According to a 9to5Google investigation, Google may be working on converting Android phones into a hivemind capable of recovering missing devices, akin to Apple’s Find My network. A toggle for the functionality appeared in a Google Play Services beta, with code noting the possibility for phones to assist in the location of other devices, presumably indicating that Android phones may become easier to locate in the near future.
The current Detect My Device system can only find phones that are turned on, have a data or Wi-Fi signal, and have location services enabled, according to Google’s help page. At this point, it’s unclear which, if any, of those constraints the relay network function — dubbed Spot — would address, but any advantage is useful when seeking for a misplaced phone.
Other Google efforts, such as its earthquake detection tool, rely on a network of Android phones. While the execution differs, the basic notion is likely fairly similar: there are over 3 billion active Android smartphones, which is a vast pool of data to draw from, whether it’s accelerometer data or the position of a missing phone.
Google did discover a setting that would allow users to disable the feature, preventing their phone from assisting in the location of other devices. Given the current state of knowledge, it’s uncertain whether the Find My Device network, like Apple’s Find My network and Samsung’s Galaxy Find network, will be able to locate items other than phones. Of course, because this is unpacked code from a Beta version, these changes may never see the light of day.
Google did not respond to a request for comment on the upcoming functionality right away.