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Summary:

Losing your phone is never fun. iTag debuts a new service to locate and secure a lost Android handset — you can ring the phone, lock it or even shoot your location to anyone else. Testing shows it’s not quite perfect, but it’s a solid start.

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My phone is typically never out of my sight. I’ve actually been accused of having it stuck to my hand, and I generally don’t deny that. There are a few rare times, however, when I suddenly realize that I haven’t seen my phone for a whole five minutes. Yes, if you want to see a mobile tech geek panic, secretly hide their phone and let the fun begin.

When I used an iPhone, I thought about adding the Mobile Me service, which includes a Find My Phone feature. But I didn’t think I’d use the other features as much and $99 a year is too much just for a phone locator service. Add in the fact that I dumped the iPhone for an Android device and I’m up the creek if my Nexus One is lost. Or maybe not, thanks to iTag’s timely launch at the CTIA.

The iTag service, just released in public beta, can track and locate a lost Android phone, although support for other mobile platforms is planned in the near future. An iTag application — found in the Android Market — runs unobtrusively in the background so the service knows your handset’s location as needed, courtesy of the GPS radio in the phone. Using the iTag web site, you can see your phone on a map with the press of button. I tested that function earlier this morning around the streets of New York City and it worked like a charm, as shown in the map above. The locate functionality is free, but iTag offers several advanced features for premium memberships, bringing it on par with Apple’s similar feature set.

Premium iTag membership provides more of a total protection plan. For example, you can lock your lost device from the iTag web site or wipe the data from your phone. You can back up and restore your contacts over the air as well. And if your phone gets into the wrong hands before you know it, iTag will alert you if the SIM card is replaced. All of these over-and-above services are how iTag will make money, but the first 10,000 iTag subscribers will automatically gain a lifetime premium subscription at no cost — once those spots fill up, folks will pay $20 a year for the premium features.

There’s a bit of a social aspect to iTag as well. If your friends use iTag and you lose your phone, you can see if anyone you know is near it. Of course, that means you and your peeps have to configure the iTag privacy settings appropriately — if you don’t want your phone’s location shared, you can simply turn that feature off. And at any time, you can use the iTag app to shoot your exact location to anyone via a text message link — even if they’re not an iTag user. During my test, it worked reasonably well, although the location sent was off by a block and a half here in the Big Apple. Still, in a pinch, this feature is a quick and easy way to shoot your location to friends or family. That’s icing on the cake if it can help me find my phone — if I ever put it down again, that is.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Location-Based Services: From Mobile to Mobility

  1. Also check out WaveSecure. Its in beta, but you can grab a free lifetime subscription for now.

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  2. Second on the wavesecure vote – free until the end of March I believe for Android users. Offers remote lock, wipe, locate & basic data backup/restore. Will check out iTag too, see how they compare.

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  3. Third on WaveSecure. And the story is exactly right … free lifetime account if you join their beta. MORE OR LESS EQUIVALENT to the premium plan described here.

    Jeff Yablon
    http://answerguy.com

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  4. Yup, WaveSecure is a very comparable service and worth the look. Extremely similar feature set.

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  5. WaveSecure is a good app but the issue with them is when you have activate your SIM with PIN lock and when you try lock the sim card to test WaveSecure its impossible to unlock again until you remove the simcard insert in to new phone and disable the PIN .

    May be its a minor issue but important one .

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  6. Along with WaveSecure, I am also testing MobileDefense on my Nexus One. They’re all similar, but what I like best about MD is, unlike the others, it doesn’t sit there running 24/7 sucking up juice…it only runs when an SMS is sent from the server to activate the app.

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    1. But if phone is stolen and SIM replaced — server will not know number for SMS.

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  7. Kevin: thanks so much for writing about iTag. I wish this app service existed when I lost my G1 in New York City during Halloween. Talk about full-blown panic!

    Now, I’m impelled to try out iTag for my Nexus One.

    Thanks!

    Baochi

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  8. Strange that the post is on itag but almost every comment is on WaveSecure. I’m using WaveSecure too and it gets my vote!

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  9. Roshan Shrestha Thursday, March 25, 2010

    How about SmrtGuard (http://smrtguard.com/)? Works on BB and Android. You can even turn on your phone remotely and listen in on the conversation.

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  10. Don’t use it. It locked up my phone. I had to going to Verizon for help.

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