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!
Car tracking devices are anything but cheap. If you are going to buy one of these high tech, expensive products there are several things that you should know about them before committing your finances (and in some cases, your security) on a device that you know will work in theory, but have no experience in practice.
The first area that this article is going to examine is the different ways that people often use car trackers. After a brief examination we will examine some of the tracker characteristics that any potential customer should evaluate before making their final decision.
Ways To Use a Car Tracking Device
There seem to be four main reasons to use a GPS tracking device inside a car. They are to track inexperienced, immature drivers, verify suspicions of infidelity, improve business operations, and recover property.
We have gone into great detail about the different reasons why a parent would install a tracking device in their teen’s car. We have even discussed some of the ways that a tracking device for cars can be leveraged to help make teens safer drivers. Needless to say we won’t go into a lot of that stuff here. You just need to know that more teens die each year from automobile accidents than any other cause. These are all preventable deaths and are often the fault of the teens themselves.
If you knew that a tracking device would save your teens life, would you spend the $400 for it?
Cheaters suck. They often lie. They also need to be caught. Most of the time the person being cheated on needs help in pinning the cheater into a corner so that they have to admit their infidelity. GPS tracking can often help them in this endeavor. Simply install a tracker in the vehicle of the suspected cheater (but only if you own that vehicle – tracking another person’s property without their consent is illegal) and you can know for certain if they are staying at work late or doing something a little more suspect.
Fleet Vehicle Tracking
Car GPS tracking has a long and proven track record in commercial applications. It has been shown to improve worker productivity, reduce costs, enhance the customer experience, and improve vehicle maintenance. What more could a business owner want?
Theft happens. Having a device that will tell you where your car is in real time when you wake up in the morning and your car isn’t out front can be invaluable. It is also nice to know that the crooks that stole your car are going to prison rather than profiting off of your property.
Considerations For Choosing A GPS Car Tracking Devices
If you come to the conclusion that you need a device to track a car then you have to take several things into consideration when making your decision. These devices are anything but cheap, so making sure you pick something that is going to meet your needs is very important. Here is a list of some of the main things you will want to think through:
Hardwired Vs. Stand Alone
This may not sound like that big of a decision, but it is probably one of the most important decisions that you need to make. The main reason for this is battery life. Tracking devices, especially real time tracking devices, run through battery power very quickly. Some GPS car tracking devices, like the Zoombak, only have an active tracking life of several hours. That is extremely low if you need to track the vehicle for longer than that.
Hardwired car tracking devices have the benefit of getting their power directly from the vehicle itself. As long as your battery is live your tracker will be able to give you the position of the car. Some hardwired trackers can be installed covertly so that they are not easily seen or accessible. Others are installed under the steering wheel in the OBD-II port and can be easily seen if you know what to look for.
Stand alone devices do not benefit from the car’s power source and must rely on their own battery. This means that you can have an active tracking life of several weeks to just a few hours depending on the type and size of the tracker you are using. This can be fine – it just depends on what you are using the tracker for and how much money you want to spend on it all.
Real Time Vs. Data Loggers
Probably the next most important thing for people to think about when going with a car tracker is whether or not they want to see the position information in real time or if they are alright with recording the data and looking at it later, after the device has been retrieved from the vehicle. Most people want to do the tracking in real time. There is just something special about being able to watch your asset move from location to location.
The price tag on real time car tracking devices is nothing to sniff at. They are often much more expensive, two to three times as expensive, than their data logging counter parts – and that doesn’t even take into consideration the monthly subscription fee required by most tracking providers. When that is taken into consideration it can cost four times as much just in the first year alone!
But if your need is for a real time tracker then you are going to fork out the cash.
Web-Based Vs. Software Based
Many people looking for GPS tracking want something that they can access from any web enabled computer. This is most often available with real time GPS tracking devices. This is because the tracking device will transmit the position and vector data over a wireless network to your tracking provider. The provider will then make this data available to you on a secure website available on the internet. Only you are going to be able to access the information since you are the only one with the user name and password for the tracker.
Here is a graphic of how this all works:
Software based car tracking devices are generally data loggers. Most of the time the data logger comes with a CD that contains some sort of tracking software that you need to install on your computer to make sense of the data the device records. For example, the i-Got U GT-600 comes with this type of software on a small mini-CD. The software works with the device to display your trip data on pretty Google-based maps and helps you integrate photos into your journey. The software then lets you post this information out on to the web if you want to share the data with friends or family.
While most car tracking devices don’t need some of the features available on the i-GotU (that device is designed to help people share vacations, hikes, or other fun excursions), they will have some sort of software that will help you make sense of the data on the tracker. This is helpful for users because it means you don’t need to know a ton about telemetry in order to make sense of your tracking information.
Covert Vs. Open
You are wanting a car tracking device for a certain reason, and that reason is going to determine whether or not you want to use a covert tracker or something that is a little more easily seen and accessed. Above we mentioned 4 different applications where are GPS car tracker would be useful. Here are some of the defining characteristics of a covert vs. open deployment in each category:
Engaged in or suspected of illegal activity
Extremely rebellious and likely to destroy or bypass car tracker
Acts also as a good theft recover device
Parents have a relationship of trust and mutual respect
Teen sees tracker as safety device and is clearly aware of consequences of bad driving
Cheater is suspicious of you knowing
Cheater could turn violent and abusive if your search for truth is discovered
Cheater is observant or tech savvy
Fleet Vehicle Tracking
Acts as an excellent theft recovery device
Catches wasteful employees in the act
Reminds employees to work their best all the time
Allows for integration with dispatchers, increasing efficiency in workforce
Promotes healthy employer/employee relationships
Hidden trackers will be overlooked by less accomplished criminals
Ability to work as long as the battery is still giving power to the car
As you can see, there are some applications where having an easily accessible car tracking device is not really in your best interest. You can still use it in these instances, you just run the risk of wasting your money.
Should You Use A Car Tracking Device?
Not everything labeled as a car tracking device is going to be what you are looking for for your particular needs. Be sure to carefully consider the purchase you are making. Ask questions of yourself and the potential supplier. The more questions you ask, the better informed you are going to be and the more successful you are going to be in your desire to track a car with GPS.
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.
When it comes to GPS tracking devices you need to understand one thing right off the bat. If you don’t learn this you could end up spending hundreds of dollars on a device that isn’t going to meet your needs by doing what you think it is going to do. If you are like me then you want to avoid spending money (that you don’t have) on something that isn’t what you need.
You need to know that there are two main types of GPS tracking devices. There are real time tracking devices and there are data logging devices. While they both are in fact GPS devices and they both track a person’s location they do no provide the same tracking experience for the user.
If you are looking for a device that will let you find out where a person or asset or vehicle is at any given point in the day then you are looking for a real time tracking device. This is what most people think about when they go searching on the internet. They want something that will let them type in a cell phone number and they will be able to pull up the exact location of a friend, a boyfriend, a lover, or a child. While a real time tracking device doesn’t do that exactly, that is the type of experience that you are going to get with that type of device.
Most real time trackers let you use their website or software to pull up the exact location of a person (really the device) at any given moment in time. This usually uses something like Google Maps and give you a location that is normally really accurate. There are things that can interfere with this, but it is usually really good.
Data loggers, on the other hand, find the devices position at predetermined intervals. This could be as short as 3 seconds or as long as 5 minutes. The interval doesn’t matter. The data logger will simply find the position and then record it on its hard drive to be downloaded later by the device owner.
With a data logger you actually have to have the tracker in order to access the data. You cannot know the location of the tracker remotely. You have to have it your possession in order for it work. With a data logger you can only ever know where the device has been.
The distinction between the two is very important to understand as each of them has its own positives and negatives. Let’s see how each of these would be used in the following applications:
Vehicle GPS Tracking Devices
There are three main reasons that people are going to track a vehicle with GPS. There are business reasons, safety reasons, and relational reasons.
Fleets can cost companies thousands of dollars to maintain and effectively run. Studies have shown that implementation of fleet tracking benefits small businesses by increasing profits, reducing driver waste, and increasing on-time deliveries/visits.
All fleet tracking is real time. This allows dispatchers to route vehicles and personnel in efficient ways. Efficient businesses make happy, repeat customers and end up making owners more money. But just because it works in real time doesn’t mean that the data is not available for managers to go over when they need to (say, in the case of a trouble worker no completing jobs or showing up late to appointments).
These tracking devices are most often installed directly in the vehicle and are hardwired to the power supply for constant tracking capabilities. It is concealed, provides theft protection, assists police with vehicle recovery, and promotes an efficient workforce.
Data loggers would be a mess in this application and would give practically no benefit to a company trying to improve its operation.
Track A Teen Driver
Tracking a teen driver is a little different than fleet tracking, but not necessarily so. Real time tracking still provides all the benefits that it does with fleet tracking. Parents can determine the speed of their child as they drive, receive updates if they exceed a certain speed, know when they travel outside certain predetermined boundaries, or make sudden brakes. All of these are features offered on many different teen driver trackers on the market and they are only available for real time trackers.
One must be particularly careful when choosing a real time tracker. The very best option is to get one that will hardwire into the car. This will make your job as a parent easier because you won’t have to charge the battery constantly (most real time devices are power hungry!). Devices like the Zoombak – though cheaper than other devices – suffer from this very fault. A device that will not hardwire is no good as a theft recovery device and does you no good if your child is in the car and it gets car jacked! If you are concerned about your teen’s safety then why not give the best protection possible?
A data logger will still work to track a teen driver, but it is going to work much differently. You’ll still know when your child brakes suddenly or goes way too fast – you just won’t know until well after the fact and you plow through the data to figure it out. I recently tracked my wife secretly for a month and that much data is very difficult to work through – especially if your teen is driving everyday. It can be done, its just no fun.
Another thing to mention here is that data loggers are often significantly cheaper than real time GPS trackers. A good data logger might cost you $100. A real time device might cost $200 and then cost $15 a month with a year minimum contract. That is certainly more expensive. You’ll just have the weigh the pros and cons yourself about this one.
Catching A Cheater
What type of GPS tracking device is best to track a cheater? It all depends really. We have already seen that a real time tracking device is going to cost you a pretty penny. If you have the money then I would recommend going this route. That way you can verify whether or not they are at work when they say they are “working late” or if they are shaking up with the hussy from accounting at a hotel off the interstate.
You’ll probably want one that can be installed secretly in the car and that won’t be easily detectable. Unfortunately, most fleet tracking devices are either right there in the cab (under the steering wheel) or easily detectable if you look under the hood. This is fine if you are tracking someone who never really takes a look under the hood of the car. There are some other real time trackers that will work in this capacity that have a battery life of several days – but these always run the risk of being discovered while planted on the vehicle (like in a wheel well) or while they are being swapped out to recharge the battery.
Data loggers are most useful in catching a cheater than any other vehicle tracking application. They have a significantly longer battery life so they can remain in play for much longer. They are also often smaller than real time trackers so they are more suitable for the covert nature of this particular tracking application. You just have to go through the data once you get the logger back. This isn’t the most fun in the world – but neither is being cheated on! That is plenty of motivation to sift through the data.
Personal GPS Tracking Devices
When it comes to personal tracking applications there are two main reasons to have a device on your person. They are for sport and for safety.
GPS watches are one of the most visible examples of personal tracking devices used in a sport application. Whether you are running or cycling these devices provide powerful information for anyone trying to make the most out of their training regimen. They are not cheap, but they sure are cool.
Interestingly enough, these devices are almost always a data logger – despite the steep price tag. However, something like the i-Got U pretty much does a comparable task as something like the Garmin Forerunner 405 and is $200 cheaper. Sure, you certainly get more with the Garmin so you are going to have to decide for yourself if the more is really $200 more. All data loggers are pretty much equal in terms of GPS tracking capabilities – they just have different software that lets you interact with the data.
I personally have never seen a real time sport tracking device. To be honest, they are unnecessary and would be super expensive.
As you can imagine, many of the applications mentioned above call for small devices. You don’t want a huge, bulky device strapped to your wrist while you run. That just wouldn’t be fun. Similarly, covert tracking is best done with the smallest device possible.
What is the difference in size between real time GPS tracking devices and data loggers?
Well, the answer isn’t that simple, but generally speaking data loggers can be much smaller than real time trackers. This is simply because real time trackers also have to find a place to put its cell phone modem to let it talk over the wireless network in your particular country. Real time trackers also suffer from reduced battery life given that they have so much more to do than a data logger. If a real time tracker and a data logger have the exact same battery the real time tracker will run out of battery first – often long before the data logger.
This is why small real time trackers have a terrible battery life. One industry leading child GPS tracking device had an effective battery life of one day! That is a lot of battery charging for parents and really pushed the viability of the product as a safety device for children.
Real Time or Data Logger?
What is best for your particular tracking needs? You are the only one who is going to be able answer that question. Now you know the issues between the two types of GPS tracking devices and how they affect three of the main applications for them. If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments below.
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:
Have you ever thought about secretly tracking your spouse’s movements? Has he or she been spending more and more time away from you with almost no explanation at all? If you are secretly being cheated on then you have a right to know. In my mind, you even have a right to secretly track your spouse with GPS. After all, they did promise to be faithful.
There are two main options for the person seeking to track their significant other. The first is a real time GPS tracking device. These devices are able to give you their position in real time and will not only let you know where they have been but also will allow you to follow them around in real time (hence the name). The second option is a data logger. These often have more battery life than the real time trackers, allowing the person tracking to collect massive amounts of data to process and analyze so that they can see exactly where the person has been. Through analyzing this information the person can find discrepancies or patterns in the behavior to see where the person is cheating.
I recently got my hands on a passive GPS tracking device called the iGot-U GT-600. It is a personal tracking device designed to log travel data for the international traveler or to analyze outdoor exercise activity. I figured it would be interesting to see if this device could also double as a covert GPS tracking device. Here are the results:
Preliminary Spouse GPS Tracking Test
Before I spent hours upon hours tracking my wife with the i-Gotu GPS data logger I figured I should give it a test drive to see how it would work. The picture found above represents my first attempt at tracking my wife’s car. I was in the car with her, so this really represents exactly what we did. We stopped by her friends house to pick up some tools and then drove around the neighborhood until the little one fell asleep.
According to the GPS tracker we were out for 00:24:11 and traveled a little less than 6 miles. The device also told me that we were actually only moving for 00:17:02. All this was captured in a little less than 400 distinct data points.
All this data is pretty interesting and useful for those looking to tracking a husband, a wife, a boyfriend, or a girlfriend. The first point of data – the amount of time traveled, is useful to know because it should correspond with the amount of time that you put the tracker in the car.
Total distance traveled is also valuable because it gives you an idea of all the different place that they could have gone. Just how far away is Target? Or their favorite hunting spot? When this is combined with the total trip time you get an idea of how fast they drive and how they are handling your car. I would want to know that data if it were my wife cheating on me.
The final bit of info that is really interesting is the total time moving. In this quick trip the differencet between our total travel time and the total movement time was only around 7 minutes. If I were to be tracking a husband or girlfriend and there was a trip where the total time moving was significantly different from the total travel time I would begin to get a little concerned. This is especially true if they spend most of the time sitting at an unknown location!
With all this data in hand I devised a plan that would simulate a more prolonged spouse tracking strategy. I would sneak into my wife’s car late at night and place the GPS tracking device in her glove compartment. I would occasionally check on the tracker every week to see if the tracker still had battery power or not. After the device lost its charge, I would grab the tracker and find out what I could about the habits of my wife (who is not cheating on me, by the way).
Here is what I found out by secretly tracking my spouse with GPS.
Extensive Spouse GPS Tracking Test
One of the first things that I wanted to do on this test is to check and see how long the battery would last on the GPS tracking device. Before starting out, I thought I might get a week’s worth of tracking before the battery would die out – boy was I surprised. I was able to track my wife’s car from November 9th all the way through December 6th. The battery lasted 28 days, which is very impressive.
Long battery life is definitely one of the benefits of using a data logger to secretly track your husband or wife. Most real time tracking devices can last a week at best since they are doing so much to provide all that data in real time. One of the benefits of the i-Gotu is that it goes into a battery save mode when it is not moving for an extended period of time.
With 28 days of tracking it was a pain to wade through all the data and try and figure out what happened each day, but if you are trying to find out if your lover is cheating and need GPS to help you figure it out then you will be motivated to go through it all. Since my wife isn’t cheating I had no motivation to go through it all and figure it out.
Thank goodness that the i-GotU software makes it easier to figure out what the data means. When using the Sport Tracker mode for their software you get a nice little calendar that lets you see what days had trips. Simply click on the day and you get some detailed information for that specific trip. This data includes a map of their trip that uses Google Maps, their max speed, the duration of their trip, as well as the actual time spent traveling. This is key if they make a quick trip to a friends house and stay their for hours.
In this micro view the mass of data makes sense. The only problem is that you will have to wade through all the days if you let the tracker run out of battery before retrieving it. What I would recommend for those seeking to track a wife or husband to see if they are cheating is to let the tracker run for a week at a time. This will give you smaller chunks of data to digest at any given point in time. The only problem with this is that you might get caught moving the device in and out so only try it if you can reasonably get away with it.
I have to be honest, the i-Got U exceeded my expectations. For a device that is not even built to be a covert GPS tracking device this unit blew me out of the water – and with a price tag under $100 you will be hard pressed to find a tracker that is going to beat the price. Similar products run several hundred dollars more than the i-Got U and do the same thing.
You should definitely consider this tracking device if you want to secretly track your spouse with GPS. It is a multipurpose GPS tracking device that is relatively easy on the pocket book (when compared to some of the alternatives). While it is terrible to have to be in a position where tracking your spouse is an option that you have to consider, getting a data logger like the i-Got U is definitely a choice that you should consider taking if all your other efforts to get at the truth have been unsuccessful. You have a right to know what is going on with the “flesh of your flesh” and the one that made a promise to you to be faithful.
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.
Have a free GPS cell phone tracker or know of a great one that we didn’t include? Let us know about it through our suggestion form. We’d love to hear about more free content for our users.
The i-GotU is a GPS tracking data logger created by Mobile Action. There are two main models under the i-GotU brand, the GT-120 and the GT-600. This review deals specifically with the i-GotU GT-600 and will discuss the main features listed by Mobile Action for this personal tracking device. After that, we will take a look at some of the various applications of this device – several of which will stray from the applications proposed by Mobile Action in their promotional material. This device is not a real time GPS tracking device, so it will only be tested in in data logging activities. Finally, we will take a look at the overall rating given to the device.
i-GotU Review Highlights
GPS sensor works great outdoors but looses signal indoors
Reading instructions on product operation is a must and does take some time to get used to
Sport tracking feature is useful and accurate, but could be better
Serves multiple purposes, making it more useful than some devices because of the software package included
The i-GotU comes with the following list of features (taken from the i-GotU website):
The i-GotU is relatively easy to use, once you get a basic understanding of what it is you have to do to get it working. As an example, I figured out how to get the basic tracking down after one or two uses but have yet to figure out how to use the motion sensor capability of the device. To turn the device on, simply press and hold the one button on the device until the blue light comes on in the top left hand corner. To turn off the device, press the same button and hold it until the red light appears in the top left hand corner. Simple enough.
But when I follow the instructions printed on the back of the i-GotU packaging for the motion activated tracking feature I was unable to get the device to activate no matter how fast I would go. Here is the picture of the instructions on the packaging:
There must be a setting in the @Trip software that I have to turn on for the device to power on automatically when it senses motion, I just haven’t had the time to search for and figure out exactly what I have to do for it. At the very least, the instructions on how to do this could be improved.
Since I have not been able to activate the motion sensor I am unsure of just how battery saving the device is. I have been able to run the device for 5+ hours without having to charge it while I have been capturing my location at the most frequent rate permitted. Even after running it for 5+ hours I would only plug the device into my computer long enough to download the data to the @Trip software for analysis. I continued this behavior for 3 weeks and have not run out of battery yet, bringing the total amount of tracking to over 16 hours with very little charge time during that 3 week period. Overall the battery life has been pretty impressive.
The @trip service is an online community where you can share your travels, photos, and insights with other iGotU users. I created a profile in all of 1 minute and shared my first trip in less than 20 seconds after that. It is seamlessly integrated with the software that downloads onto your PC and works like a charm. When you share a link with your friends they can view your trip in 3D using a Google Earth plugin – a neat feature if you ask me. The appearance of the trip pages could look better, but it they definitely are a lot nicer than anything I could put together myself. Overall, the @trip service is a nice addition for the traveler who likes to share his adventures with family and friends over the internet.
The @trip Software, which includes the @Trip PC, Sports Analyzer, and Where I Am application, is both useful and feature rich. @Trip PC allows you to log your travels and integrate picture that you took from a digital camera into the journey. It also uploads your trips to the internet very easily. Here is a trip my family took to the zoo where we had the GPS tracking device attached to the stroller: Trip to the Zoo . Most of the pictures were taking at the beginning of the trip since the phone we took them on, an HTC Incredible running the Android OS, was running low on battery.
The Sports Analyzer is also very simple to use and easy to understand. The interface is pretty intuitive and the graphs are pretty interesting/helpful for not very serious sports people to understand and analyze. Here is a screen shot of the service:
Geotagging photos with the iGotU’s software was a breeze. All I had to do was open the trip and import the folder that had all the photos that I took with my camera. It really was that simple. There is a pretty easy to follow online demo of the process that Mobile Action put together. It can be found here: Photo Locator: Locating my photos easily
The only thing that you want to be sure of is that your digital camera is actually set to the correct time. If you don’t know how to do this on your digital camera I recommend that you pull out your manual and figure it out. I was able to find it pretty easily on my camera, but I know not everyone has the same camera. If you can’t do this, the geotagging feature won’t work because it uses the time stamp on the photo to sync it up with the location that was gathered from the iGotU.
I have never been able to detect where I am in real time with the iGotU. This is probably because I have always been indoors when trying to use this feature – and the iGotU did not have very good GPS results when indoors. This may service may work great when outside at a cafe or park or some other historic or beautiful destination, but when I was in my home or in class I was not able to find my location.
The iGotU definitely does let you record and analyze detailed routes. In fact, over the course of 3-4 weeks I got to use the device to record my bike commute to and from work in the efforts to see just how detailed and useful the GPS tracking function on this device can be. Overall, I was very impressed with the accuracy of the device and how the information is presented to the user. There were, however, a few drawbacks to the device.
First, lets deal with the short comings. The first is that GPS tracking does not begin immediately upon turning on the device. This is not that big of a deal since all GPS devices have this drawback, but what did make it particularly annoying in this case is that the process could take several minutes. There area few ways to make the cold start less annoying, like holding the device parallel to the open sky, but getting a GPS fix could take anywhere from fifteen seconds to two and a half minutes.
If you do not realize that the device needs to get a fix from the GPS satellites before you start moving you can come to the conclusion that the iGotU personal GPS tracking device is not very accurate. This is a false conclusion, but that is what it will seem like when you analyze your data and get results like this when traveling the same exact route:
As you can see, for taking the same exact route each day the difference between the distances is pretty extreme. There is almost a mile difference between the shortest and the longest time! This would make any GPS tracking device very innacurate, but in this case there was user error that created the large discrepancy. I simply did not wait for the iGotU to get a fix before starting my journey and got this bad data as a result.
When I waited until the GPS got a fix I got the following results:
The results of this data represents a much closer grouping of distances given that I take the same route home from work each night. When you take away the reading from 9/24 (6.989 miles) the largest deviation from the average between the various distances in only 141 feet. That seems very accurate to me.
So what about the reading on 9/24? Why is this so different from all the rest?
Here is a picture that explains it all:
I did not take my bike on this route when I started the night of the 25th. This is an error in the GPS personal data logger. To me, its not that big of a deal, but to a seriously hardcore mutli-sport lunatic this might make them a little upset.
In my opinion, the iGotU GT-600 is very accurate – it is just prone to wander a little bit.
I mentioned this above when talking about the @Trip service, but you can share trips and photos on 3D maps using the service provided by Mobile Action. It is pretty cool and uses Google Earth to display the 3D images for the end user. I think its cool, but each person is going to get their own mileage out of it. You can check out my demo trip here:
The iGotU is branded as a personal GP tracking data logger. As such, it has two main functions – to record the places you go on trips and to record the places you go during sporting activities. As a travel logger and personal fitness GPS the iGotU does a decent job, but it is obviously a trip tracker first and a personal fitness GPS second. I still like using if for both, but the sport side of it could use a little beefing up if it is to hold a candle to GPS tracking watches and other sport specific GPSs. But for an all-in-one device the iGotU is pretty solid for both activities. Over the next couple of weeks I plan on putting together some posts highlighting the iGotU’s strengths and weaknesses in the following areas:
Personal GPS Tracking
Travel Logger (Full Post Coming Soon)
Sports Tracker (Full Post Coming Soon)
Besides the uses discussed by Mobile Action, I wanted to see if I could use the iGotU as a covert GPS tracking device. It is relatively small and could easily be concealed inside a car. Since there is a lot of interest in tracking down a spouse or a teen driver I thought I would put that to the test and see if the iGotU can pass muster. I plan on testing this personal GPS tracker in the following capacity and posting my results here.
Covert GPS Tracking Device
Teen Driver Tracking (Full Post Coming Soon)
Spouse Tracking (Full Post Coming Soon)
Check back soon for more ways on how to use the iGotU.
I would recommend the iGotU to anyone who is interested in a GPS tracking device that allows you to do more than one activity with the same device. The GPS tracking capabilities are solid and the trip sharing software is simple, easy to use, and practically idiot proof. I wish that some of the operations of the device and software were a little more intuitive, but you can get by with some trial and error, looking over the instructions, or watching some of the walk-throughs online. Overall, I think the iGotU is great way to get into the world of personal GPS tracking.
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.
Have you heard that we are giving away a SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger for free? There are a lot of different ways that people can use this powerful, one-way communication device – but by and the large the most popular is to use it when adventuring out in the wilderness.
The following is a little video put together by the folks over at Wired.com where they field tested the SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger is a faux wilderness scenario. The film is very well made and show cases the useful of this device under certain conditions. It is certainly worth a watch for anyone not familiar with the device or for someone who wants some verification that the device works like it is supposed too.
If you are interested in winning a free SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger then you should consider entering our contest where you can win one of these devices plus one year of service for free. Complete contest details can be found on our contest page which can be found here: Free SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger Tracking Device