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WTF Google?! Android Device Manager may be disabled on your device

Kris Carlon

You probably don't know this, but thankfully the super snoops over at Android Police spotted this one early. The most recent updates to Google Play Services – the driving force behind pretty much everything Google does on your Android – has a sneaky and potentially dangerous change to Device Administrators: namely, that it disables Android Device Manager as a Device Administrator, meaning you cannot access that service's remote lock and wipe feature. So if your phone gets stolen you can't do anything about it.

AndroidPIT Android Device Manager Remote Lock
Even if you've already set up Android Device Manager, you may not be protected. / © AndroidPIT/Google

Why on earth Google would make this change without letting users know is absolutely beyond me, especially considering the overwhelmingly positive response Android Device Manager received when it wielded the power to lock or wipe your phone in the event of it being stolen. In a crazy twist of logic, Google seems to have decided that users wouldn't mind having that function turned off without their knowledge.

AndroidPIT GPS ADM 1
Check your Google Play Services version number and check Device Administrators. / © AndroidPIT/Google

Fortunately it's a simple enough thing to fix, once you know it is a problem. So please, read this article, get ADM working on your device again, and then spread the word so everyone you know is aware of this change and can take the necessary steps to protect themselves (again). It's actually quite jarring to know the peace of mind I've enjoyed since I enabled ADM to lock or wipe my device has been a sham since the last update. The change affects the Google Play Services update with version numbers 4.0.31 and the previous one 4.0.30.

AndroidPIT GPS ADM 2
As expected, Android Device Manager is no longer enabled. Be sure to activate it again. / © AndroidPIT/Google

To fix it, just go into your Settings and then Apps. Scroll down to Google Play Services and check your update number. If you have one of the affected updates then you'll need to go back to Settings and into Security to find your list of Device Administrators. You may then notice that Android Device Manager is no longer enabled, meaning if your phone is stolen and you try to use ADM to remote lock or wipe your device, you'll get absolutely nowhere. So tick that box, curse Google for their stupidity and tweet this article, share it, write a FB status update, yell out to your neighbor and fix it on your girlfriend's phone, because someone needs to be looking out for us, and it certainly doesn't seem to be Google.

AndroidPIT GPS ADM 3
Make sure these settings are on too - in the Google Settings app. / © AndroidPIT/Google

The good news is not everyone is affected, even if they have one of the GPS updates responsible. I did, and, to my horror, ADM was indeed disabled as a Device Administrator. So please make sure you are protected and that everyone you know who is using ADM as a security contingency plan knows about this problem. If you have a previous version of GPS, keep an eye on future updates because this change may affect you when the update does arrive on your device.

Do you have one of the affected updates? Did you have to re-enable Android Device Manager as a Device Administrator?

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  • Ron Mackie Nov 7, 2013 Link

    Just did it.... thanks!!! fkn sneaky Pete's!!

  • Philip SCHLEMENSON Nov 7, 2013 Link

    Make sure you test ADM functionality after you re-enable the device administrator in your phone. If ADM doesn't show your device, follow Google's instructions on the ADM page to get ADM operating properly — I did.

  • Mark R. Nov 8, 2013 Link

    thanks, good catch!

  • Billy Deese Nov 8, 2013 Link

    My Note III alerted me about 2 hrs ago to re-enable ADM, I had no idea that it was disabled, so I did, do I need to go in and double check?

  • antonio-rodrigues Nov 8, 2013 Link

    Shame on you, Google!
    If you really had to do it, at least keep end users informed...

  • Kathy Aji Nov 8, 2013 Link

    Not only ADM but Where's My Droid, and all my other Security apps with the ability to do what ADM does. Of course, I didn't know about this setting, so maybe the others were always turned off despite me downloading them and assuming they were functional (I know Where's My Droid worked a long time ago but haven't tested it lately)

  • Jerwin Lajara Nov 9, 2013 Link

    I did the same thing. But I also noticed some security notification popping up on the status bar.

    "Security Information. An application attempted to access system on your device without authorisation. This action has been blocked. "

    It doesn't tell you what application that is so it's really a useless notification. It just gets annoying to always clear it from the status bar from time to time. I'm not sure if this was because of ADM or what.

  • User picture
    Kris Carlon Nov 11, 2013 Link

    I am still unable to find an official statement from Google on this. Even with the response they don't feel obliged to explain their actions. @Billy, you're lucky your Note 3 cares about you! I would still double check, and then check the ADM webpage too to make sure your device still shows up. @Kathy, that's a good pick up too, all my other apps (like Lookout) were still enabled in Device Administrators. @Jerwin, I'm not sure what device you have, but generally speaking if you long press the notification it will pop up an App Info box to tell you where the notification came from. You should also be able to just click it and see more details.

  • Empress Trudy Dec 7, 2013 Link

    It simply does not work at all. At best, I can poll my own phone FROM my phone and it occasionally finds itself. From the website? Never. Oddly, or not so oddly, it finds another one of my phones on the same account. It happens to be the same make and model handset owned by another person.