This is the most important feature coming to your Android phone later this year — here’s why

Android mascot in a triangle flexing his arms as an android 15 promo
(Image credit: Googlw)

Google’s putting a lot of emphasis on security with Android 15, and thanks to the beta, we’ve already been able to sample some of those features for ourselves. While I’m incredibly excited about Private Space coming to Android at long last, I can’t deny that there’s an upcoming Android feature that’s a lot more important.

Being able to hide your most sensitive apps is a big win for security, there’s no denying that. But the upcoming Theft Detection Lock is one of those features every single Android user will want to have switched on. Because the last thing you want is for your phone to be snatched when it’s already unlocked, exposing your files and information to some ne’er-do-well fashioning the best ski mask Temu had in stock.

What is Theft Detection Lock?

Theft Detection Lock is an AI feature that’s able to sense when your phone has been snatched out of your hands. It doesn’t matter whether that thief is on foot or in a multi-wheeled vehicle, Android should be able to figure out what happens right away — locking your phone in the process. Best of all it won’t just be exclusive to Android 15 either. Google confirmed every phone running Android 10 or above will get Theft Detection Lock.

There are a bunch of reasons why you’d need your phone out when you’re going about your day. So the last thing you need is to be worrying about whether someone is going to try and snatch your phone away. Because odds are your phone is unlocked, and any would-be thief could then gain access to a bunch of stuff you’d really rather keep private.

There’s more to it than simply locking down your phone, too. Google has confirmed a number of other features designed to keep thieves out of your phone in the event it falls into the wrong hands. An Offline Device Lock shuts everything down when your phone goes off the grid. Android will also be able to detect “excessive failed authentication attempts”, locking down the phone screen in the process.

Theft Detection Lock does need to be set up first, which is no use to you if your phone has already been stolen. So Remote Device Lock is being simplified, letting you lock down your phone from afar with just a phone number and “a quick security challenge”. According to Google, this gives you more time to recover your account details, and potentially initiate a remote factory reset.

None of this will get you your phone back, of course, but it will mean that your personal data is kept a lot safer and more secure. 

Why Theft Detection Lock Matters so much

Smartphones are incredibly useful tools, capable of doing stuff people only dreamed of 20 years ago. But that utility comes at a price. Because smartphones are capable of doing so much, we end up putting a lot of incredibly important information on them. Photos, banking and credit card details, addresses and even car keys — to name just a few. 

The downside is that anyone who gets inside your phone has access to all that information. It doesn’t matter whether they snatched it while it was unlocked, spied on your password or found some other way to bypass the lockscreen. Then the fact you poured your life and soul into your phone makes that glass brick a genuine liability.

Which is why Android's new security push is so important. Keeping all that data as secure as possible means there’s one less way for criminals to access everything you store inside your phone. No system is ever 100% foolproof, but each new obstacle between a criminal and your data decreases the odds of them actually getting hold of it. It doesn’t matter whether that's locking your phone with a passcode, storing sensitive apps in a private partition, or wherever other measures you put in place.

The problem is that should someone steal your phone while it’s still in use, and the screen is unlocked, one of the main security measures is now more or less useless. It doesn’t matter how strong your passcode is, or how careful you are with your phone, once it’s been stolen that’s it. 

The fact that Google can utilize AI to detect when this has happened, and take care of the problem automatically, is a big win for data security. Your phone locks down, your data is safe, and that gives you the freedom to remotely reset the phone and wipe any trace of your existence. So even if someone does manage to get back in, there’s nothing for them to find.

Bottom line

The only bad thing about Theft Detection Lock right now is that it isn’t actually available yet. Google says it will be rolling out some time later this year. But honestly, the sooner this happens the better. Not just because I live near London, where moped-based phone theft is endemic, but because it doesn't matter where you are or what you’re doing — there’s always a chance someone could swipe your phone somehow.

There is a point where you have too much security, and the inconvenience of handling it all becomes too much to bear. But Theft Detection Lock is not one of those times. From the sounds of things, all you’ll need to do is set the feature up, and it will kick in automatically when you need it the most. So it’s not like it’s going to stop you from getting stuff done. So if AI can make more of these hidden security features happen, then I am all for it.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.

  • Big Willie!
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