Security software maker Lookout is giving Android users a way to catch smartphone thieves red-handed.
A new feature in Lookout Security & Antivirus for Android, called Lock Cam, automatically snaps a photo from a phone’s front-facing camera after three unsuccessful unlock attempts. Lookout then sends you an e-mail about the attempted intrusion, along with a photo of the culprit.
Users can then log onto Lookout.com to see the location of the phone, as well as its location history.
To use Lock Cam, you’ll need a phone running Android 2.3 or higher with a front-facing camera. Of course, you’ll also need to set a PIN or unlock pattern, which you can do through Android Settings > Security.
I tried Lock Cam on my Galaxy S II, and received the alert from Lookout less than a minute after botching my unlock pattern a few times. It would be nice if you could set the number of unlock attempts allowed before Lookout sends an alert, since I might want to get a message after just one or two attempts.
Lookout’s Premium service
Lock Cam is clearly a lure for Lookout’s Premium service, which costs $30 per year (or $3 per month) and adds extra features such as remote wipe and remote lock. A new Premium feature, added in the latest update, lets users add custom messages to their phones’ lock screens, such as a phone number to call or a request to return the phone to its rightful owner.
Keep in mind, though, that you don’t need to pay Lookout’s annual subscription fee to get remote wipe on Android phones. Third-party apps SeekDroid and Cerberus offer remote wipe, remote lock, and other security features for a one-time fee. Another app that’s in beta now, called Android Lost, provides many of these services for free. If you keep a lot of important or sensitive data on your phone, it’s worth spending a few minutes locking it down.