Android Phone Finder with Google Voice

Apps such as Where’s My Droid can help you find a lost phone.  They work by listening to incoming text messages and, when they see a keyword in the text, performing commands such as turning on the ringer at full volume or turning on the GPS and texting the phone’s location.  This is very cool, until you try to use it with Google Voice instead of your carrier’s SMS.  In short, they don’t support Google Voice.  However, all is not lost.  There are two apps that might be able to work around this.  They are Tasker and Locale.

While the phone finder apps are tailored to automating tasks to find your phone, Tasker and Locale are general purpose automation apps.  They can turn on the GPS, set the volume and send text messages.  My goal is to see if I can get them work work with Google Voice.  Currently, in the Google Play store, Tasker is $6.49 and has 9,424 reviews and a 4.5 star rating.  Locale is $4.99 and has 4,190 reviews and a 4 star rating.

Earlier this week, I downloaded Tasker and set it up to turn on WiFi when I get home and turn off Bluetooth when I get to work.  That’s pretty neat, and might be worth the price of admission, but I still need to be able to find my phone.  What I’ve figured out so far is that you can work with Google Voice by using the Notification Event.  This works by reading the notifications that show up on the status bar.  When Google Voice receives a text, it issues a notification with the content of the text.  Try this:  Set up a profile called “GPS On”.  In the context, choose Event->UI->Notification.  Click the icon to the right of Owner Application and select Google Voice.  In the Title field, enter a pattern to match your keyword, such as “*gps on*”.  It’s probably a good idea to include a keyword so that the task doesn’t accidentally get triggered by a text; so use something like “*xyz gps on*”.  Then create the task to turn on GPS.  There’s some extra set-up to get notifications working.  Read about the Notification Title in the documentation to do this.  Also, on android 2.3 and above, Tasker can’t directly control the GPS.  To make this work, you’ll need the Secure Settings plug-in and a rooted phone.  For the task, select Plugin -> Secure Settings.  Next to Configuration, select Edit.  Scroll down to GPS and select it.  Make sure the radio button is set to On and tap the save button (the disk icon in the lower left).

At this point, if you’ve got Google Latitude set up, you’ll be able to remotely turn on the GPS and track down your phone from another computer.  There’s more to do, but I’ll save that for another post.