Plan B {GPS Tracker App Review}

App Testing Ground – Outdoor Locations

We like to put all our apps through pretty thorough testing. Though they rely heavily on the built in functionality of the phone and GPS chip/software, it is important to test how the app will respond in a variety of situations and locations. For our tests we chose a mixture of indoor and outdoor locations to help simulate the different experiences that a wide range of users who have lost their cell phone might have. After all, not everyone accidentally leaves their cell phone in a car. We wanted to help people make informed decisions about what an app can do in a lifelike situation because we think that this will empower them to make right choices and to have realistic expectations for app performance. All our outdoor locations are listed first, our indoor locations are on the next page.

In the pictures below, a red dot indicates our best guess of exactly where we were when activating the app. All distances between Plan B coordinates and my estimates using Google Maps were calculated using this coordinate distance calculator)

Open Sky View of Sky | Wooded Area | Downtown Street | Moving Car | Buried

Open View of Sky

Plan B Outside, Open Air

Plan B Outside Open Air Results

As expected, Plan B worked great at our open air location. We placed the Android cell phone we were using for our test on top of a monument that is easily seen from the satellite view in Google Maps. We received the confirmation email from Plan B at 3:14 PM that the app had been installed. We got our first position update at 3:14 PM and our second, more accurate tracking coordinates at 3:14 PM as well. The first location was said to be within 8 m (26.25 ft) and the second was within 6 m (19.7 ft). According to the approximate coordinates we gathered from Google Maps we determined that the locations found by Plan B were 10.67 m (35 ft) and 4.88m (16 ft) away from the estimated location of the “lost” cell phone. Test was taken on 12/12/11 with clear skies.

Key Takeaway: Plan B is going to give you a pretty good idea of where your lost mobile phone is if you lost it out in the open somewhere. You will still have to look around for it, but it is 100x better than having no idea where it is.

Time App Started: 3:14 PM
Time to First Result: 3:14 PM
Most accurate result: Within 20 ft


Since it is currently winter and there is no leaf canopy I decided to hold off on this test until the spring. No point in testing something that won’t provide the most accurate results for users.

Downtown Street

We could not make it downtown in our initial test. Testing in a downtown environment is going to be important for city dwellers who could leave a phone in a variety of locations – a home, a store, a place of business, or work.

Moving Car

Plan B Outside Moving In Car

In our tests in a moving vehicle Plan B ended up providing us with a total of 4 position updates. We received the confirmation message that the app was installed at 3:54 PM and received our position updates a 3:54 PM, 3:55 PM, 3:57 PM, and 4:00 PM. The app did not track us all the way to our destination and simply ended after 4 updates even though our trip continued for 5-10 more minutes. The position updates did follow us along our route and seem accurate, except for the first position update which appears to have defaulted to the phone’s last known location from previously in the day. This portion of our testing was done on 12/12/11 when there were practically no clouds in the sky.

Key Takeaway: Plan B will let you know that your lost phone is on the move, but won’t let you know when the it has gets to its destination (as defined by a period of significant stoppage). If you want to keep tracking the phone you are going to have to make use of the text-for-location feature (simply text “location” to your phone).

Time App Started: 3:54 PM
Time to First Result: 3:54 PM
Results: 4 position updates but the app did not track us to our destination


Plan B Test In Shallow Grave

Plan B Shallow Grave Results

In our tests we found that the phone was unable to get a position in a shallow grave. We told the phone to download the app remotely (since it was buried under the ground!) at 1:33 PM and received the confirmation email that the app had been downloaded at 1:37 PM. I dug up the phone at 1:56 PM and by that point we had received no tracking email from Plan B about the position of the phone. The sky was clear and the soil was heavily saturated on test day, 12/12/2011.

Key Takeaway: Plan B, and probably GPS tracking in general, won’t work if your cell phone is in a shallow grave made of heavily saturated soil. Don’t loose your phone at a construction site. Also, don’t get murdered and buried in a shallow grave. That last one is really important.

Time App Started: 1:37 PM
Time to First Result: N/A
Most accurate result: No position found


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