Lost Your Android Phone? iTag Can Find It

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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

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