Lockwatch is a free anti-theft app for Android devices that will automatically snap a photo with the front-facing camera when someone attempts to unlock your phone's password. The picture of the offender's face is then emailed to you along with their GPS location. Crime doesn't pay...
Phone theft picture from Shutterstock
There are lots of ways to improve your Android's lock screen security -- you can read our recent tips guide here. But this is the first tool we've come across that takes a photo of someone in the act of trying to access your phone.
"The idea came to me when I was out with friends and one of them had their phone stolen," Lockwatch's developer Charles explained in an email to Lifehacker.
"I thought it would be a great idea to write an app that could immediately take a photo of any person who tried to unlock your phone and also send an image of their location to the owner's email address. I spent one month writing it in the evenings after my day job."
Setting up the app couldn't be simpler. When your phone's password is incorrectly entered, Lockwatch will automatically take a sneaky photo of the culprit, complete with their GPS location. The phone's shutter sound is disabled by the app so they wont realise a photo has been taken.
The image file and GPS data is sent to your Gmail account in a single email. (This can be changed to a different email address from within the app if you'd prefer not to use Google.) You can also adjust the number of failed attempts it takes to trigger the app, which is handy if you have big, unwieldy fingers.
I tested the device out with my Samsung Galaxy Note II and the results were successful for the most part. My face was clearly visible two out of three times, although it only captured around a third of my face on the last attempt. Presumably, the app will work better on some devices more than others, depending on its size and the location of the front-facing camera.
In addition to catching thieves red-handed, we imagine the app will also be a handy tool for monitoring paranoid girlfriends/boyfriends -- to find out how much they trust you, "accidentally" leave your phone unattended and wait for the emails to come flooding in!
Lockwatch [Google Play]