This post is brought to you by real life, my life. Its a story about what happens when a blogger who writes about GPS tracking ends up losing his phone, and how sometimes there is nothing you can do about finding it.
Recently, my family and I were vacationing in America’s Finest City. We were having a great time enjoying the 70 degree weather, the sunny skies, wonderful food, and sandy beaches. The weather was fantastic and a nice break from the frigid January we would have had to spend in the Midwest where we live. We went outside all the time and took several trips to the beach to enjoy the surf, smell the salty air, skip rocks, and get sand everywhere.
We really had a grand ole time.
Then it came time to get back to the car, get the kids clean, and get home. It was clearly nap time. We had to walk a good bit to get back to the car and upon arrival we quickly set about getting the kids ready for departure. While my wife changed one I was cleaning the other – a task made difficult by tiredness and sand’s ability to stick to anything. Frustrated and done it was finally time to get the kids in the car. As I was taking our youngest to his seat I took out my phone to see if I had any messages from friends who I would hang out with later that night. I had none and as I was transferring our child to his car seat I placed my phone on the roof of the car. Big mistake.
Our other child distracted me by wanting me to get him in buckled in too so I went over to his side of the car, got him in, and then got in the car myself. My phone, a Droid X, was still sitting on the top of the car.
We got in the car, popped a U-turn and started heading home. 10 minutes later as the car accelerates up the on ramp to get on the free way we hear a thud and look around the inside of the car to see what had happened. We think its just my son throwing one of his sticks against the side of the car. We continue driving and I think little of the thud and what it could mean.
It wasn’t until we get home, get inside, and lay the napping kids down that I realize I don’t have my phone on me. I panic, but stay calm because I know I have Lookout Mobile Security downloaded to my phone.
I get on the laptop, log into my account, and do a phone locate through their website. It was a long three minutes waiting for the app to tell me where my phone is and at the end of three minutes I still had nothing. So I did it again, hoping that there was just a minor glitch and the phone would figure it out. It didn’t.
Then I downloaded Plan B to my phone, not so much for the location of the phone but to see if it was on and had a network connection. In a lot of our tests in the review of Plan B the app downloaded within a minute to our phone and our GMail account received a message from Lookout telling us it would have a position on our phone soon. This didn’t happen this time.
I found myself in the worst case scenario for loosing your cell phone. My phone was either off, out of batteries, destroyed, or taken over by someone else who knew what to do as soon as they found my phone. At this point there was no technological solution to my problem. All I could do was go back, retrace my steps, and see if I could find my phone. GPS tracking would be of no help to me.
So I got in the car, drove the 20 minutes back to where we parked and surveyed the scene. After looking for a few minutes I faintly remember placing the phone on the roof and then I hear it, the thud as we accelerated onto the freeway. Its at that moment that I realize my phone is not stolen, its not off, and its not out of batteries. My phone is smashed into a confetti of plastic and silicon.
Here are some of my takeaways from this experience:
Sometimes being prepared doesn’t matter. I was certainly prepared in the eventuality that my cell phone might become lost or stolen. I had the necessary apps installed and had done my homework on how to use them. But there are some things that you just can’t control.
GPS tracking apps have their limits. This is really just a restatement of my first takeaway, but needs to be said. Tracking apps ARE NOT the solution for finding every lost phone. Good ole fashioned skills such as retracing your steps and remembering cannot be bypassed.
Don’t be an idiot. I was an idiot and did not properly secure my phone. I should have put it back into my pocket. Or better yet, gotten a magnetic case so it would have stuck to my car. 🙂
Plan B is a cell phone recovery app that is designed to be used after your mobile has already been lost. It is positioned as an “app of last resort” and as such it is going to be used by people who didn’t realize that there are apps out there that can help you track down your phone in case it gets lost or stolen. As such, it is going to save hundreds of thousands of phones that have been separated from their owners. We put a lot of important, personal information on our phones that we want to keep private and an app like Plan B is exactly what thousands of people need to get reunited with these powerful (and easily lost) bits of technology. Plan B is available exclusively on Android phones, is completely free, and requires Android 2. 0 and up.
Recommendation: Yes! Use Plan B if your Android cell is already lost or stolen
A Note On Readers Of This Review We tried our best to simulate real world situations when testing Plan B. Due to the nature of the vast variety of real life situations people might face when losing their cell phone we were only able to recreate a handful of them. User experiences may vary given the exact circumstances that your phone is in when lost.
Also, different hardware may respond differently. In our tests we used a Droid X. Your particular phone may have different hardware than the Droid X and therefore preform differently. Our phone was also on the Verizon network. Mobiles on other networks may perform differently.
This review is simply for educational purposes only and is meant to allow readers to make informed decisions about what apps like this can do. Please add your own experiences with the app to the comments so everyone can get a better feel for how Plan B works.
Did you know that if you are using an Android cell phone you can download apps to your cell phone from the web? That is right, you do not even have to have your phone in your possession! This is an incredibly important thing for someone who has a lost cell phone because it means you can download and install a GPS tracking app onto your phone from your home or work computer. What you will find below is how to install Plan B, a free cell phone recovery app from the makers of Lookout Mobile Security, and how to start tracking your phone AFTER you already lost it.
How to Do I Install A Cell Phone Tracking App On A Phone I Already Lost?
Log in using the GMail account that you set up your phone with
Type “Plan B” in the search field and press the “Enter” key
Click on the Install button
A pop up will ask you to which phone you want to install the tracking app
Click on another install button on the bottom of the screen
Get the confirmation message that the app is being downloaded to your phone
The one thing that you have to keep in mind is that the phone does need to be on. To say the same thing twice, you cannot install an app remotely when the phone is off. You will only be told by the app store that your app will be installed shortly, so if the phone is off the only way that you will be able to tell is because you received no messages from Plan B on your Gmail account.
Another thing to think about is that when you install the app remotely the phone will receive a notification that the app has been downloaded. The app also sends an email once it has found your location to the GMail address associated with your phone – which means you will get an email notification on your phone too. Once the Plan B app is installed you will get the following on the screen of your cell phone:
All of these notifications are fine if the phone is simply lost, but it can be a tip off to a theif if the phone was stolen. This is one of the major drawbacks of using something like Plan B.
Once Plan B Has Been Installed: How It Works
After Plan B is installed it will sent emails to the GMail account associated with your phone. The emails that were sent to me looked like this:
This app worked even with my GPS turned off. When I checked the phone after the program was installed my GPS was turned back on.
Apps The Can Be Remotely Installed Successfully
As of right now we have only really tested Plan B as way to track a phone that has already been lost or stolen. Once we do some additional testing we will compile a list of all apps here. If you already know of one, please leave a comment letting us know.
Here is a list of app that I have tested and found to work with a remote install:
Verizon has joined the ranks of several large telecommunications companies who are seeking to make more money off of the information that they serve to you. Information, such as the websites you visit, the places you go, where you live, or what your interests might be, are going to start to be tracked by Verizon so that they can create “aggregate” reports for their own internal use and for sale to third parties.
Verizon is simply trying to make more money off of you and your family. If you have no problem with them tailoring advertisements based on your interests and fine GPS location then you have can rest knowing that Verizon has already signed you up for this. If you DO NOT WANT Verizon to track you in this way they you might want to tell them to stop. You can do so by calling 1-866-211-0874 or by following these steps on the internet:
Log in to your account using your username and password
Scroll down to the ‘Customer Proprietary Network Information’ heading
Click The Minus (-) Button [some people will see a Plus (+) button here for some reason]
Check ‘Don’t Share My CPNI’ in the All Cell Phone Numbers row
Click Save Changes
Scroll down to the ‘Business & Marketing Reports’ heading
Check ‘Don’t Use My Information for Aggregate Reports’ in the All Cell Phone Numbers row
Click Save Changes
Scroll Down to ‘Relevant Mobile Advertising’
Click ‘Don’t Use My Demographic Info for Banners’ in the All Cell Phone Numbers row
Click Save Changes
It was really easy for me to do. If you know of anyone who might want to opt out you should be a good friend and share it with them.
The following was taken from a news article and it represents Verizon’s response to some of the hubbub about the plan:
Michelle Gilbert, Verizon Public Relations Manger for the Michigan / Indiana / Kentucky region, has released the following statement:
“Protecting data and safeguarding privacy are high priorities at Verizon. Verizon Wireless recently introduced a new program that involves the creation of new types of aggregate business and marketing reports. In addition, Verizon Wireless and Verizon Telecom also introduced new ways to advertise to mobile users and wireline broadband customers.
“For the business and marketing reports offered by Verizon Wireless, records about websites visited, cell phone locations and other consumer data will be combined (or aggregated) to compile reports that provide businesses with insights about their customers. For example, these insights may include the demographics (age ranges, gender, etc.) and interests (such as “pet lovers” or “tennis enthusiasts”) of visitors to a Web site, or commuters who might pass an outdoor billboard. These aggregate reports could be used by web publishers to help provide content that is more appealing to users, or to help advertisers better select the ads they will display on outdoor billboards or at other venues.
“The new advertising initiatives offered by Verizon Wireless and Verizon Online will help brands tailor the type of advertising customers see on their mobile phones and online when using Verizon FiOS Internet, DSL or dial-up services. The Verizon Wireless relevant ad program will help brands present relevant ads on customers’ mobile devices by using the postal address and other consumer information, such as their device type, demographic and interest information. For instance, if you live near a restaurant, you may see ads for that restaurant. The Verizon Online relevant ads program will help brands determine if customers fit within their targeted geography by postal addresses, helping brands better reach their customers online.”
Can I monitor a cell phone’s calls, texts, and location?
Concerned parents and suspicious spouses have been asking this question for almost two decades now. And rightly so. Technology has given us access to a whole new world of communication that people born as late as the mid 80s never experienced growing up. We can have a whole life that is hidden from those closest to use through our cell phones. Phone calls, text messages, and cell phone internet activity can all be done on the move, in hidden places, and to the detriment of relationships and psychological development.
That is where cell phone monitoring comes in. If this technology is real and really works then it would be ideal for those individuals who have a child or spouse who is engaging in activity that is doing damage to their relationships or hurting them psychologically. It will give these concerned individuals the data they need to confront their at-risk individual, hopefully sparking a conversation that will turn the situation around for the better.
So first off, is cell phone monitoring for real? Does it really work?
Yes. It is for real and it really works.
What We Mean By Cell Phone Monitoring
I think it might be a good idea to talk about exactly what we mean when we talk about cell phone monitoring. To be sure, there is an element of GPS tracking in there – but monitoring usually denotes more than just finding the location of a mobile phone. It also includes things like seeing all incoming and outgoing text messages, a detailed log of phone calls, and cell internet browsing activities. In short, all activity that occurs on the cell phone is monitored.
This level of monitoring is accomplished by installing a piece of software on the cell phone that allows this type of tracking activity. Not every cell phone is compatible with just any monitoring program. A lot of cell phone surveillance programs only work on certain operating systems (OS). Some even work on only certain versions of those operating systems, so making sure that what you are going to buy to do your monitoring is compatible with your particular cell phone is pretty important. In fact, I would recommend looking at the spy program’s list of compatible devices before you even read more information about it. Why know about what you can’t buy?
If you don’t have any experience downloading cell phone software then you might want to check out our guide on how to download cell phone tracking software. You will either have to buy your monitoring software from your respective app store (iPhone = App Store; Android = Android Market; BlackBerry = App World; Windows = Marketplace) or purchase it from a 3rd party and download it onto your phone. Either way, our guide should give you want you need to know.
Who Should Monitor A Cell Phone’s Activity
The real question that somebody looking into this should be, why do you want to monitor the cell phone in the first place?
There seems be two groups of people who can answer this question in a legitimate way. The first are parents who have a valid reason to be concerned about their children. The second are a husband or a wife who suspects the other in the relationship of stepping out on them. There may be other people out there who want to track a boyfriend or a girlfriend, but doing so doesn’t seem right to me (and is often illegal).
Let’s take a look at each of them in turn.
Two Reasons To Monitor Your Child’s Cell Phone
Children, even teenagers, need their parents to be just that, parents. Sometimes this is going to involve getting into the nitty gritty of their daily experience. Who are they talking to? What do they think about? What do they like? Are they popular? Who are their friends? What makes them tick?
Now these are questions that all parents should have some sort of idea about, even if all the specifics are a little blurry. If you can’t honestly answer these question you need to evaluate your parenting and just how involved in the life of your child you really are. Then you should realize that cell phone surveillance is no substitute for good parenting.
You see, no amount of technology is going to make up for years of neglect and bad parenting. The only thing that will make up for that is effort, work, sacrifice, and growing up. You are the only one who can bring those things to the table with your child. Getting a cell phone monitor is just going to further alienate your teen because you will just be trying to coax out of them something by force (monitoring their communications) because you haven’t cared enough about them to actually learn who they are and help them grow.
That being said, if you have a good, healthy relationship with your child you still might be justified in using some sort of monitoring software on their cell phone. Here are just two:
If you know a little about your child you are going to be able to tell if something is off with them. You might not be able to pinpoint what it is, you just know that your teen has something going on. You probe and question but all your efforts run into a brick wall. What are you going to do now? This is where getting a quality cell phone monitoring program is going to be helpful.
By being able to read the texts they receive as well as the web information on their cell phone and social media sites you can figure out that they are being bullied. With a little elbow grease you might even be able to figure out who is tormenting your teen on the internet. With this information in tow you can talk with your teen about what is going on and ways that it can be dealt with. You might even be able to take matters into your own hands and get those SOBs who are hurting your teen to stop.
Either way, cell phone surveillance software is what is going to open this door for you.
They Are A Cyberbully
Now the shoe is on the other foot. What would you do if you found out your kid was a cyberbully? I sure as hell would want to make sure that they stopped tormenting another human being. This would take a lot of parenting but it would also include some cell phone tracking. After we talked about why they felt they needed to attack another human being and after I made any changes that I needed to myself and my parenting to ensure that I was creating a home where everyone’s needs were being met I would install some monitoring software on their cell phone to ensure compliance.
Even if my teenager doesn’t make the change on the inside to become a better person it is my responsibility to make sure that the bullying stops.
Should You Monitor An Adults Cell Phone?
Adults certainly pose a different challenge when compared over and against children. Most parents are going to understand that to a certain extent they have a right and responsibility to ensure that their children are healthy and safe. If parents are using cell monitoring technology to reach these goals then it seems like a valid use of the technology. To be sure, parents can use spy technology in an oppressive way – but we don’t think that this would be a valid use of the technology. We would advise such parents to stop.
But when it comes to tracking an adult most people will think that being to see their texts, internet activity, call log, and GPS location is overkill. That is if you ask them if they would want another person doing it to them. Otherwise most people I think entertain the idea of knowing everything someone else does on their cell phone – this is particularly true when it comes to romantic relationships.
If a person thinks that they are being cheated on by a wife, or a husband, or a boyfriend, or a girlfriend then they usually throw out all concern about whether or not it is right to track their cell phone in this way. While I can understand this I personally only think it is valid for a husband or a wife to track their other in a relationship. This is primarily because it is the only relationship described above where the individuals have made a covenant with each other in the sight of God and men to be faithful to one another until one of them is dead.
As is the case in most covenant relationships, both parties have a right to know if the other is breaking covenant. If you have repeatedly gone to your spouse and asked them if they are cheating and they consistently deny it but your suspicions remain then it is my opinion that you have a right to install a cell phone monitoring system.
Cheaters and Cell Phone Monitoring
The most important thing that you will be looking for is evidence of the cheating on their cell phone. Cell phone logs and text messages are probably going to be one of the most important pieces of evidence in your search – that and the cell phones location. A lot of monitoring packages will not only let you see the text messages but also let you recover deleted texts, which is really important for the careful cheater.
Once you have evidence of the cheating you can do what you want with it – but I recommend some sort of confrontation. Remember, they are the one who is cheating – but we all bear the responsibility for failed relationships. Work on the relationship and heal it. It will take work, but marriage is an institution that should be saved and protected.
Who Should Not Use Cell Phone Spying Software
Stalkers. If you want to use spy software just so you can stalk someone then you should stop. It is illegal, mean, and stupid.
Business Uses of Cell Phone Monitoring Software
Finally, there are some business uses for this technology. They include, but are not limited, to the following:
Ensure business use of the mobile phones for tax purposes
Reduce wasted time due to inappropriate use of the phones
Keep employees honest about activities and whereabouts
Promote a healthy workforce
Can you think of any other legitimate reasons to monitor someone’s cell phone? If so, please feel free to leave it in the comments below so I can add it above.
There are a lot of options out there for people looking for a mobile phone tracker. It seems as though everyone has some reason to know the location of a cell phone – either their own or someone else’s. A lot of the reasons are good and straight forward. Other reasons are often less than noble.
You could be the parent that is trying to make sure that your family is able to stay in contact with each other and keep each other safe. Or you could be an employer who is seeking a solution to improve company logistics, reduce costs, and create revenue opportunities. Or you could be a creepy stalker trying to find out where someone is. Whatever your reason, there are some things that you should know about tracking a mobile phone.
What is mobile phone tracking?
Wikipedia defines it this way:
Mobile phone tracking tracks the current position of a mobile phone even on the move.
Simple enough. Another way to put it is this, it is the process where you use the natural working of the phone in order to tell the exact location of the mobile.
Anyone looking for ways to track a mobile phone probably already have an idea of what it is due to the countless number of times a cell phone is tracked on a TV crime drama. But what you see is a caricature of how it actually works. For starters, law enforcement does need to request the information from a carrier – they just don’t type into their computers and get the info. Heck, they may even have to get a warrant!
However, there is some truth to the way it is portrayed. Many tracking programs do have a web interface that will display the exact location of the person (give or take a few metres) that has already consented to having the tracker installed on their phone. This is really powerful stuff and all you need is a computer to now exactly where someone is.
How does mobile phone tracking work?
Without getting too technical, its magic. Just kidding. It can get pretty complex, but the tracking mechanics either use GPS satellites or cell towers to find out the position of the mobile. The technical name for the process is called trilateration, but some people refer to it as triangulation (which is wrong, technically, but works fine for most people).
What this mathematical process does is takes the position of some fixed objects – like satellites in space or cell towers on the ground – and draws big circles around 3 or more of them. The points where all the circles come together is the point where the phone is. Here is a pretty good video that explains it perfectly:
The guys voice is a little monotone, but he’s a scientist – so that makes it okay. Simple enough, right?
Are there free mobile phone tracking options?
Yes! There are tons of different free mobile phone tracking programs out there on all types of cell phones. The real question that you should be asking is which tracking program is right for me?
Unfortunately, the only one who is going to be able to answer that is you, but here is some things that you should consider. There are a few main types of tracking programs for mobile phones. There are social trackers, sport trackers, family trackers, and business trackers.
Social mobile phone tracking programs are designed to keep friends in contact with each other. Programs like foursquare and Gowalla allow users to share their position information with their friends to earn “cool points” from each other. A conversation could go something like this:
Dude 1: Hey, man. I just checked in at hipster bar #3. I’m hip.
Dude 2: Dang bro, your the coolest.
Dude 1: Yeah. I totally know. That is why I posted it on the Internet.
Pretty deep stuff, I know.
Other social trackers, like Google Latitude, let your friends know exactly where you are whenever your phone is on and it is getting a good location from the GPS satellites. This is very creepy, but only if you give even mild friends access to know where you are at all times. If you just use it for family (and maybe very close friends) it is not that crazy.
Sport trackers can be used by the physically adventurous to record their exercising. It will do all the normal things that you might want a GPS to do for you. It will log the time when you started the run and then give you the time you stopped so you have the total time exercised. They are even good enough that they can add up all your time stopped at traffic lights or at duck crossings and find your actual run time.
In additional to this pretty rudimentary stuff they also give you an average speed, altitude changes, and peak speeds. All this information can be used to look at your exercising routines and determine where you can improve. Most people will just use it to keep track of their exercising.
Family mobile phone trackers are designed to help families stay connected and safe. Some family trackers are social trackers that have been hijacked for the purpose. Google Latitude is one such example. It is billed as something for friends to use – but it is really better for families.
Then there are apps like Life 360. This app is for families and pets and lets you keep track of your children. It also displays the known addresses of sex offenders as well as safe places to go if you feel like you are in danger.
Business mobile phone trackers still work like all the other tracking programs they just have specific business applications. Businesses might need dispatcher support as well as ways to push information out to the mobiles on the field. These programs are certainly not free, but they do provide businesses with powerful personnel command – making them leaner, meaner, and more productive.
Who can use mobile phone tracking?
Anyone who is smart enough to install it. You also have to have access to the mobile phone in order to install the tracker and get it working properly. This is all pretty easy. If you need some help you can check out our article on how to download cell phone tracking software for help.
Can you secretly track a mobile phone?
The answer is yes and no. If you are looking to do covert mobile phone tracking on someone else’s phone without their knowledge then the answer is NO! You should never, ever, ever, ever, ever track someone’s mobile phone without their consent. If the police find out about you will be faced with stalking charges. Private citizens have no power to secretly track someone else without their knowledge.
It also doesn’t pass the common sense test. Would you want just anyone to be able to track your mobile phone to know where you are?
But I did answer the question with a yes, but it is a qualified yes. The only way that you may (consult your attorney to determine what the law in your state is) is if you are the owner of the property being tracked. Businesses, spouses, and parents all potentially have the ability to track another individual without their knowledge or consent as long as they are tracking their own property.
For example, a business issues mobile phones to their employees as part of the job. Without the employee knowing the owners of the business can install tracking software on the phone to ensure that the employee is doing their job. Parents can also activate parental control tracking features through their mobile carrier without the consent of any of the lines on their plan. This could be a teen, a spouse, a friend, or even a boyfriend or girlfriend. As long as they are on your plan you have the ability to track them without their knowledge.
The real question is should you use a covert mobile phone tracker? Most cases probably don’t warrant it, but I know that some do. Tracking a cheating spouse is one that comes to mind.
Can I type in a number on a website and track a mobile phone?
GPS mobile phone tracking does not really work that way. Now there is a way if you are in Europe to do this, but you have to have the consent of the person for it work – and most people hardly will get the person they are trying to track to approve their request.
Now you can access a website and see the location of the phone if you already have the program installed on it. Just log in with your credentials and you will see exactly where the phone is, give or take a few metres.
If you have any more questions about mobile phone tracking just leave them in the comments below and we will be more than happy to do our best to get them answered for you. Thanks!
If you are thinking about putting cell phone tracking software on your phone you might have several questions before you get started. Probably the very first thing you want to know is which program you should download. There are several great places to find some lists of tracking apps. We recommend this one: Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
If you follow the link you will find a long list of tracking applications that can be downloaded on many different types of smartphones. All the major brands are represented – iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. If you don’t have a smart phone then you might want to take a look at some of the other tracking apps that we covered in our post about free GPS tracking applications and software. There is plenty there that can be used on many different types of cell phones.
What you will find in these links is free cell phone tracking software. There is a lot of paid software out there. These can cost you anywhere between $5 from your app store to $60 for full fledged cell phone spy software. Some of these are worth the money and then some. Others are not worth the crap the monkeys who coded the software evacuated from their bowels while mashing away at the keyboard. This might be because they are worthless programs or because you can do the same exact thing with free apps that cost you nothing (the unnecessary reiteration is intentional!). Choosing the right software for your needs is obviously important, so take your time in determining exactly what you need the cell phone tracking software for and educate yourself on what some of the different free options are going to be able to do for you. They are often extremely powerful and capable of doing exactly what you want without having to fork out any more cash.
Once you have picked your app then the next question is going to be how to download the cell phone tracking software. This really depends on what type of cell phone you have. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect for each type of phone:
How to Download Tracking Software To A Smartphone
Smartphones benefit from being better than other, normal cell phones. They are, after all, smart. Almost every major brand of cell phone has an app store that you can go to and download the software to your phone automatically. The best part is, once it is downloaded, all the installation is taken care of for you. You don’t need to know a ton of stuff to get it work. Just choose what you want, tell it to download, and you are done.
Here is an example from an Android cell phone. There are two main ways that you can download the ever popular InstaMapper cell phone tracking software. You can go to the Android market and then search for “GPS Tracker.” Then look for the result withe InstaMapper, LLC as the publisher. Click on install and you will download and install the app seamlessly.
If you have a QR code reader just scan this:
It really is that easy to download software with a smart phone.
How to Download Tracking Software To A Regular Cell Phone
GPS tracking software becomes a little more difficult when you are not working with the easy, breezy smartphones. Don’t take my word for it. Here is what the folks at InstaMapper recommend for downloading their software when using one of the Motorola iDen phones that you can get on the cheap:
The easiest way to Install InstaMapper on your phone is by loading it over-the-air using this tool provided by Sprint:
The tool will ask you for a .zip file, which you can get here.
Then go to Menu -> Games & Apps -> Download Apps. Click on “New Purchases”. If you don’t see the app there, navigate to Menu -> My Info on your phone and hit “Edit”. If Line 1 is empty, enter your full phone number there (starting with the area code). Then try downloading the app again.
Alternatively, you can install the app from your PC using a regular USB cable and Motorola’s iDEN Java Application Loader (JAL) software. The latter can be downloaded directly from Motorola here (free registration required; click “join MotoDev” when they ask you for your login information). After JAL is installed, connect your phone to the PC with a USB cable, start JAL, and hit “Connect to phone”. Unzip InstaMapper tracking software to a folder on your PC, then hit “Download” and select “GPSTracker.jad” from that folder. Hit “Disconnect” when the transfer completes.
Now start the app you just downloaded — it will be under “Java Apps”, possibly on the second screen (hit “More”). The app is called “GPS Tracker” and has an icon that looks like a satellite. Enter the device id from your InstaMapper account. Click “Save”. The phone will ask for your permission to access the GPS chip. Say “yes”. When the status message changes from “Locating…” to “Tracking…” your should be able to see the location of your phone on InstaMapper.
Note: the app will pop into foreground during the first few days of operation (the intention here is to discourage covert tracking). Unfortunately, on Motorola phones a notification sound is played whenever an application requests to be run in the foreground. We recommend leaving the app in the foreground during the first few days that it’s running, or muting notification sounds in the phone’s settings.
This is certainly doable, but it does break down significantly for someone who really is not too certain what they are doing.
Special Note On “Cell Phone Spy” Software
Unfortunately, the experience users have to go through to install cell phone spy software is a lot like installing something on a regular cell phone. This is because a lot of the publishers out there for this type of software don’t go through app stores and just sell them directly to customers. This makes these things notoriously difficult to install and get running. To me, this is their greatest failing. How can you use this type of spy software if you can’t even get it loaded on a phone?
If you are going to go this route I would urge extreme caution. Only buy something with a solid money back guarantee so you can recoup your money if you can’t get it installed correctly or if your phone isn’t supported.
How To Download Cell Phone Tracking Software
If you are trying to download and install mobile phone tracking software then you should hope that you have a smartphone. 🙂 In reality, it is very easy to download most trackers to your cell – even if you just have a regular old phone. If all else fails, follow the instructions on the website for the software you are trying to download.
Finding that your cell phone was been stolen can be a gut-wrenching experience. It is your connection to the world and all of a sudden it is ripped from your life, falling into the hands of a complete stranger. Questions have to be racing through your mind at this point. Can I get it back? Can I keep my data private? What will happen to all my pictures?
Thankfully, we live in a world that has more to it than those who seek to steal mobile phones. We also have innovators who create applications for cell phones that keep our personal data safe and track down a stolen phone. A group of these good guys have created an app called Lookout Mobile Security and it is currently free to download on BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile smartphones. It does more than just use GPS tracking to find a stolen cell phone. It is a full ledge smartphone security suite that will let you protect your phone from physical and virtual threats.
How can I track my stolen cell phone?
Smartphones are an investment. If you buy one without a free upgrade deal or sign-up promotion it can cost hundreds of dollars. High end phones range between $500-$600 before the contracts and promotions bring the price down to (just) $200. Quite frankly, it does not matter what price you buy at – any smartphone is going to be a really expensive phone. Until the cell phone boom it was not normal for people to carry such an expensive piece of hardware with them everywhere, especially one that is so easily lost or stolen. When it gets stolen you want to find a way to get it back, now.
GPS tracking provides the solution for a lot of people who want to get their stolen cell phone back. By leveraging the smartphone’s location finding capabilities and the data plan that is almost assuredly included with the phone, users of the Lookout Mobile Security app will be able to find the location of their cell phone (provided that it is on, of course).
Now this brings up one of the three HUGE caveats that need to be understood about tracking a stolen cell phone. The first is that you must have already downloaded the GPS tracking app before the phone is stolen. In other words, the cell phone must still be in your possession when you put the app on it. You cannot download any apps that will let you track your stolen mobile remotely. Sorry, but that is just the way that it is.UPDATE: Android phones CAN install certain apps remotely that will let you track down a lost or stolen phone. You can find a write up we did here: How To Install GPS Tracking Apps Remotely To Find A Lost Or Stolen Android Cell Phone
The second caveat is that the cell phone must be turned on for the Lookout Mobile Security app or any other stolen phone recovery app to work. The phone needs to be on for several reasons. The first is that it needs to be able to receive the message from the Lookout servers to get the phone to use its GPS chip to determine the cell phone’s location. This is the same with all stolen cell phone recovery programs. Mobile Me, Lookout, et al work this way.
The second reason the phone must be on is that it power is required to use the cell phone towers and/or GPS chip to figure out where the phone is. A phone that is unable to find its own location is of no use to someone trying to find out where it is!
The third caveat is that the phone must be in range of a cell tower. In order to track the phone, it must in contact with the network to receive messages and to communicate with you, the owner. Both reception and transmission of messages is hindered if the phone is outside the boundary of its network or has some physical impediment to cell signals. Without the network you are screwed.
But given that the phone is on, it is in network range, and you have already downloaded the tracking app, how helpful will one of these apps truly be? Can it provide an exact location for a lost phone?
Precision depends on several important factors. Sometimes a location will be very good, reliably providing an exact address for the location of your phone. Other times it simply be a reasonable guess, one just good enough to give you a general idea where the phone might be.
Here is picture taken from the web interface of a GPS tracking app that will be illustrative of just how exact tracking can be:
If you have good eyes you will see that the circle around the phone is fairly large. It says it has an accuracy of 1,870 meters, or a little over 1 mile. The center of the circle, represented by a cell phone icon, is a pretty accurate representation of where my phone is, being off my perhaps several hundred feet.
This underscores the point that with GPS tracking apps you have little knowledge beforehand about how accurate the location is going to be. There are too many factors that can cause GPS errors. For example, my home is of an older, more solid construction than newer homes might be. I have had great difficulty getting a solid GPS fix for my location on several different devices. I may measure my location one day and get one set of coordinates only to measure it again the next day and get coordinates hundreds of feet away from previous measurements. While this is not good for tracking down a lost cell phone with GPS, it is reality.
In addition to the make up of the place where the cell phone has been taken you also have to consider other aspects of location that may come into play. Large surrounding buildings, lots of trees, canyon walls, and other inhospitable terrain features can cause GPS tracking equipment to give inaccurate readings. These can skew the position information just as wildly as the composition of the home.
You should not let these factors prevent you from downloading an app that will help you recover your stolen cell phone. You have no way of knowing who is going to steal it or where they are going to take it. For all you know, you could get an almost exact location for the cell phone, like in this picture:
My phone was in the same exact place when I used Lookout to find its location previously (see pic above this one to see the difference). I went from getting a location somewhere within a mile of the place they put my phone to being within 26 feet. That is a very great difference and it just goes to show how tricky GPS tracking can be for any device – let alone a cell phone.
But this location is really spot on. I live exactly where the tracking app puts me. Checking the location of a lost or stolen phone more than once is a good idea!
How can I get back my stolen cell phone?
Now that you have figured out the location of your phone there are a couple of things that you can do to get your cell phone back. The first, wisest and easiest is to call the police. If you were the victim of a mugging or other assault the police will probably be more than happy to use your information to find the criminal. They will want to get the crook off the street, especially since they were willing to be violent over something as simple as a cell phone. They also have an eye witness (you!) that can place the suspect at the scene, sealing the case for them and getting another criminal off the streets. There are several news stories circulating the press that confirm this.
Another thing that you could do to get your cell phone back is confront the thief and get them to give you your cell phone back. Just don’t pull an OJ and do it at gun point. You’ll probably go to prison yourself for being a total idiot. Instead, make it safe and do it in a public place. This also only really works if it is stolen by somebody that you know. Using shame and public confrontation is a great way to get the phone back once you know who stole it.
How can I wipe the data on my stolen cell phone?
Let’s say that you have tried to recover your phone but the thief is refusing to hand over the good. Maybe it was taken over the border by a drug runner and now lies in drug-cartel-infested territory and your value your life more than your cell phone. Fine, be a wuss. You still don’t have to let the thief know who are your emergency contacts. You can still stop them from seeing all those awesome photos you took last night at the bar. You can still keep your personal data personal.
Applications like Lookout Mobile Security allow users to wipe cell phone data clean. All personal information will be discretely thrown overboard with concrete shoes on, never to be seen again. Bad guys can’t steal your contact information or learn how to target you for future crimes from your cell phone. The wipe feature does cost a monthly subscription fee – but I can imagine only using it for one month, the month your cell phone was stolen in.
If you can’t get your stolen cell phone back with GPS tracking then at least you can wipe it clean.
Can I mess with the person who stole my cell phone?
One of the really cool things about the Lookout app is that you can make your phone scream. It is a great way to prove that you are the owner of the phone in those public confrontations or to help the police find the phone after they raid the location where your phone is.
A simple command from the app’s web interface and you can turn your phone into a screaming, vibrating, and flashing nightmare for the unsuspecting crook. This was originally designed to help users find a lost cell phone, but it really would be a great trick to play on a crook.
Stolen Cell Phone GPS Tracking Apps
Here is a list of some tracking apps that are designed to help you recover your lost or stolen cell phone:
If you found this post useful, feel free to share it with your friends so that they don’t have to worry about their cell phone if it gets stolen. Always having a tracking app on hand is a good way to make sure they can retrieve their phone. You can help them by:
If you have a cell phone then there is a good chance that you can find some way to track it for free. There are dozens of apps across all sorts of platforms that are going to enable you to either track your own cell phone remotely or give you the opportunity to share your location with friends and family in a social way. Some of these apps will have built in lost cell phone detection while others will not. Still more will make it easy for you to view the location of your cell phone or your friend’s phone through some sort of online interface. All this has made free GPS cell phone tracking a reality that more and more people are taking advantage of as they seek to get the most out of their mobile devices. Are you one of them?
In this article we hope to outline how this technology works by giving a brief overview of GPS tracking technology, cell phones, and how they work together. Then we will go into some of the various free GPS cell phone trackers that are available for some of the major cell phone platforms. These will include the Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows cell phone operating systems. This will be followed by a discussion of the various multi-platform trackers. Finally, we will look at the future of free cell phone tracking and see what the future will hold for us.
The essentials of GPS cell phone tracking are really quite simple. There is a built in GPS receiver in the cell phone which is able to get the phones exact location from the satellites that orbit the globe. Through a simple mathematical principle called trilateration the computer on the cell phone is able to take the data gathered from the signals of three different Global Positioning System Satellites (GPS) and turn that into information that includes the latitude and longitude of the phone.
In order for this data to be used to be able to track the cell phone there has to be some way for the cell phone to tell other people – other devices, really – where it is. This is where the cell phone comes into play. It is obvious that cell phones transmit data, though we probably never really think about it like that very much. They send out the digital signal that encases your voice when making a phone call. Now 3G networks can transmit lots of other digital data as well. This data can include text (SMS) messages, emails, videos, webpages, files, and a whole lot more. Most free trackers essentially use SMS messaging to transmit the latitude and longitude data that the GPS has calculated over the cell phone network to turn these devices into GPS tracking machines. The cell phone can now act as either a real time GPS tracker or just a simple data logger depending on the specific app and what the person wants to do with the information.
A cell phone has arguably become the most powerful GPS tracking device on in the world.
This is certainly a valid question. For the privilege of having a data plan that enables the cell phone to act as a GPS tracker you generally have to pay some sort of fee to your cell phone carrier. In my case (Verizon unlimited plan) this is going to cost you an extra $30 a month. For AT&T it will run you an extra $25 a month, but this plan in not unlimited any more. Sprint’s unlimited data plan costs you $20. T-Mobile has an unlimited data plan that also runs $30 a month.
These are definitely not free – but when you are already using these data plans for other things like streaming Youtube videos, checking Twitter, or surfing the web then adding a GPS tracking app to the mix is not really increasing your cost more for something you are already paying for. So in this way it really is free, but only if you are spending a good chunk of change on your cell phone already. Here is a really cool graphic from Billshrink.com that says it all:
Now lets take a look at exactly what free GPS cell phone trackers are out there for you depending on what operating system you use.
Free Android Cell Phone Trackers
Android is one of the main players in the smart phone wars that are raging right now. The child of Google, Android is an OS that is making it into many of the best phones on the market right now. It is powerful, open source operating system that often comes with free and powerful GPS apps on it when you buy it. These include Google Maps, Google Latitude, and Google Navigate – all of which are great uses of GPS by themselves. For some people, they don’t even need to get another free GPS cell phone tracker. But for those that do, here are some of the best trackers for everything from recording a sporting activity to recovering a lost cell phone to tracking a boyfriend:
Lookout Mobile Security
More than just a GPS cell phone tracker tracker, Lookout Mobile Security is a multi-platform security system for your mobile phone. It features a malware and spyware detection system that will help you determine what apps you should be downloading to your phone and what apps you are going to be leaving on the way side. It even helps you manage your various apps so that you can make sure that your private data remains private.
This feature by itself is incredibly useful, but when it is combined with GPS tracking, data backup, remote log in, and data wipe you really do have a complete security system for your phone. What is most interesting is the way that all the systems work together in sync. For example, imagine that you have lost your cell phone. Big bummer. But never fear, Look Out Mobile Security is here. Simply go to the website and find out exactly where your phone is using the GPS built into your phone. Is it in your house somewhere? Great – you’ve already looked everywhere but can’t find it. Use Lookout Mobile Security to make your cell phone scream! Even in silent mode, activating this command will turn your cell phone into a loud siren that will definitely uncover your cell phone.
This is a great app with lots of visibility. You might have even seen the commercial:
Pintail is a very interesting app. Download it to your phone an you automatically have a GPS tracker for a cell phone that you can use to pinpoint the location of a lost or stolen cell phone. Simply send a text message (SMS) to your cell phone and you will be sent a message that will require you to enter a pin code to view the location information of phone. Once you have entered this data you can know where your cell phone is. Simple and easy.
It can also be used as a way to stay in touch with family or friends. Just give them your pin code and they can text the phone to find out where you are too. This can be a great way for friends to meet up or for a loved one to check in and see where you are at if you are on a really long drive traveling by truck across country.
Everything is pin protected so you can change who has access to your location simply by changing your pin. Did you give your pin to a girl that you are now broken up with? Fear that she is stalking you? Simply change your pin and she will not be able to stalk you anymore. Like I said, simple and easy.
Billed as a family tracking app for Android cell phones, the Eye app is another one of those GPS tracking apps that uses the GPS in your phone to turn it into a mobile tracking device that will make your position known to all your friends – much like Google Latitude and other social tracking applications.
The app uses Google Maps technology to give you the position of your contacts in real time on maps that utilize images taken from satellites in order to give you a graphic understanding of where they are. You can also use the basic map interface too if all that green makes you go bonkers.
They also claim that adding contacts is easy and will work off of your existing contact list. If you want your latest BFF to know where you are at all times just them then an invitation to join the Eye App and you will be well on your way to sharing your location with your friend. They can even use Street View to get a better grip on the house where the party is at!
The Eye app also features bread crumbing, allowing watchful parents to track the movements of their children over the course of the day – something that a lot of other social GPS tracking apps fail to do. Bread crumbing is important because it helps you verify the story of a troubled teen or locate a missing child. Either way, its a useful feature and kudos for the people at the The Eye for including it in this tracking app.
Free iPhone Cell Phone Trackers
iPhones are cool. iPhones are hip. Let’s be honest – iPhones are some of the coolest, most user friendly phones on the market. They appeal to almost every age range and almost every demographic. Often simple to use and surprising versatile these phones have made a huge splash on the cell phone market. Once they introduced a GPS tracking chip, the iPhone became a useful tracking device for those savvy enough to take advantage of this excellent addition to this mobile device. Several generations later, the iPhone is definitely a competitive choice for anyone trying to find a smart cell phone that is going to fit into their lifestyle. Here are some of the free tracking apps available for the iPhone:
Are you self employed or a business owner? Do you use your car regularly for work related activity in a capacity that would enable you to deduct this expense from your tax return? If you answered yes to both these questions then you should seriously consider getting automilez. This free cell phone tracker is designed to help people such as these easily track their mileage so that they can maximize every deduction possible come tax time.
Apparently, even regular Joe’s like you and me can use an app like this to log our mileage for deductions at the end of the year. Medical and moving trips we can deduct $0.165 a mile. For charitable trips we can deduct $0.14 a mile. I guess you learn something new everyday.
While it is obvious that this app has a limited roll as a free tracker it is useful. Just be warned that you are not going to be able to share your current position with anyone or recover a lost cell phone with this app.
GPS-Logger is simple GPS tracker created by iMasterofDesaster that is designed for travelers that have a digital camera in tow that does not currently have a GPS built in to it. The way it works is simple. The iPhone acts as the GPS by going through the process of trilateration and stores the position data with a time stamp on it. During the trip the digital camera takes photos and then time stamps those photos. The GPS-Logger software then does some fancy code work and places a GPS stamp on the photos by taking the nearest time stamped location from the GPS and slapping it on the photo.
This seems to be pretty standard fare for travel GPS data loggers. Another example of this type of technology is the i-Gotu GT-600. But that device is not a mobile phone, it is just a stand alone personal GPS tracker.
GPS Tracker from Instamapper
Instamapper is one of the most powerful and free GPS cell phone tracking apps out on the market. They only ask that your register an account using a valid email address. For this pittance, you get to turn your cell phone into a real-time GPS tracking device at no extra cost to you. The phone will periodically send its position to the Instamapper services which makes 30 days worth of tracking information available to its users. This amount of tracking is equivalent to nearly 100,000 specific locations for a single device.
User’s can share their data with a loved one by sending out a link to a map of their data hosted on the Instamapper website. This link can go either to a computer or to another mobile device. If users feel really safe about sharing their position information with the world, they can even embed a map on a website, a blog, or even Facebook.
An embedded map looks something like this (from Facebook):
While it probably is not the best idea in the world to share your position on Facebook – especially if you are a teenage girl – it is pretty cool that you could do this if you wanted/needed to.
This tracking app even has position buffering so if you hit a dead zone in your coverage the phone can store up to 100 waypoints so that the track log can be brought up to speed once you get back inside your cell phone carrier’s network. Of course 100 way points is not very long (over 8 minutes at one waypoint every 5 seconds), but it will help in those odd dead zones that line urban, semi-urban, and semi-country areas.
Overall, this is a very powerful real time GPS tracking app that can be used in a wide variety of applications by many different people.
Waze is a tracking application built for the iPhone with a very specific purpose. Let’s just say it isn’t for tracking your girlfriend. 🙂 The folks at Waze have done an excellent job of creating a video that explains exactly what this product is all about. Instead of talking about it too much, here is the video:
For those that could not see the video, Waze is essentially a real time tracking community with a purpose. That purpose is to provide the very best real time traffic data for Waze users. This is not a sport tracker. It is not a data logger. It is not even a social tracking app. Its only purpose is to get people around in as little time as possible.
With that being said, it relies solely on the efforts of its users to make the app work. Users build the map, report traffic congestion, and share traffic related material with other users. If you have a small or nonexistent community in your local this free GPS cell phone tracking app is probably not going to do you much good no matter how cool it looks.
Free BlackBerry Cell Phone Trackers
BlackBerry has been the name in work cell phone for the past several years. Their physical keyboard and secure email have made them a household name in the world of business. You almost never hear a business person ask, “Where is my cell phone?” They talk about their BlackBerry like it was the only type of cell phone that exists in the world. As a result of this business customer base, free GPS tracking applications for the BlackBerry are much harder to come by. After all, isn’t it easier to justify spending a little of the business’ money to buy a tracking app than it is to justify spending some your own money to buy it? Despite this, there is an impressive number of free apps designed for BlackBerry users:
BlipPlus is an application created for use on BlackBerry smartphones and is designed as a social tracking application for those with GPS enabled phones.
They have a feature on the app called Share Your Where that enables you to broadcast your location to anyone within your social network as defined by the app. There are all sorts of benefits that can be gleaned by using this sort of application. You can meet with your friends with greater ease. You don’t even have to tell them where you are, just say look up my location using Google Maps or something like that. It can even be used to stay in sync with work associates who need to know when you are speaking with a certain client, etc. Families also benefit because knowing where the whole family is can increase safety, make things more efficient, and give everyone some peace of mind.
BlipPlus offer assistance by letting others choose how and when to contact you based upon you location data that you share with them. Efficiency is key when it comes to location information and this free cell phone tracker will help friends, family, and co-workers be exactly that.
GPSLogger is a essentially just that – a GPS logging application for the BlackBerry. It will record such information as your elevation, speed, and location over time. All of these are essential components to all personal tracking devices and applications, making ideal for people who like to record hikes, adventures, or trips in the car (for business or pleasure).
This free app will also let you use previously recorded or manually entered way-points as a way to remember where a parked car is or to point out an interesting Geocache. They call it the “Guide Me Home” feature and this is pretty standard fare for almost every data logging GPS tracker that has an interface on the tracking device itself. You can even use it to remember where a sweat restaurant is or the place you meet a beautiful woman.
Because all GPS loggers can be used as a sports tracker as well, the developers of this app have added a lap timer element to it as well, making this a full featured, if predictable, position logging app.
GPS Trackdown is a social tracking app that with a slight twist. If you choose to share your location with your Trackdown compatriots then you also have the ability to find get directions to their exact location. Did they move form the spot they were at five minutes ago? Just update their location and the turn-by-turn directions update as well. Pretty cool.
Other than that it is pretty standard location based search with ads that make the developers some nice coin. You can search for pizza, ATMs, hotels, and more with no real need to tell a search engine where you are since all searches already know your current location. This is generally useful, but can get pretty annoying sometimes if you ask me.
Another interesting thing about this is that you can only share your location by text, email, or tweet. No link posting on websites like Facebook or MySpace. This is certainly okay, but some people may find this a little off setting.
And, of course, this GPS cell phone tracking is free – which makes it way better than if you had to pay to use it.
WhereAreYou GPS Tracking
WhereAreYou is the tracking app for all those people who want to secretly track the cell phone of a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or child. It runs “silently” in the background with no way for the person being tracking to tell that something is on their phone broadcasting the location to the person that set it up.
The app is really easy to install and get going. Simply:
Download Silent GPS from BlackBerry App World to the mobile phone that you are trying to secretly track
The app will automatically install itself, asking you to create an account that you can log in on the web and see the phone’s location
The app will run silently in the background, tracking the cell phone and telling you where it is when you log into the web account
The app will track things silently – this means that no user interaction or application icon is going to visible at all on the BlackBerry. This means that you can track secretly without them knowing. You just have to get the phone and do the installation for them.
Tracking is also very easy with this app. Just:
Go to p46.qitlabs.com and enter user/password that you created when installing the program on the phone
There you will see a map with the mobile’s location clearly marked for you to see
There you can also set up tracking intervals to keep the life of the battery so the person you are tracking doesn’t know what is going on – conserving their battery life is key hereY
This app certainly has applications in the business world, but it also can be used by private citizens to track a teenager or to catch a cheating spouse. Before you start tracking someone, please check to make sure that it would be legal in your area to do so.
GPS Fox Hunt
GPS Fox Hunt is definitely an interesting take on the free GPS cell phone tracking app. It takes a cell phone’s ability to track itself and share that information with other cell phones and turns it into a game where each phone becomes a piece in a game. Social tracking has simply been taken to one of the many different possibilities available to it.
The game essentially is a version of hide and seek. There is one phone that is it – this is the fox. All other players in the game are trying to find the one phone that is it. They get to see how far away from you they are which can be useful because they can tell if they are heading in the right direction or not.
This game would be fun to play inside a shopping mall or some other public place with lots of people to “hide” among. It could also be fun out in the wilderness somewhere too – but you have to have connection with your cell phone tower for that.
Here is a video from the game creator that explains the game well enough:
While the idea is interesting and exciting this particular app doesn’t seem to have the favor of users on the BlackBerry Appworld website. It only has a few reviews and has only been around for a few months, so this is likely to change given that new releases of free products and have some kinks that need to be ironed out. But in all this is a pretty cool idea for an app and I hope that things work out for the developer and it makes it big.
Free Windows Cell Phone Trackers
It seems really strange to be including Windows Mobile phones in this list of free cell phone tracking apps, but here it is. Windows Mobile is certainly trying to keep pace with the likes of iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. With the release of Windows Mobile 7 they may be on the right track to getting back into the fray, but it could also be too little too late to be a major player. I doubt that Windows will ever go away completely, they just probably won’t be the market giants that they are on PC. That will almost certainly go to either Android or iPhone – but perhaps I am too young to see the usefulness of Windows.
Unfortunately, we could not use the Windows App Store to find any free GPS cell phone tracking apps. If you have any suggestions please use the contact form linked to at the bottom of this post to alert us to some of the Windows Mobile apps available.
Free Multi-Platform Cell Phone Trackers
Multi-platform cell phone trackers recognize that the best way to reach the most customers is to have a product that can be used by the most people, irregardless of the cell phone that they use on a day to day basis. This makes these free trackers particularly interesting because they open up the world of social tracking to users of all stripes and styles. The iPhone user can track their BlackBerry business friend just as easily as they can other iPhone users. They bring everyone together and make tracking everyone can engage in. While these multi-platform trackers are often anything but perfect and often favor social aspects of tracking over secret or covert tracking they are still extremely powerful in any number of functions not specifically endorsed by the programs creators. Here are some of the best free multi-platform GPS cell phone trackers:
GPS Tracker from Instamapper
This is a powerful GPS tracking application for cell phones that is available on lots of platforms. Right now, it is available on Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry phones (we talked about it under the iPhone section). There are some restrictions for BlackBerry phones – like it doesn’t work on Verizon, lame.
But by far the coolest thing about the Instamapper software is that it works on Boost Mobile phones. You can buy a really cheap iDen phone for under $50 and then get a data plan that could run you around $0.35 a day. Hard wire the sucker to the battery of your car and you have a real time GPS cell phone tracking system for your car. This works great for teen drivers, cheating spouses, and theft prevention. They even have instructions on how to do it all on their website.
Instamapper is definitely the way to go for a DIY, free GPS cell phone tracking solution.
We talked about this one under the iPhone heading, but it is another one of those apps that is designed to be used by lots of other cell phone operating system. It works on iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian mobile phones. They have even made an effort to get this application on the BlackBerry by just releasing an app for this cell phone brand that is still in Beta. As a result it really on works on the Bold 9700, Curve 8900, Bold 9000, and Tour 9360.
You won’t get the world with this app as it really is only designed to use GPS tracking to create excellent, real time traffic data and it relies exclusively on the efforts of its users to make the app work. But it really is a great concept and it might just work as planned if not overshadowed by Google Navigate which tries to do the same thing. Who knows, maybe Waze will get bought out by the internet giant before all is said and done.
Google Latitude is one of the premier social tracking apps available right now. There are a few different reasons for this. The first is that it is created by Google. Google already has a huge user base for everything that it does. Maps and Navigate a huge apps that work of the same framework as Latitude and already have a huge buy in from lots of mobile phone users. Their free cell phone tracker is certainly going to benefit from this market position.
The app is also available on a huge number of platforms. We didn’t even include it in one of the mobile phone operating system categories because it is available on Android, iPhone (and iPad), BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian S60, and most Sony Ericsson devices. Because it is available on so many different platforms it is widely used – boasting 9 million users. That is more than any other GPS tracking app by far.
There are some significant weaknesses to the whole Latitude idea. For example, all tracking is constant and done in the background. While this is great for families or other close knit groups it really doesn’t work to well with friends, work buddies, or acquaintances. There is also not much to actually DO with Latitude other than broadcast your location and see where other people are at. Great for families and possibly for business, but not that fun otherwise.
This app has a strong base and could be something great. Possibly.
Lookout Mobile Security
We learned about Lookout Mobile Security with the rest of the free Android GPS cell phone trackers, but it is available on Windows phones and the BlackBerry. This is a very powerful app for the security conscious and should be downloaded without the slightest bit of hesitation. There is a difference between the free app and the pay app, so don’t expect the moon. You still get a lot with the free app, its just not the whole shooting match.
This make sense because the company has to make some money on it, but with 2 million users in 170 countries you have to expect that at least some of them are paying the 2.99 for the premium service. If just 30% are paying customer then the folks behind the app are making nearly $2 million a month. Wowza. That is a lot of money.
A run of the mill social tracking application I am not sure why you would use this app unless you have lots of friends who are already using it. It was mentioned under our BlackBerry section but it is also available on the iPhone.
The Future of Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
Where are all these free cell phone trackers pointing? I think that what all this is leading up to is a world where location based information is going to be widely available and consumed by consumer and business alike. People are already beginning to share their location more with each other and businesses are starting to use location based targeting in ads they deliver to customers. Companies like Google, Palm, and others are poised to make lots of money if this type of advertising is going to be as effective as some think it will be. Coarse location based targeting is already available on the web and seems to be fairly effective at reaching the intended audience. It is only a matter of time before it becomes the main way to deliver ads to consumers.
There are also increasing concerns about cell phone tracking in the legal world. Who can track whom? In what contexts is this tracking legal and in what contexts is it illegal? When does tracking become stalking? All these questions are beginning to be answered in the courts and this will have an impact on how this technology is going to be used going forward. I can imagine one case making mobile phone tracking too dangerous for any company to touch is a ten foot pole, but we shall see how all this plays out.
For now anyway, GPS cell phone trackers are going to on the rise as more and more people realize that these can be extremely useful applications that will enhance the usefulness of their phones and make their lives more interesting. They can also let their users know information that would have otherwise not have been available to them. Cell phone tracking is too powerful a technology for people to ignore.
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For being someone who blogs about technology I have a confession to make – I have never owned a cell phone. I know this is incredibly strange and does not make sense but it is the honest truth. It just never seemed necessary to be able to be contacted at any time by any person so I just never wanted to fork out the money to get one.
However, the steady prodding of my wife, the fact that I have this blog about GPS tracking, and the super cool Android cell phones that are coming out have all pushed me towards a decision to get into the market.
Going From Nothing To A GPS Smartphone
Now that I am pretty certain that I am going to get a phone I had a decision to make – do I just get any old phone or do I go big and bold and get some top of the line cell phone. Being the type of guy that I am I had to go with the biggest, best phone that I could find. If I am going to cave and a mobile phone I might as well get something that is going to be both fun and useful.
Naturally, it would have to be a cell phone with GPS so that I could use it test out cool and fun GPS tracking programs on it as well as have some pretty sweet features that could be interesting to use in a whole host of other applications. A good camera would be nice. The same holds true for a super fast processor. However, the absolute must is going to have to be the ability to work all over the country.
The immediate front runners for my phone of choice are the iPhone, the HTC Incredible, and the Droid X. I am sure that there are some other phones that fit the above criteria on other networks like Sprint or T-Mobile, but Verizon and AT&T are really the only ones I am considering. Verizon has the lead because my wife is already on that network, but AT&T is also a consideration because they are the only one with currently carry an iPhone.
Verizon vs. AT&T
When it comes to quality of network I think Verizon is beating AT&T, especially since now AT&T has decided to drop its unlimited data plan. Here is just a simple graphic stolen from Verizon advertising to show some of the difference:
To be fair, AT&T claims to cover 97% of all Americans, as the video below demonstrates:
I think when it comes down to it, Verizon beats AT&T in this department – at least from an advertising perspective. Add to this the fact that I have not heard one good thing about AT&Ts service from anyone I know and you have a clear case for Verizon in the carrier department.
Apple vs. Android
Now that I’ve talked about the carrier situation a little I should turn my attention to the actual devices I am thinking of making my phone. The most obvious distinction between the two are that one runs an Apple OS and the other two run the Android OS. I have to be honest again, I don’t know jack squat about operating systems. I am not a technonerd. I just like things to run fast and run smoothly. Besides that I don’t care. And as far as I know both OSs work great.
But there is something that I kind of do think is important that separates the two sides: one is open source while the other is proprietary. To me, this is a huge deal. Giving users the ability to create programs for the phone that can increase its functionality and improve user experience for free is a huge benefit in my opinion. To me, this makes the Android OS better.
What follows now is a brief discussion of each of the phones:
The HTC Incredible
The HTC Incredible has been out for a few months now and is looking to be a very solid cell phone. It definitely has some GPS features built in to it so it can be used for my GPS tracking tests if I were to get it. It is also a fast phone with a 1 GHz processor which means that it is already a better computer than my first desktop that my family owned 10+ years ago. With 8 GB of physical memory it also vast outshines that old machine that ushered me into the computer age.
The phone is also appealing to the eye – or at least so say I – and it looks like it has a host of other features for those who like to look at things. The 3.7″ screen is a decent size and seems large enough to view webpages and such with ease. I also like the 8 Megapixel camera that it sports and think that being able to take pictures at night is a plus – yay for flash!
From what I can tell, it looks like the HTC Incredible looks like it should run for 5 hours under constant use, 146 hours in standby mode.
I also think HTC has some cool things included in it like their social networking mashup program or something. It makes my wife excited about the phone. For me, it doesn’t really matter.
Overall, it looks like a great phone worthy of my consideration.
The Droid X
Compared to the HTC Incredible, the Droid X is pretty much the same phone in the sense that you are going to be getting the Android OS on Verizon. It also sports an 8 Megapixel camera with night flash. It has a 1 GHz processor two, but of a different variety (I think). In general, you are going to be getting the same phone with the same features, just different.
The main difference is that the screen is going to be bigger on the Droid X. It comes in at 4.3″. It also is going to let you shoot video in 720p, which isn’t too bad. It’s not 1080p, but it definitely is better than the standard 480p that comes through your TV. Another difference is that the Droid X comes with 24 GB of memory out of the box, which is probably more than I will ever use.
I guess I should also note that both the Droid X and the the HTC Incredible come with Google Latitude and Google Maps Navigation standard. The former is a free GPS tracking application for cell phones and the later is a free navigation application for cell phones. Both rock.
The iPhone 4
The iPhone is a different breed of phone. Coming from Apple you are going to get a completely feel and different operating system. They even market their product differently, which means that it is going to be appealing to a different type of person. Just take a look:
And this one:
Let’s be honest here, the iPhone is definitely outside of my demographic when it comes to the marketing campaigns. But that is neither here nor there. The iPhone 4 is a serious phone with a host of things to offer its user. Built in GPS, a video phone feature, tons of apps, a slick design and intuitive operation – some think that the iPhone has it all.
The phone definitely seems fun to have, but I don’t think its for me. Its just too cool to have an iPhone and I am not very cool. Sorry Apple.
I think that when it comes down to it I am going to be getting the Droid X. But I think I am going to cheat and actually get both the Droid X and the HTC Incredible. The former is going to be for me. The later for my wife. That way I can test the GPS tracking applications for each phone. It will also help use test things out and see exactly what our Android GPS cell phones can actually do. If you have any questions or things you would love to see us take a look at with the phones just leave a comment below and we will be sure to get around to testing it out for you. It might take us a few weeks/months to get both phones since they are nowhere to be found – but once we get them we will let you know everything we find out.
Almost everyone has had the experience of misplacing or losing their cell phone. We also all know what it is like to search and search for our lost cell phone in the hope of finding in some obvious or not so obvious spot. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to leverage a cell phones built in GPS technology to help it “find” itself? Lost cell phone GPS tracking is real and is a very powerful and efficient way for people to recover their mobile phones once thy have misplaced them.
This article is going to attempt to give an introduction to how GPS locates cell phones in the world and how this information can be used by owners to find their lost cell phone.
GPS: What Is It?
The Global Positioning System (of which GPS is the acronym) is a network of satellites that orbit the earth and specialized receivers here on earth that interact with each other. The system was developed by the US military in an effort to get a better understanding of where their forces were at any given moment and has been around fro several decades. It was made available to the public under President Ronald Reagan and since then there has been an explosion in the use of GPS technology by regular citizens. We are all familiar with GPS navigation technology, and this is one of the most prolific uses of GPS in the consumer market.
The way GPS works is through a mathematical principle called trilateration. The simple explanation of trilateration is this – if you know where three things are in the world and you know your distance from each of those things then you can figure out exactly where you are. If that doesn’t make much sense then just take a look at the picture to the right. You can know where Point B is in the world if you know where P1, P2, and P3 are.
The world of the Global Positioning Systems, the satellites that orbit the earth are represented like P1, P2, and P3 in our picture above. These satellites emit a signal through the air the travels at a certain speed. This signal contains information like the time that it was sent and a uniquely identifying id. This information is then process by a GPS receiver, which is the same as point B in the picture above. The receiver takes the information sent by the satellites and finds out its distance from each of P1, P2, and P3. It then does some fancy math and finds out exactly where it is right now.
Some GPS receivers that are used for navigation will then show the user this data in map form so that they can know where they are. GPS tracking devices will take the data and send it out over a cell phone network (GSM tracker) or over a communicate satellite (satellite tracker). Still other devices, known as data loggers will simply store the data on its hard drive for download at a later time. Whatever GPS device you are using, they all work of this same principle of trilateration and all fit into the same category.
GPS In Cell Phones
A few years ago GPS receivers began to find their way into cell phones. Then there was a move by the federal government that required cell phone carriers develop a way to help them find out the location that 9-1-1 phone calls made from cell phone originated. The carriers had the option then of using their own GSM networks to create a tracking system based off of the same principle as the GPS network. Some carriers went with this option. Other carriers decided to go ahead and put GPS in cell phones that they were going to provide to their customers.
There are a lot of different things that people use GPS in cell phones now these days. The first and most obvious is navigation. Almost everyone likes to get turn by turn directions spoken to them, especially when traveling in new and unknown places. Cell phone navigation has become to prevalent that some industry experts suspect that the cell phone is going to surpass the PND (Personal Navigation Device) as the navigation device of choice in just a few years time.
Cell phone GPS is also used for all sorts of fun apps and internet surfing features. If you want to know of good restaurants that are near you right now, there are internet searches and apps for that. If you would love to find out the prices of homes in your neighborhood then there is a real estate GPS tracking app for that too. There are literally tons and tons of different ways that GPS is being used by everyday people for any number of normal activities. It is safe to say that GPS receivers in cell phone are making the world a thoroughly more navigable place.
GPS Tracking of Cell Phones
But this article is about lost cell phone GPS tracking, not about all the cool things that GPS is doing for cell phone technology. So to help us understand how GPS can help us find lost cell phones a quick word needs to be said about the GPS tracking of cell phones. A brief definition of GPS tracking should be given: GPS tracking is the ability to track the location of a person, vehicle, or object as it moves throughout the world. There are two types of GPS tracking, passive and active. Active tracking occurs in real time and lets you find out where something is right now. Passive GPS tracking has to do with data loggers, which find out your position and then store it on the device for use later when you can download the information into some tracking software.
Anyway, the tracking available in cell phones is real time GPS tracking – and this is important because it will allow you to use it in order to find a lost cell phone. It would work something like this. You download a GPS tracking application onto your cell phone from among one of the many different free GPS tracking applications or software available. Once it is downloaded and installed you just keep it running on your phone so that you will have a running GPS log of your location. If you ever lose your cell phone, you can find out the last place it was when the battery still had a charge.
In order to use your GPS to help find your lost cell phone you need to have the following conditions met:
Your cell phone must be turned on.
You must have a GPS tracking application installed on your phone.
The tracking app must be running. This will ensure that the GPS is actively reading signals from the satellites in order to find out its location. It will also then send that information over the cell phone network so that you can view it on the internet.
Your cell phone must be receiving signals from satellites. If your phone is buried beneath 100 feet of concrete then there is no hope of finding it!
Your cell phone must be getting a signal from cell phone towers. If it is not then you will not have a method of sending information to the Internet for you to look at it.
If you meet all of these criteria then you should be able to find a lost cell phone with GPS tracking.
We have also included a larger list of apps that you can download to smart phones of several different varieties. Just check out our post about free GPS cell phone trackers.
Ways to Use It
One of the most important ways that this technology can be used is to help children keep track of their cell phones. GPS cell phones for kids are great because they provide excellent safety for our children, but they are no good to use or to them if they lose them. If you need to know where their lost mobile phone is just log onto the computer and figure it out.
The same is true for businessmen who have a cell phone with all their work contacts and email on it. If they were to lose this device it could disastrous for their next sales call if not for their entire career. If they have GPS tracking installed on their Blackberry then they should have no problem finding their phone and avoiding certain disaster.
If you would like more information on how to use your cell phone to find itself, please check out How to Find a Lost Cell Phone with GPS Tracking. It should provide you with some helpful tips on what you should do and give you some ideas of the different programs available for use in this type of tracking.
GPS tracking works great in cell phones. Their small, light-weight nature makes them a perfect fit for the way that most people live their lives. It also is the perfect vehicle for tracking because it is connected to GSM cell phone networks, giving them the ability to send large amounts of information long distances almost instantly. This could not be done with standard telephones. Telephone GPS tracking wouldn’t even make any sense since they are static and do not move anywhere.
Do you have any helpful tips for people trying to utilize lost cell phone GPS tracking?