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If my phone is lost or stolen, can I remotely and permanently brick my phone. This way, not only is my data secure, but the resale value of the phone plummets to zero.

Tangential question: can apps like Lookout or Prey be disabled by phone thieves?

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On your tangential question, Lookout and Prey rely on the phone having either a data connection, or a phone network connection on it's current number. For a GSM phone the easiest way for a thief to get round these apps is to pull out/swap the SIM card and do a factory reset (to get rid of the app) before you send the "wipe" command. –  GAThrawn Feb 14 '12 at 10:20

4 Answers 4

Starting today you can access this functionality through stock android and Google apps at https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager. Once you set it up, you will be able to remotely delete all your data from the device, and locate it on Google maps. Remote locking and changing the lock-screen are also listed as functionalities available (soon).

Note that if you have not set this up before losing your phone you will not have access to wipe it remotely. You could see it on Google maps if you have given Google Apps permission to access location information on your phone (GPS and WiFi location information).

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if you are using HTC you could wipe the data from HTC sense account. But to Brick the device,depends on how to the flashing. as Koush maker of CWM has discussed of rooting/flashing ROM from with in the application without any PC.

Not sure about which version of CWM supports this features.

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I believe both Lookout and Prey have a password option that will make it difficult for a thief to disable the app.

Both of those will be able to wipe the device but not disable it completely. IF you are on Verizon the phone cannot be activated on another line without it being released from your account. I'm pretty sure that is not the case with GSM phones - they just need to stick a new sim in the phone.

However, both Lookout and Prey will be able to tell you the location of your phone. I believe Prey will also be able to tell you additional information that might help you determine the identity of the thief which you can then pass on to the authorities. They aren't always inclined to act on the information but every little bit helps.

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It's certainly possible to remote-brick a phone. In fact, you might be able to use Tasker in conjunction with Mobile Odin or similar to remotely softbrick a Samsung device by flashing bad firmware after a text message, or something. Of course these devices are also easy to unbrick; to brick them more permanently you'd need to flash a bad bootloader. Chainfire has said that Mobile Odin can but won't flash bootloaders, so perhaps it could just be modified.

Bad bootloaders can be fixed sometimes if you have the appropriate hardware, but I doubt any petty thief would have it. Most won't be able to fix a softbrick either.

Any app can be disabled, pretty easily too if you know what you're doing.

Importantly, though, I wouldn't do this. All it does is guarantee that you can't get the phone back (you can't track it anymore) or that if you get it back, it won't work. You should just install tracking software instead. Remote bricking won't deter a thief who doesn't know about it, and while I see the revenge aspect it's not as good as catching them!

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"easy to unbrick"...for an average user or someone who has experience flashing/tweaking phones? –  Chance Feb 13 '12 at 19:47
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@Chance An average user should have no problem with a softbrick if they're pointed to Odin, we've had a couple successes here, but it's probably fair to say that the average user wouldn't know about Odin or solicit the right advice. –  Matthew Read Feb 13 '12 at 19:49

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