you'll see your phone pinpointed on a Google Map. You can ring it -- at full volume for a full five minutes -- or, in a worst-case scenario, perform a factory reset and wipe all your info right then and there.
If you have multiple Android devices connected to your account, clicking the small down arrow next to the first device's name will show you a list of every phone and tablet you've got. Just be sure to follow the steps we just discussed on each device -- right now -- so they're all fully activated and operational.
You never know when you might need to pull that all-important self-destruct trigger, and you don't want to be caught unprepared.