Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tips & Tricks: Kindle Fire Location Apps

When I first saw that there was an app out there that would let me Locate My Kindle in case it got stolen, I almost fell out of my chair. Is this really possible? I immediately cast all rational thought aside to indulge in one of my dreams of engaging in vigilante justice by tracking down my stolen Kindle, kicking down the door or the residence I arrived at, and shouting "Hey! That's MY Kindle!"

But will Locate My Kindle actually help me do that? Let's find out.
First let's address one of the elephants in the room. No, the Kindle Fire still doesn't have any GPS capabilities, meaning that the app relies on "state-of-the-art Wi-Fi triangulation" to find out where your device is. The app also says it can enable and connect to the Internet at any time, "ensuring that the service can retrieve the Kindle's location when requested by the owner." If the app can really force its way onto an internet connection to tell you where it is, that's impressive. Assuming that works as it says, the only real pitfall here is that the Kindle is taken somewhere without WiFi. Haven't tested it, but I doubt it could access a password-protected network as well.

Another key point in favor of the app is that it is rigged so that only you can remove it: "Locate My Kindle’s remarkable tamper-proof technology relentlessly protects your device. By preventing any unauthorized attempts to remove the software, it remains fully functional and able to report your Kindle’s location when you need it most." This may work too well, as there are a couple of reviews from users saying they were unable to remove the app at all.

The app itself features some very nice maps, and to retrieve your location from a computer requires only a simple login at LocateMyKindle.com. The 99c price is hard to argue over as well.

But it's clear from the reviews that this app offers, at best, an inconsistent user experience. There are lots of people reporting that the locator doesn't give them an exact location (a range of a few miles instead). Each negative review comes with a comment from the developer stating that the new triangulation technology can't be expected to work 100% of the time but should work if you ever really needed it to because your Fire was stolen. They then say that this is the best technology available for the Fire, and they're working to make it better.

Unfortunately those words come as small comfort. If it's not working when it's in my hands, how can I expect it to work when I really need it? So while this may not satisfy my thirst for vigilante justice, I would agree that the app is a strong step in the right direction. For less than a buck I wouldn't mind playing around with it, and it may very well come in handy for you should your Fire get lost somewhere when you're out and about.

Take a look at Locate My Kindle for yourself, and if you have tried it, be sure to let us know how it worked for you!

3 comments:

  1. I've had it for a couple of days now and testing it at work the first day it had me zeroed in. The first time at home (in rural U.S.A.) it had my location half way down the street. The next time I checked it a few hours later it was right on target. So far so good.

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  2. Not too bad at all, CraigN. Thanks for letting us know!

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  3. I'm not paying for this app. I would assume it uses a generic geoip database. The issue is that it most likely depends on other companies databases to function. (More on wifi triangulation from an old article at http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/01/where-gps-wont-do-wifi-triangulation-might.ars ) My other issue is the difficulty in removing it, it acts more like a virus. There needs to be some way to remove the software easily, maybe have a removal code generated by their site that could rid of the app, as a way of authentication. ALSO, if it can always check wifi signals, then that must mean it stops you from being able to disable wifi completely. This probably drains battery life, and as you said, should only work on open networks.

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