Pushing forward: What’s new on Android?

We’ve been getting lots of questions regarding our new release for Android, so we though it’d be better to write them all down on a post. As you know, 0.5 for Android included a couple of new features, and that’s mainly because we’re using some of the new stuff Google’s been packing in the Android OS.

This means that some of the new features from 0.5 won’t work on phones using Android prior to 2.2. Initially we thought it’d be better to remove support for older phones altogether — as you wouldn’t get the real deal –, but your requests have once again made us change our minds: Prey 0.5 will run on older phones as well. We just pushed an update that lets 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 and 2.1 Android users download and update Prey from the Market as usual.

Ok, now that everyone’s on board, let’s head on to the good part!

Device administration privileges, uninstall protection

Prey 0.5 supports Android’s Device Administration API, which was introduced on Froyo and allows developers to use administration capabilities of the phone, enhancing the security features of Android phones. This includes managing the locking mechanism or preventing removal, among other stuff.

From now on, the first thing Prey will ask for after a successfully install is to be granted administration privileges. This allows Prey to lock the device, change its unlock password, and protect it from being easily uninstalled.

Once this privileges are granted, Prey will power-up and will be protected from uninstallation until the privileges are revoked. If anyone tries to uninstall Prey, he’ll get a “Uninstall not successful” message.

Administration privileges can be revoked either from Prey itself or through the phone’s system security settings. Here’s how you do it:

a) Revoking admin rights from Prey

  • Open Prey by clicking the icon from your app menu
  • Type your password and hit ‘OK’
  • Select Revoke extra permissions then click ‘Yes’

b) Revoking from the phone’s settings menu

  • On phone settings, select ‘Location & security’.
  • Now choose ‘Select device administrators’.
  • Look for Prey on the list and uncheck it.
  • A confirmation dialog will appear, click ‘Deactivate’.
  • Now, your phone will lock. If you have set an unlocking password/pin/pattern, use it to unlock.
  • A new confirmation dialog will appear. Click ‘OK’.

So, if you ever want to uninstall Prey you need to revoke its administration rights. You can do this from within Prey (“Revoke extra permissions” item on the menu) or from Android’s “Select device administrators” option, which you can find in Location & Settings.

We’ve included the lock protection to ensure that anyone who knows the phone’s unlocking password/pattern be able to revoke Prey’s administration privileges, but not a thief.

Push activation (On Demand)

Another cool new feature Google added on Froyo is the Cloud to Device Messaging Framework (c2dm), better known as the “push API”. It’s currently beta but our tests have been deeply succesful, allowing us to extend our new On Demand mode to Android phones — I mean, devices — since with this new technology even those non-GSM tablets could be remotely activated from the Control Panel.

This means that users who enable On-Demand won’t need to send an activation SMS in order to get new reports — a simple click of a button will do.

For more info on the new On Demand activation check out
the official announcement.

Remote lock down

One of the most requested features was the Lock module for Android devices. Now it’s here! Thanks to the Device Administration API, Prey can completely remote lock down your phone, and even set the unlocking password right from Prey’s Control Panel. The only downside is that it can’t be a pattern, only an alphanumeric password.

To remotely lock down your phone is quite easy. Once you’ve granted Prey administration privileges, log in to Prey’s Control Panel, click on your phone and activate the Lock module. You can change the password if you wish — and you should — before hitting Save changes. Once you’re done, when Prey gets the activation signal it will update your phone’s locking mechanism to an alphanumeric lock with the password you just set.

It’s worth to mention that, what Prey does when requested to lock your phone, is simply to ask Android to change your phone’s lock settings, and to lock the phone in that precise moment. So to remove the Lock, you can either disable the module from the Control Panel or simply revert your phone’s lock settings from the Location & Security menu.

That’s it! Hope we cleared out some of your doubts regarding Prey for Android’s new features. Don’t forget to send us your feedback!

Carlos Yaconi

Carlos Yaconi

Founder of Prey