Cell Phone GPS Tracking

by Joe Mueller on April 12, 2009

Cell phone GPS tracking is a little tricky to talk about because mobile phones have GPS-like capabilities without having to be GPS devices.  So, in some cases, a cell phone is able to be tracked even when it doesn’t have a GPS receiver installed in it.  The reason behind this is rather simple and has everything to do with a principle I have already covered on this site: trilateration.

Once you understand the basics behind this principle you will see that is is obvious that a cell phone could be tracked whether or not it was GPS enable.  Simply put, trilateration takes the know distance of an entity from 3 or more objects to calculate the exact location of that entity.  I know, that sounds confusing – but it really isn’t.

Imagine that you are sitting somewhere in a room.  The room is a 10×10 square and you are somewhere in it and you want to find out exactly where you are in the room.  There is a desk in the middle of one of the walls that you are 5 feet from.  On the exact opposite wall there is another table in the middle of the wall that you are exactly 5 feet from as well.  Then there is a mirror on the third wall that you are looking at yourself from 5 feet away.  Where are you in the room?

If you answered, “In the center.”  Then you already know everything you need about trilateration to completely understand how a cell phone can work without actually having a GPS tracking device installed in it.

Let’s use the example of the two table and the mirrors from above to help us understand this.  The tables and the mirrors here represent cell phone towers that are dotted across urban landscapes all over the country.  In my city, they are dressed up to look like palm trees or other pleasant things but you still know what it is, a cell tower.

These cell towers transmit cellular signals out to mobile phones.  The signals travel at a constant speed which makes finding out the distance between cell phones and cell towers very easy.  All one must do is record the amount of time it takes between the time that the signal was transmitted by the tower and when it arrived at the cell phone.  You then take the time that it took and multiply it by the speed at which the signal traveled.  This looks something like this:

Distance Traveled = Speed x Time


This will give you the cell phone’s distance from the cell tower.  Since the cell phone provider (a cell phone provider is a company like Nextel, AT&T, Verizon, TMobile, etc.) knows exactly where they cell tower is, they know that the cell phone is within x number of feet from that tower.  Imagine a big circle surrounding the cell tower in the map in your mind.

Now imagine a second cell tower that also transmits a signal that is picked up by the cell phone.  This is a certain distance from this second cell tower so imagine another circle around this second tower.  Where the two circles intersect are the potential locations of the cell phone as far as the cell phone provider is concerned.

Once you add a third tower in the mix you should have a pretty darn good fix on the location of the cell phone – all without the use of GPS tracking devices.

It is important to understand that this is also exactly how GPS works, but instead of cellular towers on the urban landscape you have satellites in the heavenly firmament  and instead of circles you have spheres around each satellite.  This is pretty amazing stuff if you ask me.

Now that we have learned that cell phones can have GPS tracking without actually having a GPS device installed in it, let’s take a look at what can be done with GPS cell phone tracking.

There are several different applications that should be considered, but we will only take a look at three to give us a flavor of just how awesome this type of technology can be.  Cellphone GPS tracking can be used for navigation purposes, to monitor a loved ones activity, and to learn useful things about your current location.

Cell Phone Tracking and Navigation

There is little doubt that the use of GPS for navigation purposes is a huge industry.  That was, after all, one of the initial impetus behind the Department of Defense creating the satellite system.  They wanted a way to know where they assets were but they also wanted to us it to tell where there assets were going.

GPS navigation has become the norm in many families across America with Garmins or TomToms or Magellans replacing the friendly AAA triptiks of two decades ago.  I still remember as a child going into the AAA office with my mother to get a triptik ready for a family vacation.  Now, you just enter your trip into the GPS and it does all the routing for you.

Cell phone companies realized that this was a huge market and that their technology could easily break into it.  They could either us GPS technology to do the mapping just like a Garmin can, or they could leverage the cellular signals they were already broadcasting to create new navigation systems.  Some companies decided to go with GPS and other stuck with the cell signal.

Either way you look at, cell phones now use GPS or a GPS-like technology to give turn-by-turn directions to drivers all over the country.  While this isn’t GPS tracking as most would think of it, it still is using a cellular phone to track and record position information.  It can tell people how to fast you are traveling, an ETA (estimated time of arrival), and it can actively tell you your current location.  This is GPS tracking if you ask me.

As we will see this information can be used for other purposes other than navigation.

Cell Phone GPS Tracking And Location Monitoring

Location monitoring is another useful application of GPS in cell phones.  Unlike the type of tracking that goes on for navigation purposes, the information used to track the location of a cell phone is actually transmitted from the cell phone back to the cell company.  This process is often referred to as “tracing a cell phone.”

We hear about it all the time if we watch any crime show drama.  They are always putting “a trace on the cell phone” or “triangulating the cell’s position” – especially when a kidnapper or other bad person decides to call up our favorite detectives for a to have a chat.  Essentially what is happening in these instances is that a third party, in the case the police, are using information gathered by a cell phone provider to find the location of a caller.

The police obviously find this information particularly useful, especially when responding to a 911 call made from a cell phone.  But there are other interesting applications for this as well.  One of them is to GPS track a teen in order to monitor their driving habits or to make sure that they are not lying to you about where they are. All teens use cell phones these days so this service is relatively painless for you and for them.  It is also relatively cheap and can be as little as $6 a month for 4 phones.

Another application of cell phone tracking is for getting fitness performance metrics.  Just take your phone with you on a run or bike ride when you have a certain application installed and you will automatically get information like the average speed of your run and the distance traveled.  You will even be able to see your entire course on a mapping application like Google Maps.

Another bit of information that cell phones have been regularly used to monitor is the activity of a spouse or lover suspected of cheating.  In situations where this could be going on it is imperative that the suspecting spouse snoops around the other’s activities.  This can involved GPS tracking or it can be through other methods, it just has to get done.  Cell phone GPS tracking can be a good solution for individuals that find themselves in this situation so you might want to consider using it.  It might be difficult if you have separate cell phone plans or they regularly pay the cell phone bill since any tracking charges will undoubtedly show up on your bill.  But if you are in charge of this you might be able to set up GPS tracking without them even knowing it.

Finally, cell phones can be a great way to introduce GPS into a kids life.  You could use the phone for GPS tracking for kids or you could just use it to help your child learn about the world around them.  Kids do great with mapping applications and it can really help them get a better understanding of the world around them.  They can also be used to keep kids safe in case of an emergency or other terrible occurance.

These types of location monitoring and tracking applications are going to become more prevalent over the next decade as we experiment with this relatively new technology.  It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

GPS Tracking Cell Phones and Random Data

The last way that I wanted to talk about was the use of cell phones to communicate random data based upon the location of the user.  What I have in mind for this are apps (like those found on the iPhone) that tell you something specific that you can take action on or find interesting about your location.

If you are on a street and are feeling like Chinese food but don’t know the area you can type “Chinese” into this cell phone tracking app and it will give the location of the 5 closest Chinese restaurants along with some customer reviews and relative price points for the meals.

This idea can have many different applications in areas as diverse as real estate and movie theaters; fishing and ball room dance classes; or finding a replacement part on a car and finding a nanny.  Whatever someone is willing to write an app for the GPS tracking cell phone is going to be able to provide laser-like access to position information that can be used to make life simpler and finding the closest solution to a problem easier.

All of these applications of cell phone GPS tracking have current uses today, but can only be expected to be improved upon with time and advances in personal tracking technology.  You simply cannot underestimate the power of GPS tracking in a cell phone package – it is, in my opinion the future of all things GPS.

Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking

I have compiled a short list of free GPS tracking software and applications, with the majority of the applications working on mobile phones.  Feel free to check out this list and see if your cell phone is already compatible with one of the systems.  If it isn’t, you could always buy a new phone, right?

I also have made some comments on how free free GPS tracking really is - if you are interested in reading those as well.  To sum up I said that if you already have everything that you need (i.e. GPS smartphone and a robust data plan) then it will truly be free.  If you don’t have either of these things then getting free GPS cell phone tracking is going to be anything but free.  You will have to pay the costs associated with getting the new phone and subscribing to the data plan.

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kavin.c August 11, 2009 at 9:58 pm

If any softwares used for tracking the mobile phone,In which web site i can got it.plz send it to me………….thank you

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2 Joe August 12, 2009 at 2:34 am

Hello Kavin,

If you are looking for software that can be used to track a mobile phone I suggest that you check out this post: Free GPS Tracking Software and Applications. It lists a whole bunch of free cell phone tracking applications that can be used on compatible mobile phones. If you need help deciding if the mobile phone you have is going to be compatible with any given system you should check out the website of the specific system and check their compatible phone lists.

-Joe

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3 Louis August 21, 2009 at 11:57 am

what if a Phone is lost. Could the phone be located directly from the web without having installed gps software on the phone prior to losing the phone.

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4 Joe August 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Hi Louis,

That is an excellent question. The short answer is no, you probably won’t be able to find your cell phone that you lost if you haven’t installed some sort of real time tracking software on it.

But …

You could find your cell phone, right now, if you had the full power of the cell phone company working for you. Almost all phones that are on can be tracked by the cell phone company if required by law enforcement personnel. Criminals can have their phone tracked without the phone having to have any special software installed in it. This is just the way that phones these days work. I just doubt that your cell phone company is going to begin tracking your cell phone for you just because you lost it.

It is unfortunate, but maybe you will install GPS tracking software on your phone next time?

-Joe

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5 MN78 April 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I find it necessary for the celluar phone carriers to have this feature ready when someone opt for the feature and the need for local police department to do what is necessary to track these phones if a crime reported. Phone nowadays can store addresses, personal address, and the picture of your belove ones and the information hold on these phones can directly harm others if fallen to the wrong hand. Unfortunately, most of the staffs at the police deparments are too busy going through the process of the petty crimes. They do not realize that stolen/robbed cellular phone nowadays can provide the key to minimize crimes. It’s sad to hear when they’ll try their best to track your phone only when there is life/death emergency. Yet, not realizing your personal information, address book, photos can lead to the next victim…

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6 Joe April 13, 2012 at 5:08 am

Hi MN78,

I totally see where you are coming from on this. I just don’t think that most cell phones are used to target somebody. For sure it happens and it should not happen, but I think the vast majority (here in the US) are stolen and pawned or sold in secondary markets like Craigslist.

- Joe

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7 lovemasster May 22, 2012 at 10:00 am

i love you you joe

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8 surferethanfashgdkhgfvh May 22, 2012 at 8:26 am

what about a wallet

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9 Bruce October 22, 2009 at 4:05 pm

could you track other phone that are not a smart phone and not your own?

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10 Joe November 3, 2009 at 11:07 am

Hi Bruce,

I’m going to take your question in two parts. It seems like the first part is this, can you track a phone if it is not a smart phone? The answer depends on what you mean by the word “smartphone.” This is from Wikipedia:

A smartphone is a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, often with PC-like functionality (PC-mobile handset convergence). There is no industry standard definition of a smartphone. For some, a smartphone is a phone that runs complete operating system software providing a standardized interface and platform for application developers. For others, a smartphone is simply a phone with advanced features like e-mail, Internet and e-book reader capabilities, and/or a built-in full keyboard or external USB keyboard and VGA connector. In other words, it is a miniature computer that has phone capability.

So, if you think that having a GPS component makes a cell phone a smartphone then the answer to your question is yes – the phone must be a smart phone in order for users to track it.

The second part of your question centered on the issue of whether or not you can track a phone that is not yours. The key thing to understand here is that you do need to be able to install some software onto the phone or be able to access already installed software on the phone in order to get the tracking information on it. In a de facto sort of way this means that most people are not going to be able to track a phone that is not theirs.

I hope this answers some of your questions.

-Joe

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11 grace November 17, 2009 at 7:42 pm

dear joe! please help me i recently lost my cell phone and i turned it off casue i put it in one of my jeans or in one of my coat/jakcet pockets and i dont know what happend to it ever sence. PLEASE HELP ME! AND SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE EVEN THOUGH I TIRED MY VERY HARDEST TO LOOK FOR IT?!?! or should i do the same thing as the same sign as above?

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12 grace November 17, 2009 at 7:43 pm

dear joe, con. comment 2, i know that a lot of my clothes are in the washing and dryer but so far no luck i even prayed that i would find it still nothing has happend!

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13 Joe November 18, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Hi Grace,

I am sorry that you lost your phone. You should not call the police about a lost cell phone. They will not be able to help you and you will waste their time. You should really only call the police when a crime has been committed or you are in a very serious, life-or-death situation.

I recommend that you calm down and think about where you last put your cell phone. Remember which jacket or jeans you would have put it in and what you did with each one of those items. Build a mental history of what happened and then work forward from there. GPS tracking won’t help you find your lost cell phone now because it is turned off and probably didn’t have the software needed to make it work.

I hope you find your phone!

-Joe

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14 Jami November 27, 2009 at 4:57 pm

could you still use the gps tracking device if the battery was taken out of the phone? i had mine stolen and it continues to go straight to voicemail when i try and call it. i was wondering if it would still send out signals if it didnt have a battery or was turned off.

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15 Joe November 27, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Hello Jami,

As far as I know, you are out of luck when it comes to being able to track a cell phone that is turned off. A cell phone without a battery is also not going to be able to be tracked through a GPS. I’m sorry, but I hope you get your cell phone back!

-Joe

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16 HS December 22, 2009 at 10:06 am

Months ago I discussed cell phone positioning with a government employee, and he said something to the effect that here are three groups of positioning: Group A is single tower identification, Group B is multilateration to more than one tower, and Group C is actual satellite GPS. Have you heard of this (or similar classification)?

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17 Joe December 23, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Hi HS,

My understanding is that Group B and Group C are the most common way that cell phones can be tracked in the way that most people think about GPS cell phone tracking. Group A does exists, but it doesn’t really provide pin-point location information like Groups A and B do.

Perhaps some further explanation will make those two sentences a little clearer. Generally speaking, there needs to be many different signals for a cell phone to figure out where it is in the world. These signals can come from GPS satellites or they can come from cell phone towers and there needs to be at least three different signals in order for pretty precise location to be found for the device. This is the way most people think about cell phone tracking – fairly accurate and precise location information found in real time – and this can only be achieved via multiple signals from several different GPS satellites or cell phone towers.

There is another form of cell phone tracking that can be done when only one cell tower is in range (Group A), but this cannot give pin-point location information. Instead, it tracks a phones movement over large geographical areas. It might work like this:

The cell phone of a suspect is in a rural area where it is only getting a signal from one tower. As it moves throughout the countryside, the police can get a weak trace on it – getting a rough estimate of where the suspect is.

I hope that has been a helpful explanation and I haven’t left out anything important. Thanks for asking such a good question!

-Joe

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18 Mercan March 20, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Hello Joe
ı want ask ı need to find a adress over telephone number mobile telephone . its can be like this something ?
can you help me pleas thank you …

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19 Joe March 22, 2010 at 8:17 am

Hi Marcan,

I’m not exactly sure what you are asking. Are you looking for the address of the owner of a certain mobile phone number?

If that is the case I know of no way that a regular person will be able to find out the address of a mobile phone user. The cell phone company will have that information, but they will not give it to you just because you ask – you have to be the police or government agency for them to even think about giving it to you. Cell phone companies protect their customers privacy ferociously.

- Joe

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20 lugubriouso@yahoo.com July 19, 2010 at 12:06 am

can any one tell me if a phone can still be traced if a battery is taken as well taking out the sim card.

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21 Jim July 31, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Just a thought, I think someone should write an app, that works like a voice over GPS :), so making a standard Cell phone using Cell service most of the time, but in places where needed become a Satellite phone. (I know lots of complications – between different providers etc) but I think that would be cool.

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22 Joe August 1, 2010 at 12:44 am

Hi Jim,

I think that that would be a pretty cool idea. I know that there are satellite phones, and I know that there are cell phones (obviously), but what you are suggesting does make a lot of sense. Cell phones are much, much cheaper than satellite phones, but if you were to combine the two I am sure you could come up with an affordable way to give people the ability to make calls any time from anywhere in the world. Sure, it wouldn’t be cheap – but at least it would be cheaper than using a satellite phone all the time.

-Joe

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23 mike August 25, 2010 at 12:50 am

hi Joe
I hear that police can turn on the gps only with a serial number and locate the iphone thief, is this even true.? i saw that in the news…..

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24 Joe August 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Hi Mike,

Yeah, the police can track your cell phone very easily if they have a warrant. But the truth is that it really isn’t the police that are doing it – it is your cell phone company. The police just ask for the info and your cell phone company hands it over. Its even worse if you are a suspected terrorist ….

-Joe

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25 safhira October 9, 2010 at 9:12 am

se um celular for roubado,e tirarem a bateria dele..
ele poderá ser rastreado???

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26 Joe October 11, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Hi Safhira,

I’ll comment here in English first and post a copy of a translation created by Google Translate.

As far as I know, the only people who can track a phone with the battery out is no one. There is just no way for the device to relay information over the cell phone network. The cell phone towers cannot do it because the phone is off. The GPS cannot do it because the phone is off. As soon as the phone is turned back on it can be tracked. But it does have to be on. Sorry.

Tanto quanto sei, as únicas pessoas que podem rastrear um celular com a bateria é ninguém. Não há nenhuma maneira para o dispositivo, para transmitir informações através da rede celular. As torres de telefonia celular não pode fazer isso porque o telefone está desligado. O GPS não pode fazer isso porque o telefone está desligado. Assim que o telefone é girado para trás sobre ele pode ser rastreado. Mas tem que estar ligado. Sinto muito.

-Joe

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27 Liz October 13, 2010 at 10:22 am

Say I turn off the phone – take out the battery to not be tracked….then I turn it back on again – can the individual back track where I was before that?

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28 Joe October 14, 2010 at 6:10 am

Hi Liz,

Yes, you have it right. If you turn off the phone anyone tracking it will not be able to find out where you were while it was off.

- Joe

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29 Beau rouse October 20, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Is there a way to see if gps tracking software has been installed on my company cell phone short of asking the boss?

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30 Joe October 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Hi Beau,

It all really depends on the type of cell phone that you have and what type of application they are using. Almost all personal cell phones will give you the ability to know if you have an app installed that is tracking you. But if the carrier is the one tracking a personal cell phone – like in the Verizon Family Locator – then you have no way of knowing.

My guess is that if you are talking about a work phone then you probably can assume that you will are probably not going to be able to find out if they are tracking you, but if you are in some sort of occupation that forces you to drive around then you can be pretty sure that you are going to be tracked. More and more companies are doing it and it just makes sense for them to. Even if you are not being tracked now, you will can bet in the next couple of years that you will be.

- Joe

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31 Chandra November 2, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Okay, so I lost my phone before I could install the “where’s my droid app” or any other GPS app for that matter. Is there a way for me to get the GPS location of my phone without the app? For example, could I ask the police to look it up since they have the capability to look it up?? Please let me know soon as I am sure my phone is probably running out of battery. Also do you know if there is a way that I could get the cell phone company, I have verizon, to look up my location? I have unfortunately run into this situation before and they said that the police have to do it. I’m confused because I thought it was the phone companies looking up the GPS yet they say that the police have to do it. What is the case, and will it be possible for me to enable GPS without actually having my phone? Could I ask the phone company to put the app on my phone and then I can find it that way? Please let me know.

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32 Elwood November 9, 2010 at 4:18 pm

So I have caught my girlfriend lyeing to me a few times and don’t ever beleve her when she says she’s goin somewheres. She has a lg touch screen. How can I track her curent location using her cellphone number?

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33 Joe November 9, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Hi Elwood,

Thanks for asking the question. My guess is that you you should not track your girlfriend’s cell phone without her permission. She is not your wife. You have not made legally binding agreement with each other to be faithful to one another. As such, I don’t think you have any business tracking her phone unless she lets you.

If you don’t think you can trust her anymore then you might want to think about ending your relationship. If you can’t trust her now what makes you think you will be able to trust her in the future? Do you really think she will change for you?

- Joe

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34 abeba November 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

can any one tell about tracking the location of employees using mobile phone

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35 handyortung December 20, 2010 at 5:52 am

i have try to many tracker put is not work.

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36 Gerry February 14, 2011 at 8:24 am

I would like to track my wifes phone without her knowing. How can I track her curent location using her cellphone number?

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37 Joe February 15, 2011 at 9:20 am

Hey Gerry,

You can track her phone by installing some tracking software onto the phone. You cannot simply go to a website, type in her number, and find out where the phone is. It doesn’t work like that.

Here are two lists of apps and software that you can use to track your wife:

Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
Free GPS Tracking Apps and Software

You will have to get creative to use these covertly (ie without her knowing), but it can be done.

You can also activate the parental location features through your cell phone company. These are not free, but normally cost around $10 per month.

- Joe

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38 Jordan February 14, 2011 at 11:15 am

Abeba, I think you are talking about tracking employees who use company cars to do deliveries and pick up customers etc? Try a search for employee tracking GPS on google, or go to the car tracking page on this website. There are a ton of products.

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39 Michael February 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Hi Joe,

Once installed, can the GPS be turned on and off randomly on the cell phone while still using it? For example, turn on the PGS from 8:00am to 5:00pm and then turn off the application and not allow the GPS tracking but still utilize the cell phone.

Thanks,
Michael

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40 Joe February 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes and no. I personally have a Motorola Droid X and my wife has an HTC Incredible and we both can turn off our GPS whenever we want to. I’m not sure if you can turn it off at specific times automatically or not – it doesn’t appear to be something that is built into the phone but there may be an app that will let you do it. Once GPS is deactivated on the phone most GPS based apps are not going to work properly.

If you are interested in turning on or off the GPS on someone else’s phone that you have no physical control over then you are out of luck. I know of no way to do this aside from “hacking” the phone. This would not be a good idea and would probably get you in a lot of trouble with the cops.

I hope that helps.

- Joe

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41 lester March 1, 2011 at 10:28 am

hey joe, I am a Repo agent is there anyway for me to ping a cell phone of the owner of a vehicle. To try and locate the car.

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42 Joe March 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Hi Lester,

I know of no such way for you to do it. It might exist, but it sounds like it would be illegal.

Maybe you can get a friend at the cell phone company?

You can use a phone number lookup tool and find the registered address of their phone number. Maybe the car is parked in front?

-Joe

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43 Larry April 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Joe:
Any thoughts or observations about the quality of Google’s Latitude service? I installed it on my daughter’s HTC Droid about a year ago. It seems flakey to me (frequently showing an obsolete location) but it maybe we didn’t configure it properly. I notice its conspicuous absence in your postings.

Larry

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44 Joe April 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hi Larry,

I do have some thoughts about it. I had been very pleased with the way that it worked in the past. The updates were not very regular, but they seemed good enough to me to passively track my wife when she drove across 4 states. It also wasn’t laser like in its precision, but definitely good enough.

This seems to have changed. I haven’t seen an official announcement about it (because I haven’t looked), but it looks like you have to updated your position for your friends to know where you are. It doesn’t do it automatically like it used to. This is a serious difference and shortcoming (in my opinion) – but it is the way most social trackers work so I am not surprised. Many thought that Latitude was a creepy social GPS tracking app for the auto updates. Google apparently agreed.

- Joe

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45 phoenix April 5, 2011 at 9:54 pm

i received a text saying…easy locator. i have a verizon zte phone(not a smart phone. Can you tell me what this means?

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46 Joe April 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Hi Phoenix,

It looks like Easy Locator is a GPS tracking application for phones running a Symbian operating system. It probably means that someone is trying to track your phone. I would go through it and find out if some application is on there that you did not install yourself. I would also find out who it is who sent you that text because they might have installed a tracker on your phone for some reason.

- Joe

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47 Andrew April 13, 2011 at 5:09 am

Hi joe
I lost my cellphone in a club…. probably stolen as when i phone it i get voicemail :( …… It has gps etc and can be turned on and used without a simcard inside…. is it possible to track it if it has no simcard inside but has a battery ?
Please reply Asap
Thanx Joe

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48 Joe April 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Hi Andrew,

That really sucks. I feel for you.

A phone can only be tracked when it is actively connected to a cell phone network. If it does not have a sim card then it is probably not going to be on a network which means that it cannot be tracked. If you have already installed a tracker on it then you might be able to find out your last known location before the phone was shut off, lost battery, or had its sim card removed.

Otherwise you will have to hope it turns up somewhere.

- Joe

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49 Jasmine April 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Hi Joe,

Say I had a phone that was being tracked. I then shut off the phone for a few months, had the number changed and the phone bill charged to a different account. If the person tracking the phone previously did not have the new number or the new account information, would they still be able to track the phone?

Thanks for reading,
Jasmine

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50 Joe April 20, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Hi Jasmine,

That is certainly an interesting question. The answer I think depends upon how they were tracking your cell phone. Here is quick run down:

If they tracked you with a program installed on the phone they will be able to track you for as long as you have the program on the phone – irregardless of what carrier you are on or what your number is.

If they are tracking you using a carrier specific feature, like Verizon’s Family Locator, then you will only be tracked for as long as you are part of their cell phone plan.

How were they tracking you?

- Joe

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51 fazal ahad April 27, 2011 at 6:39 am

R /sir
i just want to know about tracking the stole mobile . how to find it ? how to track it?
and wich software are using for tracking a mobile pleas send me complet information how to process it
thanks sir
fazal ahad pakistan
peshawaar

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52 Joe April 27, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Hi Fazal Ahad,

I’m not sure what tracking software would work on your phone, so I cannot make a direct recommendation for you. I have compiled a few lists of different trackers that can be found on the following posts:

Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
Free GPS Tracking Applications and Software

I hope you can find something there that will work with your particular cell phone’s operating system.

- Joe

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53 Nestor May 24, 2011 at 8:13 am

Hello Joe!

i was reading along and saw that you can bluetooth a “pic or song” to a phone and it will allow you to track it or access it? i previously had family locator on my wifes and kids phones but they knew when it was being tracked because it would prompt them and light up with “Chaperone locater” on the screen. is there an application that will NOT send any type of notification that it is being tracked? i have the Droid X so i can easily access the web if necessary.

THANKS!

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54 Joe May 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

Hi Nestor,

There are some tracking applications for a cell phone that will allow you to track someone without telling them every time you track them. I use two personally that will do this: Google Latitude and Lookout Mobile Security. But even these apps send you a notification once in a while that will remind you that you have them installed on your phone. Lookout Mobile Security will even send you a weekly update with the number of phone locates done on your phone during that week.

Besides that you could try InstaMapper if you have a compatible phone.

The only thing you have to think about is that when you install and app like this you will just have to set it up on their phones or convince them to do it themselves. If they don’t like the idea of being tracked in the first place you are going to have an uphill battle there.

But it does raise the question, why are you tracking their phones secretly? You should really have a good answer for this, and if you do have a good answer then it might be a good idea to win them over to your side of the argument before you start tracking their phones. Just my two cents.

- Joe

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55 christine muriset June 3, 2011 at 6:42 am

my husband didnt come hoe last night has to drive 2 potincially dangerous roads to get home he hasnt called text and he has NEVER done this im worried if he went off the side of the road we have to find him

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56 Joe June 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Hi Christine,

I’m so sorry to hear that! I can only imagine the pit inside your stomach. I would be going crazy trying to figure out what was going on.

I hope that you were able to find him and that everything is okay.

- Joe

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57 smdar June 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm

se me peridio mi tlf pero bloquee la linea.. todavia tengo oportunidad de recuperarlo a traves del gps?

Google Translate: I lost my cel but block the line .. I have a chance to recover yet through the gps?

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58 Joe July 1, 2011 at 4:24 am

Hi smdar,

Google Translate: Si usted piensa que fue robado y que bloquea la línea es probable que haya pocas posibilidades de que usted tiene una ubicación correcta para que nunca más si estaban siguiendo el teléfono. Usted tendría que haber tenido una aplicación de localización por GPS ya está instalado en el teléfono para que eso suceda sin embargo. Si no tiene una aplicación luego bloquear el teléfono fue probablemente la única cosa que podía hacer.

If you think it was stolen and you blocked the line there is probably little chance that you have a correct location for it anymore if you were tracking the phone. You would need to have had a GPS tracking app already installed on the phone for that to happen though. If you did not have an app then blocking the phone was probably the only thing you could do.

- Joe

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59 Rickey July 1, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Hello! I understand the fact that some people missuse some software to find out if a spouse or a companion is cheating in a relationship or for other reasons of invasions of privacy and I must agree that it would very wrong. I would not like anyone to violate my space and private life. But what I would like to know that if I was trying to locate my child that has just got involved with a juvenile at risk boyfriend and ran away so now im trying to locate her whereabouts and I know that she is carrying her cell phone. This is my best chance and way to locate her is by her un-knowingly know that I am trying to find her whereabouts in wich I am sure that any careing father woukd do. So what legal software or program is available to me that I may use to do a fathers duty???

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60 Joe July 3, 2011 at 10:18 am

Hi Rickey,

You might want to see if your cell phone provider has a phone tracking service that they provide for a monthly charge. It is not going to be more than $20 and should give you some idea of where your daughter is (probably within a mile but much more accurate if she has a newer smartphone). I hope that helps and that everything works itself out well.

- Joe

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61 Elsey B August 12, 2011 at 7:55 am

If your spouse has a sat phone and calls your cell phone, can he tell what town or state you are in?
Can anyone look at their (detailed) cell phone bill and be able to see what city and state you were in when they called you or you called them.
thanks
elsie

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62 Joe August 30, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Hi Elsey B,

I guess it would depend on the carrier. If your bill reflects roaming charges and you had to roam in order to make calls in a different city and state then your bill could reveal that information. Otherwise I don’t really that that info is really high on the carrier’s list to provide to their cell phone customers.

Were you thinking you could roughly track a cell phone that way?

- Joe

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63 Question September 2, 2011 at 10:46 am

I’m on a work plan through my job with att.
I have a iPhone. How can I know if I’m being tracked?

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64 Joe October 23, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Hi Question,

I don’t know of a way to do it on an iPhone if they are using AT&T to do the tracking.

If they are using an app, just look through your app list. If you see an app that you are not sure what it does then just Google it or look it up on iTunes. That should give you an idea if they are tracking you.

-Joe

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65 Tricia MacKey September 15, 2011 at 3:24 am

I received one of the government free phones. I only use it when I am have to call
the Trax bus (transportation for poor, elderly, handicapped) to le them know it’s
time to come pick me up. Anyway, this phone is weird. It sometimes rings at 2-5AM
(why a time most are sleeping?) to give me message I have a text or a picture I cannot receive unless I ‘top up’ by paying
a fee, which I don’t do. It’s no call from anyone I know, always from the Virgin mobile co. itself.
To be taunted in order to make money is bad enough. What really is upsetting is that it
rings when I enter the room it’s in. If I leave it in my purse in the bathroom, hours later, upon entering
the room, it will ring with a sales pitch. Does it track/know me? It is strange and I wonder if the gov is giving these free just to experiment with ways to find a person they want, perhaps in future during martial law? The phone only rings when
I enter the room I left it in. Any information about this?

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66 Joe October 23, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Hi Tricia,

I have never heard of that before and sounds like a string of coincidences. I would doubt they are tracking you.

As to the random Virgin Mobile texts – that just sucks. I would be so frustrated to have them wake me up so early for something so stupid! There must be some way to opt out of it. I would try and do that.

- Joe

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67 Vicki November 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm

I am being harassed in my building. Have been trying to move, but having a hard time finding a suitable apt, because I am disabled. My phone has been tracked for sometime now, and they follow me in their cars, they have run me off of the road, and hit my car, they have broken in my apt many times, and my son has to come here and stay so I can go out and do things. The police will do nothing, I have called and e-mailed all kinds of organizations, but, no one will help me, I am getting very sick from all of the stress,and am so afraid, we don’t know what else to do, the management is obviously in it with them, I believe it is a hate crime, but no one will do anything about it. I have contacted the Aclu, Fbi, and nothing, I am so afraid.

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68 Joe November 9, 2011 at 8:32 am

Hi Vicki,

That does indeed sound like a very upsetting situation. I really don’t have much to offer in terms of advice since you have already tried to get the authorities involved. For your cell phone, you might want to leave it off when not in use or do a factory reset on it. That should get ride of any tracking program installed on it.

- Joe

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69 Blarg January 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm

lolololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololol

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70 Bill February 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I have a company handheld device for work with windows on it and have located the folder for the GPS logs. It seems like the data amount in the folder grows throughout the day which I assume is keeping track of my whereabouts. If I open the GPS log in folder I see a ‘resource’ windows looking type app. I deleted it once and it went away, but came back quickly with a smaller file size that builds up again throughout the day. Does this sound like the folder the GPS logs for the day are stored in and then uploaded later for the company to review?

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71 Joe March 1, 2012 at 6:57 am

Hi Bill,

It does sound like the device you have is at the very least capable of doing some sort of GPS tracking. Does the device have access to a wireless network? Does it connect to Wifi? Do you turn it in each day after work? These questions would help you understand when your employer might have access to the position information from your device.

If you use the device on a wireless network then your employer has access to you position information in real time. If you connect via Wifi it might transfer the data at that time. If you turn it in each night then that might be when the data is transfered to the servers that process all your position information.

In general, GPS tracking is used by employers to improve the business – not to punish employees. Now if employees are wasteful and abuse company time and resources then it is not uncommon for employees to be discipled. But that is to be expected.

I hope that helps and I would love to hear more information about the device you have and what type of work you do.

- Joe

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72 Pat Saison February 29, 2012 at 8:53 pm

This guy who is harassing and threatening to kill a friend is not doing the same to me, because I helped her. He calls my prepaid cell phone with a pre-paid cell phone with blocked number at all hours of the night and leaves threatening messages. Whenever I pick up when he calls, he hangs up. I read I could subscribe to Trap Call to uncover the blocked cell phone number. My question is, can I use some kind of GPS tracking/tracing to find his physical location once I obtain his cell phone number? He moves around and does not live in a set place, and changes his cell number often, only using pre-paid plan. I don’t know who his cell provider is. I have not gotten the police involved so far. They had said without an address they cannot find him to my friend.

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73 Joe March 1, 2012 at 8:09 am

Hi Pat,

I would definitely get the police involved. That way they are aware of the situation and if they happen to come across this person for some other reason they already have some ammo against him.

Tracking a phone accurately that you have no physical access too is pretty much impossible for normal people like us. The government may be able to track him a little better if they have his phone number since they could ask the carrier for information about it and even track it down if they really had to. This is another reason that you should get the police involved.

There was some news recently about a UM research who could tell if a cell phone was talking to a certain cell tower by exploiting a security flaw in how cell phones talk over cell network. I don’t know how to do it (and I don’t want to), but you might be able to figure it out if you spend many hours looking into it. Here is the link to the news article I wrote about it: http://www.gpsfortoday.com/news/79/gsm-cell-phone-technology-open-to-coarse-position-tracking-by-third-parties/

I really hope that this person stops harassing you and your friend. What he is doing is wrong and nobody should be subjected to that. Please contact the police and let them know what is going on.

- Joe

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74 Loud March 10, 2012 at 3:56 am

Can’t I find out were my wife is fast like now

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75 Joe March 12, 2012 at 7:48 am

Hi Loud,

If your wife is using an Android phone you try to find her phone using Plan B if you don’t already have a tracking app installed on the phone. You might want to take a look at these articles for how to use Plan B:

If your wife has an iPhone then you can always use “Where’s My iPhone” to find out where it is.

- Joe

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76 karan March 16, 2012 at 12:48 am

We cannot track the mobile number if mobile is off also ……………

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77 Joe March 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Hi karan,

That is correct. Consumer grade tracking software doesn’t allow you to track a phone when it is off.

I have heard rumors of rumors of a government potentially have the capability to track a phone even when it is off, but I don’t really believe these rumors.

- Joe

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78 robert joseph collins March 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm

find my cell phone

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79 How can I get this now?naomi miller March 24, 2012 at 2:26 am

I have sprint smartphone android unlimited data and want to sign up so I can track location of daughter by
gps cell phone tracking

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80 Sabin Jung Pandey April 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Hello Joe,
I have lost my cell phone and I hadn’t uploaded any tracking apps in it. I just wanted to know if my cell could be tracked even if the Sim I used has been taken off and replaced by new one by the one who found it. Urgently need your feed backs in this regard.

Regards

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81 Joe April 13, 2012 at 5:12 am

Hi Sabin,

My understanding is that most apps are not able to be tracked after the SIM has been removed.

- Joe

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82 Cyrine July 5, 2012 at 3:21 am

My husband has the HTC Evo 3D and loves it. It is a thin phone with a very big secren (bigger than the iPhone). The battery life is great, and it is much better than his past phones. If you have 4G in your area, the data is super fast. The camera quality is good but not as good at the new iPhone 4s. It can take 3D photos and videos, but we don’t use the feature (hurts our eyes & kinda weird). Of course it has all the Android benefits. Personally I love having a keyboard on my phone, and that is the one feature that I miss with many of the new smartphones on the market.

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83 eve September 20, 2012 at 10:23 am

i want to track my live in partner when she go out how to do that in my samsung S3 mobile phone please teach me how?

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84 Kevin January 24, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Hey man, I currently lost my iPhone at school, and i did download the “Find my iPhone” app and I forgot to turn it on my phone and I don’t know how else to track me phone down man, i have my little brothers childhood pictures and I need it very badly please help me :(

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