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Google patents unlock combos for launching apps and unleashes Android smartphone recovery service

Most Android smartphone users are well acquainted with the pattern lock feature. But according to a newly released patent application, Google is looking to update that technology.

The US Patent and Trademark Office this week published the "Alternative Unlocking Patterns" document, revealing Google's method to allow users to create different patterns, each applying to a particular action.

If, for instance, you swipe two left, three up, and one right, the phone will automatically open Facebook. Or, tap around the pattern perimeter to immediately send a text message.

According to the patent, Google envisions a way to open applications, check for missed calls, snap a photo, or perform other actions by simply entering a different configuration.

"The stored unlocking patterns are associated with respective actions that are performed upon completion of the respective unlocking patterns," the document said. "The unlocking patterns are associated with a same level of unlocked security access to the computing system. The computing system responds by unlocking the computing system and performing the action that is associated with the matching unlocking pattern."

Repetition aside, the patent doesn't specify with which devices the technology might be implemented, but one can venture a guess that future Android operating system updates could come with this new feature, if Google moves forward with it.

Meanwhile, the company's recently revealed Android Device Manager service is now live for users, according to the Android Google+ account.

Google unveiled the long-anticipated feature last week in response to Apple's Find My iPhone function, which is intended to help handset owners find a missing or stolen device. The Android version can ring at maximum volume, even if left in silent mode, and includes an online map for real-time-location.

In the event an Android device cannot be recovered, or has been stolen, you can easily erase all data before someone else gets their hands on it. The service was expected to roll out to users later this month, but appears to have made an early arrival, at least for some.