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Apple's Find My Network vs. Google's Find My Device: Which is the clear winner?

Apple's Find My Network vs. Google's Find My Device: Which is the clear winner?


Google has always offered a way to find lost Android phones with Android Device Manager, but it recently expanded and rebranded its 11-year-old Find My Device network to help locate not only phones and tablets, but also Wear OS devices like the Pixel Watch, supported headphones, and Bluetooth trackers like Chipolo's One Point.

Apple's Find My network has been around since 2010 and can currently find Apple products like iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and AirTags, as well as third-party devices that are compatible with the network, such as Nomad's Tracking Card.

But what will networks look like in 2024? To find out, I took a Chipolo One Point and an AirTag to San Francisco's most popular tourist spot, Pier 39. Then, CNET's John Kim hid the tracker outside of Bluetooth range, and I had to find its location using the Find My app on my iPhone 14 Pro and Find My Device on my Google Pixel 8 Pro. Here's what happened:

Check out: Apple's Find My and Android's Find My Device networks

09:08 How Find My and Find My Device work

Both Apple and Google's systems use encrypted, crowdsourced networks of other phones and devices running iOS or Android to find lost items. Each can:

See the current and last known location of your items on a map. Locate your items by playing a sound if they're nearby (if supported by your device). Share items, such as Bluetooth trackers, with friends so they can see their location too.

Setting up a Bluetooth tracker on each network is super easy: hold the tracker close to your phone and a popup will appear. Chipolo's One Point requires you to press the tracker once to register it with Android and trigger the Fast Pair popup.

The Find My Device web interface allows you to view location information on a map.

Abrar Al-Heeti/Viva Tung/CNETThe difference between “Find My” and “Find My Device”

Apple's Find My network has gained a slight advantage since it gained support for finding third-party items in 2021 and was overhauled in preparation for the launch of AirTags. Compare that to Google's Find My network, which gained similar support for third-party devices and trackers earlier this year.

Currently, Find My Device trackers only support Bluetooth, but Apple's AirTags use both Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband, a technology that helps pinpoint your exact location and displays a distance indicator along with directional directions in the Find My app.

Apple's AirTags also have a separation alert feature called “Notify when left behind.” Select this option from the Find My app and you'll be notified if you leave something behind outside of Bluetooth range.

With Apple's Find My network, only one internet-connected iPhone or iOS device needs to pass by to find a lost item. When a non-internet connected Find My device passes in front of a lost item, the item's location is encrypted and passed from Find My device to Find My device and then to internet-connected devices such as iPhones.

Google's “Find My Device” settings are set by default to “Networks in high traffic areas only,” meaning that to find an item's location, the network has to pass through multiple Android devices, and only then will it show a central point triangulated from these location reports.

However, you can go to Security > Find My Device > Find Offline Device and change this to “Use network in all areas.” This will allow you to find other people's items in low-traffic areas, similar to Apple's Find My, and you only need one other Android device to find the item. Android's official Find My Device help page states, “Users who have this option turned on can help each other find items in both high-traffic and low-traffic areas. Using this option may help you find lost items more quickly.”

For this experiment, I left all the settings at default just to see what would happen.

Jeff Carlson/CNET Which tracker did you find first?

After my AirTag and Chipolo tracker got “lost” together somewhere at Pier 39, I pulled up the apps on my iPhone and Pixel 8 Pro, marked each one as lost, and started the timer. Just 4 minutes and 45 seconds into the challenge, I got my first notification from Apple's Find My. Five minutes later, I got another notification informing me of my AirTag's location.

I waited about 30 minutes to see if the Google network would find the tracker, but I got no notification. I was, however, able to see the approximate location of the Chipolo tag on a map in the Find My Device app. Confusingly, although the network was able to triangulate the approximate location, I got no notification that the tracker had been found.

I then used each app's built-in location tools to find the tracker. Apple's Find My app provided walking directions to the AirTag on a map, revealing that it was only a few minutes away. Google's Find My app, on the other hand, wasn't much help, only showing a map view with no directions.

Once within Bluetooth range, the AirTag uses ultra-wideband to display precise tracking options, and as you move your phone, an arrow points you in the right direction along with a distance marker. In contrast, the Chipolo tracker has a shape that “fills in” as you get closer to an item.

The Chipolo tracker has a solid shape (left), and the AirTag has specific distance information thanks to ultra-wideband.

Screenshot: Lexy Savvides/CNET

I knew they were nearby, but couldn't see them yet, so I tried playing a sound on each one. The AirTag was pretty quiet, but I could hear the Chipolo even over the noisy surroundings of Pier 39.

So while the ultra-wideband directional guidance helped me get closer to the AirTag when it was out of sight, the Chipolo's loud sound made a big difference in finding the tracker.

For now, Apple's Find My network is stronger

In my very unscientific testing, Apple's Find My network was able to locate lost items much faster than Google's Find My Device network. As this network continues to roll out to Android devices, I expect this situation to improve, especially as more users select the option to find items in all areas. Adding ultra wideband support to Android trackers would also level the playing field; many Android phones already have ultra wideband chips.

I'm excited to revisit the challenge in a few months and see how Google's Find My Device feature improves, especially once more devices connect to the network.

Apple AirTags: Meet one of Apple's smallest products ever See all photos




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