Google is able to remotely reset Android devices if asked so by a court order. This way investigators can gain access to data on the device. The information comes from a document (PDF) prepared by the New York District Attorney’s Office.
According to the document, which reports about the impact of full disk encryption on access for law enforcement, it’s possible to to remotely reset most devices that are on versions lower than Android 5.0. Phones running a newer version of Android can use full disk encryption on which the remote reset doesn’t work. However, full disk encryption is not enabled by default on all Android devices which means that a device running a newer version isn’t necessarily invulnerable to the remote reset.
If served with a search warrant Google can reset the passcode of some other types of Android device and even remotely assist authorities with extracting data from a device.
Because iOS 8 has full disk encryption enabled by default, Apple users are safer from any remote interference. Users on older iOS versions are nevertheless vulnerable too.
Android users that don’t want anyone remotely resetting their or phone or browsing their data, should enable full disk encryption. It should be somewhere in the security or storage settings on Android 5.0 or higher. Full disk encryption does have a slight disadvantage, it slows down the hardware a little.