Verizon has joined the ranks of several large telecommunications companies who are seeking to make more money off of the information that they serve to you. Information, such as the websites you visit, the places you go, where you live, or what your interests might be, are going to start to be tracked by Verizon so that they can create “aggregate” reports for their own internal use and for sale to third parties.
Verizon is simply trying to make more money off of you and your family. If you have no problem with them tailoring advertisements based on your interests and fine GPS location then you have can rest knowing that Verizon has already signed you up for this. If you DO NOT WANT Verizon to track you in this way they you might want to tell them to stop. You can do so by calling 1-866-211-0874 or by following these steps on the internet:
Log in to your account using your username and password
Scroll down to the ‘Customer Proprietary Network Information’ heading
Click The Minus (-) Button [some people will see a Plus (+) button here for some reason]
Check ‘Don’t Share My CPNI’ in the All Cell Phone Numbers row
Click Save Changes
Scroll down to the ‘Business & Marketing Reports’ heading
Check ‘Don’t Use My Information for Aggregate Reports’ in the All Cell Phone Numbers row
Click Save Changes
Scroll Down to ‘Relevant Mobile Advertising’
Click ‘Don’t Use My Demographic Info for Banners’ in the All Cell Phone Numbers row
Click Save Changes
It was really easy for me to do. If you know of anyone who might want to opt out you should be a good friend and share it with them.
The following was taken from a news article and it represents Verizon’s response to some of the hubbub about the plan:
Michelle Gilbert, Verizon Public Relations Manger for the Michigan / Indiana / Kentucky region, has released the following statement:
“Protecting data and safeguarding privacy are high priorities at Verizon. Verizon Wireless recently introduced a new program that involves the creation of new types of aggregate business and marketing reports. In addition, Verizon Wireless and Verizon Telecom also introduced new ways to advertise to mobile users and wireline broadband customers.
“For the business and marketing reports offered by Verizon Wireless, records about websites visited, cell phone locations and other consumer data will be combined (or aggregated) to compile reports that provide businesses with insights about their customers. For example, these insights may include the demographics (age ranges, gender, etc.) and interests (such as “pet lovers” or “tennis enthusiasts”) of visitors to a Web site, or commuters who might pass an outdoor billboard. These aggregate reports could be used by web publishers to help provide content that is more appealing to users, or to help advertisers better select the ads they will display on outdoor billboards or at other venues.
“The new advertising initiatives offered by Verizon Wireless and Verizon Online will help brands tailor the type of advertising customers see on their mobile phones and online when using Verizon FiOS Internet, DSL or dial-up services. The Verizon Wireless relevant ad program will help brands present relevant ads on customers’ mobile devices by using the postal address and other consumer information, such as their device type, demographic and interest information. For instance, if you live near a restaurant, you may see ads for that restaurant. The Verizon Online relevant ads program will help brands determine if customers fit within their targeted geography by postal addresses, helping brands better reach their customers online.”
If you are thinking about putting cell phone tracking software on your phone you might have several questions before you get started. Probably the very first thing you want to know is which program you should download. There are several great places to find some lists of tracking apps. We recommend this one: Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
If you follow the link you will find a long list of tracking applications that can be downloaded on many different types of smartphones. All the major brands are represented – iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. If you don’t have a smart phone then you might want to take a look at some of the other tracking apps that we covered in our post about free GPS tracking applications and software. There is plenty there that can be used on many different types of cell phones.
What you will find in these links is free cell phone tracking software. There is a lot of paid software out there. These can cost you anywhere between $5 from your app store to $60 for full fledged cell phone spy software. Some of these are worth the money and then some. Others are not worth the crap the monkeys who coded the software evacuated from their bowels while mashing away at the keyboard. This might be because they are worthless programs or because you can do the same exact thing with free apps that cost you nothing (the unnecessary reiteration is intentional!). Choosing the right software for your needs is obviously important, so take your time in determining exactly what you need the cell phone tracking software for and educate yourself on what some of the different free options are going to be able to do for you. They are often extremely powerful and capable of doing exactly what you want without having to fork out any more cash.
Once you have picked your app then the next question is going to be how to download the cell phone tracking software. This really depends on what type of cell phone you have. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect for each type of phone:
How to Download Tracking Software To A Smartphone
Smartphones benefit from being better than other, normal cell phones. They are, after all, smart. Almost every major brand of cell phone has an app store that you can go to and download the software to your phone automatically. The best part is, once it is downloaded, all the installation is taken care of for you. You don’t need to know a ton of stuff to get it work. Just choose what you want, tell it to download, and you are done.
Here is an example from an Android cell phone. There are two main ways that you can download the ever popular InstaMapper cell phone tracking software. You can go to the Android market and then search for “GPS Tracker.” Then look for the result withe InstaMapper, LLC as the publisher. Click on install and you will download and install the app seamlessly.
If you have a QR code reader just scan this:
It really is that easy to download software with a smart phone.
How to Download Tracking Software To A Regular Cell Phone
GPS tracking software becomes a little more difficult when you are not working with the easy, breezy smartphones. Don’t take my word for it. Here is what the folks at InstaMapper recommend for downloading their software when using one of the Motorola iDen phones that you can get on the cheap:
The easiest way to Install InstaMapper on your phone is by loading it over-the-air using this tool provided by Sprint:
The tool will ask you for a .zip file, which you can get here.
Then go to Menu -> Games & Apps -> Download Apps. Click on “New Purchases”. If you don’t see the app there, navigate to Menu -> My Info on your phone and hit “Edit”. If Line 1 is empty, enter your full phone number there (starting with the area code). Then try downloading the app again.
Alternatively, you can install the app from your PC using a regular USB cable and Motorola’s iDEN Java Application Loader (JAL) software. The latter can be downloaded directly from Motorola here (free registration required; click “join MotoDev” when they ask you for your login information). After JAL is installed, connect your phone to the PC with a USB cable, start JAL, and hit “Connect to phone”. Unzip InstaMapper tracking software to a folder on your PC, then hit “Download” and select “GPSTracker.jad” from that folder. Hit “Disconnect” when the transfer completes.
Now start the app you just downloaded — it will be under “Java Apps”, possibly on the second screen (hit “More”). The app is called “GPS Tracker” and has an icon that looks like a satellite. Enter the device id from your InstaMapper account. Click “Save”. The phone will ask for your permission to access the GPS chip. Say “yes”. When the status message changes from “Locating…” to “Tracking…” your should be able to see the location of your phone on InstaMapper.
Note: the app will pop into foreground during the first few days of operation (the intention here is to discourage covert tracking). Unfortunately, on Motorola phones a notification sound is played whenever an application requests to be run in the foreground. We recommend leaving the app in the foreground during the first few days that it’s running, or muting notification sounds in the phone’s settings.
This is certainly doable, but it does break down significantly for someone who really is not too certain what they are doing.
Special Note On “Cell Phone Spy” Software
Unfortunately, the experience users have to go through to install cell phone spy software is a lot like installing something on a regular cell phone. This is because a lot of the publishers out there for this type of software don’t go through app stores and just sell them directly to customers. This makes these things notoriously difficult to install and get running. To me, this is their greatest failing. How can you use this type of spy software if you can’t even get it loaded on a phone?
If you are going to go this route I would urge extreme caution. Only buy something with a solid money back guarantee so you can recoup your money if you can’t get it installed correctly or if your phone isn’t supported.
How To Download Cell Phone Tracking Software
If you are trying to download and install mobile phone tracking software then you should hope that you have a smartphone. 🙂 In reality, it is very easy to download most trackers to your cell – even if you just have a regular old phone. If all else fails, follow the instructions on the website for the software you are trying to download.
Finding that your cell phone was been stolen can be a gut-wrenching experience. It is your connection to the world and all of a sudden it is ripped from your life, falling into the hands of a complete stranger. Questions have to be racing through your mind at this point. Can I get it back? Can I keep my data private? What will happen to all my pictures?
Thankfully, we live in a world that has more to it than those who seek to steal mobile phones. We also have innovators who create applications for cell phones that keep our personal data safe and track down a stolen phone. A group of these good guys have created an app called Lookout Mobile Security and it is currently free to download on BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile smartphones. It does more than just use GPS tracking to find a stolen cell phone. It is a full ledge smartphone security suite that will let you protect your phone from physical and virtual threats.
How can I track my stolen cell phone?
Smartphones are an investment. If you buy one without a free upgrade deal or sign-up promotion it can cost hundreds of dollars. High end phones range between $500-$600 before the contracts and promotions bring the price down to (just) $200. Quite frankly, it does not matter what price you buy at – any smartphone is going to be a really expensive phone. Until the cell phone boom it was not normal for people to carry such an expensive piece of hardware with them everywhere, especially one that is so easily lost or stolen. When it gets stolen you want to find a way to get it back, now.
GPS tracking provides the solution for a lot of people who want to get their stolen cell phone back. By leveraging the smartphone’s location finding capabilities and the data plan that is almost assuredly included with the phone, users of the Lookout Mobile Security app will be able to find the location of their cell phone (provided that it is on, of course).
Now this brings up one of the three HUGE caveats that need to be understood about tracking a stolen cell phone. The first is that you must have already downloaded the GPS tracking app before the phone is stolen. In other words, the cell phone must still be in your possession when you put the app on it. You cannot download any apps that will let you track your stolen mobile remotely. Sorry, but that is just the way that it is.UPDATE: Android phones CAN install certain apps remotely that will let you track down a lost or stolen phone. You can find a write up we did here: How To Install GPS Tracking Apps Remotely To Find A Lost Or Stolen Android Cell Phone
The second caveat is that the cell phone must be turned on for the Lookout Mobile Security app or any other stolen phone recovery app to work. The phone needs to be on for several reasons. The first is that it needs to be able to receive the message from the Lookout servers to get the phone to use its GPS chip to determine the cell phone’s location. This is the same with all stolen cell phone recovery programs. Mobile Me, Lookout, et al work this way.
The second reason the phone must be on is that it power is required to use the cell phone towers and/or GPS chip to figure out where the phone is. A phone that is unable to find its own location is of no use to someone trying to find out where it is!
The third caveat is that the phone must be in range of a cell tower. In order to track the phone, it must in contact with the network to receive messages and to communicate with you, the owner. Both reception and transmission of messages is hindered if the phone is outside the boundary of its network or has some physical impediment to cell signals. Without the network you are screwed.
But given that the phone is on, it is in network range, and you have already downloaded the tracking app, how helpful will one of these apps truly be? Can it provide an exact location for a lost phone?
Precision depends on several important factors. Sometimes a location will be very good, reliably providing an exact address for the location of your phone. Other times it simply be a reasonable guess, one just good enough to give you a general idea where the phone might be.
Here is picture taken from the web interface of a GPS tracking app that will be illustrative of just how exact tracking can be:
If you have good eyes you will see that the circle around the phone is fairly large. It says it has an accuracy of 1,870 meters, or a little over 1 mile. The center of the circle, represented by a cell phone icon, is a pretty accurate representation of where my phone is, being off my perhaps several hundred feet.
This underscores the point that with GPS tracking apps you have little knowledge beforehand about how accurate the location is going to be. There are too many factors that can cause GPS errors. For example, my home is of an older, more solid construction than newer homes might be. I have had great difficulty getting a solid GPS fix for my location on several different devices. I may measure my location one day and get one set of coordinates only to measure it again the next day and get coordinates hundreds of feet away from previous measurements. While this is not good for tracking down a lost cell phone with GPS, it is reality.
In addition to the make up of the place where the cell phone has been taken you also have to consider other aspects of location that may come into play. Large surrounding buildings, lots of trees, canyon walls, and other inhospitable terrain features can cause GPS tracking equipment to give inaccurate readings. These can skew the position information just as wildly as the composition of the home.
You should not let these factors prevent you from downloading an app that will help you recover your stolen cell phone. You have no way of knowing who is going to steal it or where they are going to take it. For all you know, you could get an almost exact location for the cell phone, like in this picture:
My phone was in the same exact place when I used Lookout to find its location previously (see pic above this one to see the difference). I went from getting a location somewhere within a mile of the place they put my phone to being within 26 feet. That is a very great difference and it just goes to show how tricky GPS tracking can be for any device – let alone a cell phone.
But this location is really spot on. I live exactly where the tracking app puts me. Checking the location of a lost or stolen phone more than once is a good idea!
How can I get back my stolen cell phone?
Now that you have figured out the location of your phone there are a couple of things that you can do to get your cell phone back. The first, wisest and easiest is to call the police. If you were the victim of a mugging or other assault the police will probably be more than happy to use your information to find the criminal. They will want to get the crook off the street, especially since they were willing to be violent over something as simple as a cell phone. They also have an eye witness (you!) that can place the suspect at the scene, sealing the case for them and getting another criminal off the streets. There are several news stories circulating the press that confirm this.
Another thing that you could do to get your cell phone back is confront the thief and get them to give you your cell phone back. Just don’t pull an OJ and do it at gun point. You’ll probably go to prison yourself for being a total idiot. Instead, make it safe and do it in a public place. This also only really works if it is stolen by somebody that you know. Using shame and public confrontation is a great way to get the phone back once you know who stole it.
How can I wipe the data on my stolen cell phone?
Let’s say that you have tried to recover your phone but the thief is refusing to hand over the good. Maybe it was taken over the border by a drug runner and now lies in drug-cartel-infested territory and your value your life more than your cell phone. Fine, be a wuss. You still don’t have to let the thief know who are your emergency contacts. You can still stop them from seeing all those awesome photos you took last night at the bar. You can still keep your personal data personal.
Applications like Lookout Mobile Security allow users to wipe cell phone data clean. All personal information will be discretely thrown overboard with concrete shoes on, never to be seen again. Bad guys can’t steal your contact information or learn how to target you for future crimes from your cell phone. The wipe feature does cost a monthly subscription fee – but I can imagine only using it for one month, the month your cell phone was stolen in.
If you can’t get your stolen cell phone back with GPS tracking then at least you can wipe it clean.
Can I mess with the person who stole my cell phone?
One of the really cool things about the Lookout app is that you can make your phone scream. It is a great way to prove that you are the owner of the phone in those public confrontations or to help the police find the phone after they raid the location where your phone is.
A simple command from the app’s web interface and you can turn your phone into a screaming, vibrating, and flashing nightmare for the unsuspecting crook. This was originally designed to help users find a lost cell phone, but it really would be a great trick to play on a crook.
Stolen Cell Phone GPS Tracking Apps
Here is a list of some tracking apps that are designed to help you recover your lost or stolen cell phone:
If you found this post useful, feel free to share it with your friends so that they don’t have to worry about their cell phone if it gets stolen. Always having a tracking app on hand is a good way to make sure they can retrieve their phone. You can help them by:
If you have a cell phone then there is a good chance that you can find some way to track it for free. There are dozens of apps across all sorts of platforms that are going to enable you to either track your own cell phone remotely or give you the opportunity to share your location with friends and family in a social way. Some of these apps will have built in lost cell phone detection while others will not. Still more will make it easy for you to view the location of your cell phone or your friend’s phone through some sort of online interface. All this has made free GPS cell phone tracking a reality that more and more people are taking advantage of as they seek to get the most out of their mobile devices. Are you one of them?
In this article we hope to outline how this technology works by giving a brief overview of GPS tracking technology, cell phones, and how they work together. Then we will go into some of the various free GPS cell phone trackers that are available for some of the major cell phone platforms. These will include the Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows cell phone operating systems. This will be followed by a discussion of the various multi-platform trackers. Finally, we will look at the future of free cell phone tracking and see what the future will hold for us.
The essentials of GPS cell phone tracking are really quite simple. There is a built in GPS receiver in the cell phone which is able to get the phones exact location from the satellites that orbit the globe. Through a simple mathematical principle called trilateration the computer on the cell phone is able to take the data gathered from the signals of three different Global Positioning System Satellites (GPS) and turn that into information that includes the latitude and longitude of the phone.
In order for this data to be used to be able to track the cell phone there has to be some way for the cell phone to tell other people – other devices, really – where it is. This is where the cell phone comes into play. It is obvious that cell phones transmit data, though we probably never really think about it like that very much. They send out the digital signal that encases your voice when making a phone call. Now 3G networks can transmit lots of other digital data as well. This data can include text (SMS) messages, emails, videos, webpages, files, and a whole lot more. Most free trackers essentially use SMS messaging to transmit the latitude and longitude data that the GPS has calculated over the cell phone network to turn these devices into GPS tracking machines. The cell phone can now act as either a real time GPS tracker or just a simple data logger depending on the specific app and what the person wants to do with the information.
A cell phone has arguably become the most powerful GPS tracking device on in the world.
This is certainly a valid question. For the privilege of having a data plan that enables the cell phone to act as a GPS tracker you generally have to pay some sort of fee to your cell phone carrier. In my case (Verizon unlimited plan) this is going to cost you an extra $30 a month. For AT&T it will run you an extra $25 a month, but this plan in not unlimited any more. Sprint’s unlimited data plan costs you $20. T-Mobile has an unlimited data plan that also runs $30 a month.
These are definitely not free – but when you are already using these data plans for other things like streaming Youtube videos, checking Twitter, or surfing the web then adding a GPS tracking app to the mix is not really increasing your cost more for something you are already paying for. So in this way it really is free, but only if you are spending a good chunk of change on your cell phone already. Here is a really cool graphic from Billshrink.com that says it all:
Now lets take a look at exactly what free GPS cell phone trackers are out there for you depending on what operating system you use.
Free Android Cell Phone Trackers
Android is one of the main players in the smart phone wars that are raging right now. The child of Google, Android is an OS that is making it into many of the best phones on the market right now. It is powerful, open source operating system that often comes with free and powerful GPS apps on it when you buy it. These include Google Maps, Google Latitude, and Google Navigate – all of which are great uses of GPS by themselves. For some people, they don’t even need to get another free GPS cell phone tracker. But for those that do, here are some of the best trackers for everything from recording a sporting activity to recovering a lost cell phone to tracking a boyfriend:
Lookout Mobile Security
More than just a GPS cell phone tracker tracker, Lookout Mobile Security is a multi-platform security system for your mobile phone. It features a malware and spyware detection system that will help you determine what apps you should be downloading to your phone and what apps you are going to be leaving on the way side. It even helps you manage your various apps so that you can make sure that your private data remains private.
This feature by itself is incredibly useful, but when it is combined with GPS tracking, data backup, remote log in, and data wipe you really do have a complete security system for your phone. What is most interesting is the way that all the systems work together in sync. For example, imagine that you have lost your cell phone. Big bummer. But never fear, Look Out Mobile Security is here. Simply go to the website and find out exactly where your phone is using the GPS built into your phone. Is it in your house somewhere? Great – you’ve already looked everywhere but can’t find it. Use Lookout Mobile Security to make your cell phone scream! Even in silent mode, activating this command will turn your cell phone into a loud siren that will definitely uncover your cell phone.
This is a great app with lots of visibility. You might have even seen the commercial:
Pintail is a very interesting app. Download it to your phone an you automatically have a GPS tracker for a cell phone that you can use to pinpoint the location of a lost or stolen cell phone. Simply send a text message (SMS) to your cell phone and you will be sent a message that will require you to enter a pin code to view the location information of phone. Once you have entered this data you can know where your cell phone is. Simple and easy.
It can also be used as a way to stay in touch with family or friends. Just give them your pin code and they can text the phone to find out where you are too. This can be a great way for friends to meet up or for a loved one to check in and see where you are at if you are on a really long drive traveling by truck across country.
Everything is pin protected so you can change who has access to your location simply by changing your pin. Did you give your pin to a girl that you are now broken up with? Fear that she is stalking you? Simply change your pin and she will not be able to stalk you anymore. Like I said, simple and easy.
Billed as a family tracking app for Android cell phones, the Eye app is another one of those GPS tracking apps that uses the GPS in your phone to turn it into a mobile tracking device that will make your position known to all your friends – much like Google Latitude and other social tracking applications.
The app uses Google Maps technology to give you the position of your contacts in real time on maps that utilize images taken from satellites in order to give you a graphic understanding of where they are. You can also use the basic map interface too if all that green makes you go bonkers.
They also claim that adding contacts is easy and will work off of your existing contact list. If you want your latest BFF to know where you are at all times just them then an invitation to join the Eye App and you will be well on your way to sharing your location with your friend. They can even use Street View to get a better grip on the house where the party is at!
The Eye app also features bread crumbing, allowing watchful parents to track the movements of their children over the course of the day – something that a lot of other social GPS tracking apps fail to do. Bread crumbing is important because it helps you verify the story of a troubled teen or locate a missing child. Either way, its a useful feature and kudos for the people at the The Eye for including it in this tracking app.
Free iPhone Cell Phone Trackers
iPhones are cool. iPhones are hip. Let’s be honest – iPhones are some of the coolest, most user friendly phones on the market. They appeal to almost every age range and almost every demographic. Often simple to use and surprising versatile these phones have made a huge splash on the cell phone market. Once they introduced a GPS tracking chip, the iPhone became a useful tracking device for those savvy enough to take advantage of this excellent addition to this mobile device. Several generations later, the iPhone is definitely a competitive choice for anyone trying to find a smart cell phone that is going to fit into their lifestyle. Here are some of the free tracking apps available for the iPhone:
Are you self employed or a business owner? Do you use your car regularly for work related activity in a capacity that would enable you to deduct this expense from your tax return? If you answered yes to both these questions then you should seriously consider getting automilez. This free cell phone tracker is designed to help people such as these easily track their mileage so that they can maximize every deduction possible come tax time.
Apparently, even regular Joe’s like you and me can use an app like this to log our mileage for deductions at the end of the year. Medical and moving trips we can deduct $0.165 a mile. For charitable trips we can deduct $0.14 a mile. I guess you learn something new everyday.
While it is obvious that this app has a limited roll as a free tracker it is useful. Just be warned that you are not going to be able to share your current position with anyone or recover a lost cell phone with this app.
GPS-Logger is simple GPS tracker created by iMasterofDesaster that is designed for travelers that have a digital camera in tow that does not currently have a GPS built in to it. The way it works is simple. The iPhone acts as the GPS by going through the process of trilateration and stores the position data with a time stamp on it. During the trip the digital camera takes photos and then time stamps those photos. The GPS-Logger software then does some fancy code work and places a GPS stamp on the photos by taking the nearest time stamped location from the GPS and slapping it on the photo.
This seems to be pretty standard fare for travel GPS data loggers. Another example of this type of technology is the i-Gotu GT-600. But that device is not a mobile phone, it is just a stand alone personal GPS tracker.
GPS Tracker from Instamapper
Instamapper is one of the most powerful and free GPS cell phone tracking apps out on the market. They only ask that your register an account using a valid email address. For this pittance, you get to turn your cell phone into a real-time GPS tracking device at no extra cost to you. The phone will periodically send its position to the Instamapper services which makes 30 days worth of tracking information available to its users. This amount of tracking is equivalent to nearly 100,000 specific locations for a single device.
User’s can share their data with a loved one by sending out a link to a map of their data hosted on the Instamapper website. This link can go either to a computer or to another mobile device. If users feel really safe about sharing their position information with the world, they can even embed a map on a website, a blog, or even Facebook.
An embedded map looks something like this (from Facebook):
While it probably is not the best idea in the world to share your position on Facebook – especially if you are a teenage girl – it is pretty cool that you could do this if you wanted/needed to.
This tracking app even has position buffering so if you hit a dead zone in your coverage the phone can store up to 100 waypoints so that the track log can be brought up to speed once you get back inside your cell phone carrier’s network. Of course 100 way points is not very long (over 8 minutes at one waypoint every 5 seconds), but it will help in those odd dead zones that line urban, semi-urban, and semi-country areas.
Overall, this is a very powerful real time GPS tracking app that can be used in a wide variety of applications by many different people.
Waze is a tracking application built for the iPhone with a very specific purpose. Let’s just say it isn’t for tracking your girlfriend. 🙂 The folks at Waze have done an excellent job of creating a video that explains exactly what this product is all about. Instead of talking about it too much, here is the video:
For those that could not see the video, Waze is essentially a real time tracking community with a purpose. That purpose is to provide the very best real time traffic data for Waze users. This is not a sport tracker. It is not a data logger. It is not even a social tracking app. Its only purpose is to get people around in as little time as possible.
With that being said, it relies solely on the efforts of its users to make the app work. Users build the map, report traffic congestion, and share traffic related material with other users. If you have a small or nonexistent community in your local this free GPS cell phone tracking app is probably not going to do you much good no matter how cool it looks.
Free BlackBerry Cell Phone Trackers
BlackBerry has been the name in work cell phone for the past several years. Their physical keyboard and secure email have made them a household name in the world of business. You almost never hear a business person ask, “Where is my cell phone?” They talk about their BlackBerry like it was the only type of cell phone that exists in the world. As a result of this business customer base, free GPS tracking applications for the BlackBerry are much harder to come by. After all, isn’t it easier to justify spending a little of the business’ money to buy a tracking app than it is to justify spending some your own money to buy it? Despite this, there is an impressive number of free apps designed for BlackBerry users:
BlipPlus is an application created for use on BlackBerry smartphones and is designed as a social tracking application for those with GPS enabled phones.
They have a feature on the app called Share Your Where that enables you to broadcast your location to anyone within your social network as defined by the app. There are all sorts of benefits that can be gleaned by using this sort of application. You can meet with your friends with greater ease. You don’t even have to tell them where you are, just say look up my location using Google Maps or something like that. It can even be used to stay in sync with work associates who need to know when you are speaking with a certain client, etc. Families also benefit because knowing where the whole family is can increase safety, make things more efficient, and give everyone some peace of mind.
BlipPlus offer assistance by letting others choose how and when to contact you based upon you location data that you share with them. Efficiency is key when it comes to location information and this free cell phone tracker will help friends, family, and co-workers be exactly that.
GPSLogger is a essentially just that – a GPS logging application for the BlackBerry. It will record such information as your elevation, speed, and location over time. All of these are essential components to all personal tracking devices and applications, making ideal for people who like to record hikes, adventures, or trips in the car (for business or pleasure).
This free app will also let you use previously recorded or manually entered way-points as a way to remember where a parked car is or to point out an interesting Geocache. They call it the “Guide Me Home” feature and this is pretty standard fare for almost every data logging GPS tracker that has an interface on the tracking device itself. You can even use it to remember where a sweat restaurant is or the place you meet a beautiful woman.
Because all GPS loggers can be used as a sports tracker as well, the developers of this app have added a lap timer element to it as well, making this a full featured, if predictable, position logging app.
GPS Trackdown is a social tracking app that with a slight twist. If you choose to share your location with your Trackdown compatriots then you also have the ability to find get directions to their exact location. Did they move form the spot they were at five minutes ago? Just update their location and the turn-by-turn directions update as well. Pretty cool.
Other than that it is pretty standard location based search with ads that make the developers some nice coin. You can search for pizza, ATMs, hotels, and more with no real need to tell a search engine where you are since all searches already know your current location. This is generally useful, but can get pretty annoying sometimes if you ask me.
Another interesting thing about this is that you can only share your location by text, email, or tweet. No link posting on websites like Facebook or MySpace. This is certainly okay, but some people may find this a little off setting.
And, of course, this GPS cell phone tracking is free – which makes it way better than if you had to pay to use it.
WhereAreYou GPS Tracking
WhereAreYou is the tracking app for all those people who want to secretly track the cell phone of a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or child. It runs “silently” in the background with no way for the person being tracking to tell that something is on their phone broadcasting the location to the person that set it up.
The app is really easy to install and get going. Simply:
Download Silent GPS from BlackBerry App World to the mobile phone that you are trying to secretly track
The app will automatically install itself, asking you to create an account that you can log in on the web and see the phone’s location
The app will run silently in the background, tracking the cell phone and telling you where it is when you log into the web account
The app will track things silently – this means that no user interaction or application icon is going to visible at all on the BlackBerry. This means that you can track secretly without them knowing. You just have to get the phone and do the installation for them.
Tracking is also very easy with this app. Just:
Go to p46.qitlabs.com and enter user/password that you created when installing the program on the phone
There you will see a map with the mobile’s location clearly marked for you to see
There you can also set up tracking intervals to keep the life of the battery so the person you are tracking doesn’t know what is going on – conserving their battery life is key hereY
This app certainly has applications in the business world, but it also can be used by private citizens to track a teenager or to catch a cheating spouse. Before you start tracking someone, please check to make sure that it would be legal in your area to do so.
GPS Fox Hunt
GPS Fox Hunt is definitely an interesting take on the free GPS cell phone tracking app. It takes a cell phone’s ability to track itself and share that information with other cell phones and turns it into a game where each phone becomes a piece in a game. Social tracking has simply been taken to one of the many different possibilities available to it.
The game essentially is a version of hide and seek. There is one phone that is it – this is the fox. All other players in the game are trying to find the one phone that is it. They get to see how far away from you they are which can be useful because they can tell if they are heading in the right direction or not.
This game would be fun to play inside a shopping mall or some other public place with lots of people to “hide” among. It could also be fun out in the wilderness somewhere too – but you have to have connection with your cell phone tower for that.
Here is a video from the game creator that explains the game well enough:
While the idea is interesting and exciting this particular app doesn’t seem to have the favor of users on the BlackBerry Appworld website. It only has a few reviews and has only been around for a few months, so this is likely to change given that new releases of free products and have some kinks that need to be ironed out. But in all this is a pretty cool idea for an app and I hope that things work out for the developer and it makes it big.
Free Windows Cell Phone Trackers
It seems really strange to be including Windows Mobile phones in this list of free cell phone tracking apps, but here it is. Windows Mobile is certainly trying to keep pace with the likes of iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. With the release of Windows Mobile 7 they may be on the right track to getting back into the fray, but it could also be too little too late to be a major player. I doubt that Windows will ever go away completely, they just probably won’t be the market giants that they are on PC. That will almost certainly go to either Android or iPhone – but perhaps I am too young to see the usefulness of Windows.
Unfortunately, we could not use the Windows App Store to find any free GPS cell phone tracking apps. If you have any suggestions please use the contact form linked to at the bottom of this post to alert us to some of the Windows Mobile apps available.
Free Multi-Platform Cell Phone Trackers
Multi-platform cell phone trackers recognize that the best way to reach the most customers is to have a product that can be used by the most people, irregardless of the cell phone that they use on a day to day basis. This makes these free trackers particularly interesting because they open up the world of social tracking to users of all stripes and styles. The iPhone user can track their BlackBerry business friend just as easily as they can other iPhone users. They bring everyone together and make tracking everyone can engage in. While these multi-platform trackers are often anything but perfect and often favor social aspects of tracking over secret or covert tracking they are still extremely powerful in any number of functions not specifically endorsed by the programs creators. Here are some of the best free multi-platform GPS cell phone trackers:
GPS Tracker from Instamapper
This is a powerful GPS tracking application for cell phones that is available on lots of platforms. Right now, it is available on Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry phones (we talked about it under the iPhone section). There are some restrictions for BlackBerry phones – like it doesn’t work on Verizon, lame.
But by far the coolest thing about the Instamapper software is that it works on Boost Mobile phones. You can buy a really cheap iDen phone for under $50 and then get a data plan that could run you around $0.35 a day. Hard wire the sucker to the battery of your car and you have a real time GPS cell phone tracking system for your car. This works great for teen drivers, cheating spouses, and theft prevention. They even have instructions on how to do it all on their website.
Instamapper is definitely the way to go for a DIY, free GPS cell phone tracking solution.
We talked about this one under the iPhone heading, but it is another one of those apps that is designed to be used by lots of other cell phone operating system. It works on iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian mobile phones. They have even made an effort to get this application on the BlackBerry by just releasing an app for this cell phone brand that is still in Beta. As a result it really on works on the Bold 9700, Curve 8900, Bold 9000, and Tour 9360.
You won’t get the world with this app as it really is only designed to use GPS tracking to create excellent, real time traffic data and it relies exclusively on the efforts of its users to make the app work. But it really is a great concept and it might just work as planned if not overshadowed by Google Navigate which tries to do the same thing. Who knows, maybe Waze will get bought out by the internet giant before all is said and done.
Google Latitude is one of the premier social tracking apps available right now. There are a few different reasons for this. The first is that it is created by Google. Google already has a huge user base for everything that it does. Maps and Navigate a huge apps that work of the same framework as Latitude and already have a huge buy in from lots of mobile phone users. Their free cell phone tracker is certainly going to benefit from this market position.
The app is also available on a huge number of platforms. We didn’t even include it in one of the mobile phone operating system categories because it is available on Android, iPhone (and iPad), BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian S60, and most Sony Ericsson devices. Because it is available on so many different platforms it is widely used – boasting 9 million users. That is more than any other GPS tracking app by far.
There are some significant weaknesses to the whole Latitude idea. For example, all tracking is constant and done in the background. While this is great for families or other close knit groups it really doesn’t work to well with friends, work buddies, or acquaintances. There is also not much to actually DO with Latitude other than broadcast your location and see where other people are at. Great for families and possibly for business, but not that fun otherwise.
This app has a strong base and could be something great. Possibly.
Lookout Mobile Security
We learned about Lookout Mobile Security with the rest of the free Android GPS cell phone trackers, but it is available on Windows phones and the BlackBerry. This is a very powerful app for the security conscious and should be downloaded without the slightest bit of hesitation. There is a difference between the free app and the pay app, so don’t expect the moon. You still get a lot with the free app, its just not the whole shooting match.
This make sense because the company has to make some money on it, but with 2 million users in 170 countries you have to expect that at least some of them are paying the 2.99 for the premium service. If just 30% are paying customer then the folks behind the app are making nearly $2 million a month. Wowza. That is a lot of money.
A run of the mill social tracking application I am not sure why you would use this app unless you have lots of friends who are already using it. It was mentioned under our BlackBerry section but it is also available on the iPhone.
The Future of Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
Where are all these free cell phone trackers pointing? I think that what all this is leading up to is a world where location based information is going to be widely available and consumed by consumer and business alike. People are already beginning to share their location more with each other and businesses are starting to use location based targeting in ads they deliver to customers. Companies like Google, Palm, and others are poised to make lots of money if this type of advertising is going to be as effective as some think it will be. Coarse location based targeting is already available on the web and seems to be fairly effective at reaching the intended audience. It is only a matter of time before it becomes the main way to deliver ads to consumers.
There are also increasing concerns about cell phone tracking in the legal world. Who can track whom? In what contexts is this tracking legal and in what contexts is it illegal? When does tracking become stalking? All these questions are beginning to be answered in the courts and this will have an impact on how this technology is going to be used going forward. I can imagine one case making mobile phone tracking too dangerous for any company to touch is a ten foot pole, but we shall see how all this plays out.
For now anyway, GPS cell phone trackers are going to on the rise as more and more people realize that these can be extremely useful applications that will enhance the usefulness of their phones and make their lives more interesting. They can also let their users know information that would have otherwise not have been available to them. Cell phone tracking is too powerful a technology for people to ignore.
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.
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.
Recently I read an interesting article in the local paper about Google’s entrance into the world of cell phones. If you have not already seen the plethora of commercials out there about all the cool stuff the Motorolla Droid cell phone can do then you need to get your head out of the sand and watch some TV. Heck, I don’t even have a TV and I have seen tons of commercials advertising this mobile phone aimed to take away some of the iPhone’s market share in the world of high-end smartphones. If you think about, cell phones like the iPhone and Droid are the future of not only mobile communications but also the internet and GPS tracking. The future goes through the smartphone.
Because of what is at stake here, the advertising has become downright cutthroat when it comes to pointing out the flaws of other phones and a competitor’s cell phone network. If there was any doubt about this, then you have to look no farther than the following advert:
The message comes across loud and clear: iPhone = iDon’t ; Droid = iCan. Everything about this commercial screams out against iPhone and tries to offer the Droid as an alternative smartphone. They even get the same sort of feel that an iPhone commercial tries to give with their choice of music, all of which is used to enforce the message of the mobile phone commercial that iPhones suck. Again, you can clearly see this for yourself by looking at this commercial that has the ubiquitous “iPhone commercial song” in it.
The cell phone wars are upon us, but do we ever stop and let ourselves ask the question, “Why?” Why is Google, Apple, Verizon, AT&T, TMobile, and Sprint spending millions upon millions of dollars in an effort to come out with the most widely used smartphone and cell phone network?
The answer is money, plain and simple. According to David Yoffie*, a professor at the Harvard Business School, “The new paradigm is mobile computing and mobility. That has the potential to change the economics of the Internet business and to redistribute profits yet again” (as quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune, January 5th, 2010, section C3). People like Google and Apple want to corner the smartphone market because if they can do it they have the potential to ‘control’ the way people use their cell phones and the Internet. This control is has the potential to make huge profits for whoever is on the cutting edge.
* This is pulled from David Yoffie’s bio page at the Harvard website: Professor David B. Yoffie is the Max and Doris Starr Professor of International Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean, Chair, Executive Education at Harvard Business School. Professor Yoffie’s research and consulting have focused on competitive strategy, technology, and international competition.
Google made their money on the cutting edge of Internet search. Their search advertising business, Adsense, makes billions of dollars each and every year. Now they want to be able to ‘control’ mobile phone search and to be the premier ad service for these devices as well. From this standpoint, you can see why there is so much fighting going on over cell phones and smartphones.
But what about GPS tracking, where does it fit in?
The answer really has two parts. The first is that mobile technology and mobile Internet surfing is enhanced with positioning technology. People like to be able to find restaurants that are near their exact location, get instant turn by turn directions from their cell phone, and to be able to surf the web or stream Pandora while riding the bus to work. They love the Internet, they love GPS, they love cell phones and they love it when you can combine all three into a seamless user experience.
The second is that ads can be better served when a person’s location is know by the person serving the ads. To a certain extent, companies like Google already are able to do this by taking information from a person’s IP address. Their rough geographic location is then taken into consideration when serving them the ad. For example, a person living in San Diego might get ads relevant to San Diego divorce lawyers when they are on a website that serves Google Adsense and is about divorce law. To a certain extent, this enhances a users web viewing experience, improves the click-through rate for the ad unit, and helps Google make some money.
We have already seen how the Palm-Pre is trying to make use of GPS tracking to serve better ads and how this has caused quite a stir in the cell phone and Internet community. Hopefully other phone companies are learning from the thrashing that the this phone has been getting and will let users know about how their location information is going to be used and give them clear and easy ways to opt out of this ‘service.’
Either way you look at it, GPS tracking is going to be a huge part of cell phones in the future. The only question is who is going to be in the drivers seat of the smartphone era?
I got a very interesting comment that I assumed was in relation to my post on Tracking Your Spouse With GPS. I’ll quote most of it below, but the general gist of the comment was that if a husband is cheating on a wife then it is the wife’s fault for being fat, ugly, stupid, withholding sex, etc. I think that this is the most absurd comment that I think I have ever heard in my life – so it almost doesn’t even warrant a response. But just in case someone comes along and is convinced by some of the arguments because there is no rebuttal I have decided to write this post. It will also allow me to make a few comments on the topic of who is to blame for GPS tracking a spouse and what can be done once the cheating has been discovered.
Here is the comment:
MMM. . . which is the greater betrayal, banging some broad on the side, or surreptitiously sneaking a high tech digital tracking device on your spouse, without his knowledge.
One thing, as a husband who cheated on his wife and is now on his second marriage (with whom he was cheating, and who herself was cheating on her hubby), I can tell you what the problem is.
YOU. For you it is easier to get a gadget, catch him in “ultimate betrayal” and make it all his fault and turn him into your puppy, than it is to work on the real problem. Are you fat, uninteresting, do you nag, did you give up that whole “makeup” thing years ago for a comfy flannel nightshirt and sweat pants. More interested in the latest gossip from your neighbor than hitting the gym, and wearing something sexy with candles and a surprise dinner when hubby gets home? Did you stop doing that “other” stuff, except on birthdays.
Of course, he could have turned into a complete slob that you are no longer interested in. . . but then, ask yourself, if he is so disgusting you don’t want to do him, why do you care if he is doing someone else?
Skip the gizmo, go to marriage counseling.
The first part of his argument is to throw into doubt whehter it is actually more evil to commit adultery or to track your spouse without their knowledge. He really doesn’t offer any arguments for why this is so, he just makes a naked assertion of the fact by posing it as a question. Because of this, his point makes absolutely no sense to me and leaves me answering him like this, “The greater betrayal is banging someone on the side! Why don’t you see that?”
Then he begins his next paragraph with this wonderful gem:
One thing, as a husband who cheated on his wife and is now on his second marriage (with whom he was cheating, and who herself was cheating on her hubby), I can tell you what the problem is.
The person who wrote this comment is himself a cheater. As a cheater, he is trying to establish himself as an authority on why a person might cheat on a spouse. Because he cheated he must know the psychology of a cheater and must be qualified to tell us all the “real truth” about why a spouse might cheat and why it is a “greater betrayal” to track a cheating spouse.
However, all that his admission does for me is diminish his credibility. He has admitted that he cannot be trusted. He is a man who makes promises and breaks them when it becomes convenient for him. This fact is extremely important it ought to inform how we should see everything else that he has to say.
The very next thing that he says is that the reason spouses cheat is because the other spouse is the problem. Really? You broke your promise to somebody and then you say that they are the reason why you broke YOUR promise? I doesn’t work that way. The only person who can break a promise that they made is the person who made the promise.
What is going on is that he is trying to make his moral, intellectual, and emotional failure all about his spouse. He calls her fat, uninteresting, a nag, frumpy, a gossip, and a prude. Is that really true? Probably not.
Then he tries to show some compassion for the wife whose husband has cheated. He suggests that maybe the reason that she is being such a prude and denying her husband her body is that he has turned into a “slob.” But then he seems to think that since you don’t want to be intimate with him that this somehow give him the right to be intimate with some other woman! After all, why would you care that a person who promised that they would be faithful to you is being unfaithful to you. That really doesn’t matter does it?
The commentor seems to think that breaking the marriage promise is no big deal – that marriage is something that is worthless and without deep meaning. But that is exactly the type of thinking that I would expect from someone who has cheated and is without remorse. Marriage to such a person means nothing. They have proven it by their actions.
He doesn’t seem to understand what marriage is and why people make vows to each other during the marriage ceremony. A promise is a promise, and when you break those promises you have to take it seriously.
He then actually gives some good advice in the very last sentence of his comment. Going to marriage counseling is a very important thing for a couple to do if they want to salvage a relationship after one spouse is caught cheating on the other. Cheating is always a signal that a relationship has some sort of sickness within it, and finding out what that sickness is and working on its cure is of the utmost importance when you want to save the marriage.
But the sad thing is, most cheaters will not admit a need for marriage counseling until they are caught in their cheating. And a spouse often cannot catch their spouse cheating without some type of GPS tracking. When it comes to tracking your spouse there are really two different options available to wives and husbands who suspect that their spouse is being unfaithful. The first is to track their cell phone. A lot of the newer cell phones have the capability to be tracked by GPS if the proper software is installed on the device. There is plenty of free GPS tracking software out there, but not all of it is compatible with every type of phone out on the market. Also, a problem with a free tracking method is that they are generally not very covert – making it rather difficult to use it to catch your spouse in the act of cheating.
Another option is to track your spouse’s car with GPS. GPS tracking for cars is a very popular application of GPS technology and has been used extensively by businesses to improve fleet performance and increase revenues. As a result of this usefulness, GPS manufacturers have tried to make these devices as cheap and accessible as possible to a wide range of businesses. A nice side effect of this effort is that it has made these devices available on the consumer market. While car tracking is a very effective means of tracking a cheating spouse, it is far from perfect. While the movement of a car does tell you a lot about a person’s activity, it is not the same as a cell phone which is often taken everywhere a person might go. However, what car tracking gives up in ubiquity it gains back in covert tracking capabilities.
Most car tracking GPS devices are extremely covert and can fit securely inside a wheel well or under the rear bumper. Unless your spouse has a habit of looking in these places there is often very little chance that they are going to find out that you are tracking their movements via GPS.
Whichever method of spouse GPS tracking you might decide to use, it is my opinion that you are well within your rights to track your spouse in this way. Some people might disagree with me, and it might be illegal in some states for spouses to track each other without their express consent, but that is my opinion. And the cheater bears full responsibility for their own cheating, they are to blame for their own promise breaking. They are the liar and are fully responsible for their own actions.
The other day I was watching my wife play some Farmville on Facebook when I noticed this very strange ad in the left sidebar. From what I could tell by looking at it, it appeared to be a GPS cell phone tracking service. The text of the ad read, “Do you think your husband is cheating? Find out instantly where he is right now LIVE.” Doesn’t it seem like this is going to offer someone the ability to track their spouse with some sort of GPS tracking device?
Well, I should probably come out with it right away. This is not a genuine GPS tracking service. It is a scam that is only going to end up costing you money in the long run and violating your privacy. This Facebook cell phone tracking ad is designed to get careless people to opt in to receive text messages to their cell phone that will end up costing them money.
This is the way the deal works. You click on the ad in Facebook and you are taken to a webpage that looks something like this:
Pretty snazzy, right? Looks legit, right? Well, it isn’t. A closer at the fine print at the bottom of the page will tell you exactly what you are going to be getting. Here is a copy of what the website says:
*Service Explanation: By enrolling in TheMobileSpy.com’s service, you will receive three pieces of content. First, you will receive a report of the three most recent phone numbers to have searched for your location with our service. Second, you will be able to search three phone numbers by area code and prefix (NPA-NXX) to see their registered geographic area. Due to the nature of mobile phones and privacy laws, we will be unable to provide real-time location information. However, you will receive the most up-to-date information regarding NPA-NXX registration. Third, you will be enrolled in a periodical fun facts subscription on your cell phone. You must have cookies enabled for this service to operate properly. Remember, the numbers you search for with our service will be recorded and may be disclosed in someone else’s report!
For those that don’t want to read the big block of info you here are the three things that you get by handing over information about yourself and your cell phone:
You will get access to three numbers that have searched for your number. I’m not exactly sure what happens if no one has bothered to search for your number yet, but I suspect that nothing happens. You are out of luck.
You will also get to search for three numbers to find out “their registered geographic area.” This, I assume, is code for saying that if the number you searched for is in their data base then they will tell you in what geographic the phone was registered. But be careful, “due to the nature of mobile phones and privacy laws, [they] will be unable to provide real-time location information.”
You get a lame “fun facts subscription” that will text “fun facts” to your cell phone for 6 dollars a month. Now that is really lame.
If you are still confused about how this service works exactly, let me try and explain it a little better. Since this ad was targeted to wives tracking their husbands I am going to use that throughout our example. A wife is on Facebook – since everyone and there mother is on that thing – and she comes across this cell phone tracking ad while commenting on photos of her elementary school friends. She is a little intrigued by the promise find out instantly where her husband is right now LIVE and clicks on the ad.
She then goes to the website and fills out her information including her location and her phone number. This information is then stored by the website in some database for them to use later. After she submits her number, she gets information on all the people in the websites database that had searched her number in the past. Since she has a relatively new number nobody shows up. She feels good that she doesn’t have any crazy stalkers out there.
She is then prompted by the website to ask about three numbers she is interested in knowing the location of. She obviously enters her husbands number since that is what the ad is promising – being able to track her husband’s cell phone live – and she also enters in two of her best friends’ numbers just for fun. The website then searches its database to see if it has information on any of the numbers that she searched. It doesn’t, but it keeps track of her number and all the numbers that she searched.
Sometime later she gets some stupid text from a strange number saying something like, “Penguins are really birds that cannot fly. Isn’t that crazy?!?” When she gets her cell phone bill at the end of the month she sees this strange charge for $5.95 and wonders where the heck it came from.
This is where this service gets really terrible. Let’s now assume that her husband sees a similar add on Facebook about tracking his wife’s cell phone. He clicks through and fills out the stuff. He puts in his number from step 1 and gets his wife’s number in the results. How did this happen? The website remembered his wife’s search so that it could use that information for future searches. Now the husband know that his wife has been searching for him so he turns around and does a search for her. He gets some information that he already knew about her location, like a zip code or something, and that is that. He gets the same stupid text a little bit later and the $5.95 fee for this “service.”
A word from the wise, do not fall for this Facebook cell phone tracking ad! It does not deliver what it promises and is not a GPS tracking service. Instead, it is a scam designed to cost you $6 a month for the rest of your life you can’t figure out how to cancel this crappy thing. Don’t waste your time, your privacy, or your money on this crap.
By now, we all know that cell phones that have GPS enabled can also be used as tracking devices. The nature of cell phone networks, but especially the 3G and 4G networks that are now everywhere available, make it possible that almost every single cell phone that is currently being used can be tracked to a pretty precise location. However, many phones that could utilize this tracking for cell phones don’t. Is there good reason to begin tracking cell phones? Is this small percentage of adopters a sign that there are no legitimate uses for cell phone tracking? Here are just a few reasons why more people should begin using this powerful technology:
1. You’re A Fitness Nut
Those that love to use fitness GPS know just how useful these devices can be in helping them stay on track with their workouts and improve their overall performance. The only problem with these dedicated fitness GPS is that they can be pretty expensive to purchase. As an example, a Garmin Forerunner 405, is going to cost you well over $200. Even with the heart rate monitor which greatly increases the information that you can gather with this device, this is pretty expensive for something that you only use when working out. There has to be a cheaper solution than that.
As it would turn out, there is a cheaper solution. You can leverage the GPS that is already in your cell phone and turn it into your fitness tracking device. There are both paid software packages that can do this as well as free ones. As you might expect, the paid software generally provides a much more robust user experience and has a lot of bells and whistles for you to enjoy. One example of this type of software is AllSport GPS by Trimble. In some instances you are going to have to pay a one time fee while at other times you are going to need to pay a monthly subscription. Wherever possible and whenever it makes financial sense, go with the one-time fee over the monthly subscription.
Free software, on the other hand, is going to cost you nothing to use and to install but it is going to “cost” you in terms of features and ease of use. Many free tracking applications are general purpose and not necessarily designed for fitness tracking. This makes it a little more difficult to use it in this fashion, but it is certainly doable.
2. You Suspect A Spouse of Cheating
If you suspect your spouse of cheating then you might want to begin tracking them using GPS. The reason that using a cell phone to do it is such a good idea is that cell phone generally go with a person wherever they go. If they are going to a hotel to meet their fellow cheater then you can pretty much assume that they are going to be bringing their cell phone with them. This makes being able to track their cell phone very powerful and very useful.
But there is one word of caution here, it is generally fairly difficult to install GPS tracking software on your spouses phone without them knowing it or being able to figure it out. If they are savvy they might notice that there battery is loosing charge faster than normal, or that some of their other activities – like browsing the internet while doing a few other tasks underneath the surface – are going slower than normal. If they then look at all the running applications on their phone they might notice something is amiss.
Tracking your spouse with GPS through their cell phone is certainly not the easiest thing in the world, but if you can’t afford a standalone tracker then you will find that the cell phone works just as well as these other devices. You might have to expose your tracking to more risk of discovery, but getting to the bottom of it is worth the risk if money is tight.
3. Monitor A Teen Driver
Teens take their cell phones everywhere, so when you install GPS tracking software on their phone you will be able to track them wherever they go – even while driving. The ability to do this is especially important given the fact that teens tend to drive rather dangerously when they are alone or when they have friends with them in the car. Being able to monitor and regulate your teenager’s driving is a primary concern for many parents who do not want their child to be a statistic for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to compile.
There are plenty of ways to help drive better, with one of the most effective being a robust GPS tracking system that encourages and rewards safe driving practices. For more information on how to make this a reality for your teen please see the following articles:
Like it or not, GPS tracking art is a real phenomena. Many locative artists mainly use portable GPS tracking devices, but there really is not reason that they could not use cell phone GPS tracking for their work. All they would need to do is get a program that let them track the position of their phone and they would be set. The tracking would not have to go on in real time so the artists would not need to be constrained by receiving a cell phone signal to do the tracking. All they would need is the ability to receive GPS satellite signals.
This would mean that the cell phone could be used in all sorts of locations. Rugged mountain regions, desolate tundras, barren deserts, or lush jungles – as long as you could receive data from 3 satellites in the constellation of GPS satellites then you are good to go.
5. Share Your Location With Friends and Family
It is pretty obvious that cell phones help you stay in better contact with friends and family. Just being able to call someone from wherever you are at is a great way to stay in better contact, but when you add to that things like internet browsing (for Facebook and other social media use) you begin to get a very powerful social device. Since this idea is already well ingrained in the minds of users, once GPS came around there were many people who saw that this could be just one more way that these practical devices could be used to connect user to their friends. Thus social cell phone tracking software was born.
There are several free tracking systems available for use made by third parties as well some that are made by cell phone providers themselves. Find the social tracking application the best fits your needs and is going to get you in contact with the largest number of your friends.
6. Help You Find A Lost Cell Phone
We have already written extensively on how one might use GPS to find a lost cell phone, so we won’t go into too much detail here. But suffice it to say that this is a very real and powerful method for users to stay in contact with their cell phone – wherever it is. There are a lot of different options available to you depending on which type of cell phone you own and what current features you already subscribe too. For example, MobileMe for the iPhone already has a built in lost cell phone finding feature. There are also some free gps cell phone tracking programs that you can use as a lost cell phone finder as well.
7. Create An Accurate Theft Recovery Device
Speaking of a cell phone’s ability to track down a lost cell phone, MobileMe, and the iPhone, cell phones also work great as GPS theft recovery devices. There are several documented cases where stolen cell phones were used by police to track down the perpetrators of the crime and bring them to justice. All it takes is installing a little extra software on your phone and it suddenly turns into a powerful theft recovery device capable of reuniting you with your stuff when the information is given to the right people (the police or your mob friends 🙂 ).
As you can clearly see, there are many different reasons to use GPS tracking for cell phones. What I find most interesting about them is that they are not all mutually exclusive. In fact, one type of cell phone tracking is often compatible with other types of tracking as well making cell phones even more useful and cost effective purchases. Why buy expensive, stand alone GPS tracking device when you can use a cell phone at a fraction of the price and for much more than one device could ever accomplish?
There is recent news that an Apple application called MobileMe has been instrumental in recovering a stolen iPhone and catching the individuals who stole it at gunpoint. This isn’t the first time that a GPS enabled iPhone has been used to catch criminals red handed, and it certainly won’t be the last. GPS tracking for cell phones is only going to become more prevalent, and stories like this are going to spread the word about just how powerful GPS is on our mobile devices.
According to reports from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the owner of the iPhone was mugged by two individuals around 1 a.m. The thieves took the man’s wallet, pin numbers, and iPhone while one of the assailants held what appeared to be a gun. As the police would later discover, the “gun” was just a pellet pistol.
After handing over his belongings, the victim ran away and called police. The victim then got on a computer and used MobileMe’s Find My iPhone feature to locate his cell phone. He presumably passed this information along to the police who were then able to track down the thieves at a gas station.
Even though two suspects were involved in the robbery, three were arrested in connection with the crime.
GPS Tracking As Theft Recovery
Using GPS tracking as a way to recover lost or stolen property is a great way to make use of this powerful technology. The example from this news story is just one of many different ways that being able to track your phone could be useful. What if your purse gets stolen at a night club with your cell phone it? Or how about your car? Or your backpack while you are at school? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just rush over to a computer and be able to give police laser targeted information about where you think your belongings are? Of course it would. That is why we think that the use of GPS tracking in cell phones is such an important thing for consumers to do if they can afford it and are able to do so.
In fact, you don’t even have to use the tracking on the cell phone primarily for theft recovery. Many of the tracking applications available on mobile devices are social in nature, letting friends or family members know where you are during the course of your day. If this is the type of thing that appeals to you then it also works great as a GPS theft recovery system as well. All you would need to do to make use of it would be to go to a computer and log on and check out where your phone is.
If you are using the phone to monitor the driving of a teenager then this too will work in the theft recovery role. Heck, it could even work in a find a lost cell phone role too since teenagers are so absent minded sometimes. Again, all you would need is to have the phone turned on and for it to be receiving a signal from cell phone towers. If these conditions are met then just run over to a computer and you can find out exactly where your phone is through the power of GPS.
What Is MobileMe?
The truth of the matter is there are literally dozens of different GPS tracking and phone location programs for cell phones – but the program used in the this particular example was MobileMe for iPhone. This is a subscription program that currently runs for $99 a year (~$8.30 a month). If this were just a GPS tracking application then this would be way over priced, but it isn’t just a tracking app.
It allows iPhone users to sync there data between their personal computer, whether it is a laptop or a desktop. You are given a single email account (email@example.com) that is always kept up-to-date. If you check your email on your iPhone while you are out on the town then when you get home that email is going to be marked as read. The same is true of your work PC as well. This can be a pretty useful feature for on the go professionals or students.
Another feature is the ability to push contacts from your iPhone to your PC without having to hook anything up. If you are out and you meet a client, contact, or study partner that you want to shoot an email all you will have to do is get their information into your cell phone and the information will automatically be synced with your Outlook account or Address Book on your Mac.
The last push feature that MobileMe offers is the push calander option. Like the other two features, this turns your iPhone it the perfect mobile calendaring device. You don’t have to worry about manually updating your home calendar of manually syncing your different devices together to make sure that appointments you make at your desk get put into your cell phone and vice versa. MobileMe takes care of it all and does so seamlessly.
You also get a cool photo gallery feature, online file storage, and access to me.com.
In additional to all this, they have a Find My iPhone feature that is the source of interest in this news story. What this feature does is it allows users to put a special message on a lost or stolen iPhone, wipe person data from your iPhone remotely, and get a GPS derived location of your cell phone.
As you might suspect, each of these features is pretty powerful. Being able to display a message on your phone could help in the event that you forgot is somewhere. You could say something like, “Oi! I left my mobile phone at the coffee shop. I am on my way to pick it up right now. Please leave it at the counter for me please.” Or if it is stolen you could say something like, “You shall not steal. – God.” Either way, you get a message across that will keep your cell phone safe and hopefully get it back into your hands quickly.
The information wipe feature is also useful because it helps protect your privacy and the privacy of those on your list. Do you really want a thief to have the information of all your most intimate contacts? Do you want them to know your Grandma’s address? Or know where all your girlfriends live? No! Being able to wipe this data off your phone is a very useful feature.
And finally, MobilMe lets you find the location of your phone. If it didn’t this news story wouldn’t be much of a story.
Is all this worth $99 a year? For some it is going to be. For others it will not be. Thankfully, there are other options for those who want to use GPS tracking on their cell phone for theft recovery.
Free GPS Applications For The iPhone
Many phones on the market have the ability to be tracked with GPS, not just “cool” mobile phones like the iPhone. As a result, there are many free tracking programs available for a wide range of mobile device. Many of these programs only work with subset of all the GPS enabled cell phone on the market, so finding one that works for your particular phone is going to take some work – but free is a really nice word, so the work is worth it.
One free GPS tracking software package that is particularly well received is Instamapper. This program works on a lot of different phones and communicates the tracking information in a lot of different ways. It is completely free to use (but check out some warnings about free GPS cell phone tracking) so you really have no reason not to at least give it a try. It could be the difference between catching a criminal and letting them get away with their crime.
But, according to some interesting patent information recently uncovered, the folks at Palm want to use your location information for a lot more than just helping you use Google Maps. They want to use it to sell you stuff.
Here is the actual language in their patent, taken from the very first line under the claims heading (emphasis mine):
1. A mobile device, comprising: a processor; and a memory coupled to the processor and configured to store user-specific data; wherein the processor is configured to access data indicating a position of the mobile device and provide advertisement data based upon the position of the mobile device and the user-specific data.
To cut through all the patent speak used in this … patent, let’s sum up what they said in the following manner. Palm wants to use your position and information specific to you in order to display laser targeted ads to you on your mobile phone. This then raises the question, What user specific information do they want to use? And how are they going to go about getting this information?
Well, as one might expect, there is more of this information in the patent. The next 5 entries in the patent read as follows (emphasis mine):
2. The mobile device of claim 1, wherein the user-specific dataincludes data associated with at least one of a date stored in the memory and data provided by an address book of the mobile device.
3. The mobile device of claim 1, wherein the processor is configured to provide the advertisement data further based on a prospective position[presumably from the date book] of the mobile device.
4. The mobile device of claim 1, wherein the processor is configured to provide the advertisement data further based on a historical record of the mobile device, the historical record including a record of at least one of a historical rate of travel of the mobile device and a historical position of the mobile device.
5. The mobile device of claim 1, wherein the processor is configured to access a rate of travel of the mobile device and provide the advertisement data further based on the rate of travel of the mobile device.
6. The mobile device of claim 1, wherein the processor is configured to provide the advertisement data further based on a likely mode of transportation of a user of the mobile device.
Now if we let ourselves think about this, we can see that this is some pretty scary stuff. Palm just wants to use GPS cell phone tracking to make a buck or two, but they are doing so at the expense of your privacy – and that is just wrong!
There are a couple points that are particularly disturbing, and remind me a lot about the decision made by the New York State Court of Appeals that ruled a warrant was needed to use GPS tracking on a suspect. What you will find next is an edited excerpt from the courts majority opinion expressing their deep concern about warrantless GPS tracking:
One need only consider what [companies like Palm] may learn, practically effortlessly, from planting a single device [to track your cell phone with their advertisement driven cell phone tracking software] . The whole of a person’s progress through the world, into both public and private spatial spheres, can be charted and recorded over lengthy periods …. Disclosed in the data retrieved from the transmitting unit, nearly instantaneously with the press of a button on the highly portable receiving unit, will be trips the indisputably private nature of which takes little imagination to conjure: trips to the psychiatrist, the plastic surgeon, the abortion clinic, the AIDS treatment center, the strip club, the criminal defense attorney, the by-the-hour motel, the union meeting, the mosque, synagogue or church, the gay bar and on and on. What the technology yields and records … is a highly detailed profile … of where we go, … of our associations — political, religious, amicable and amorous, to name only a few — and of the pattern of our professional and avocational pursuits. When multiple GPS devices [or cell phones with webOS running] are utilized, even more precisely resolved inferences about our activities are possible. And … it will be possible to tell … who we are and are not with, when we are and are not with them, and what we do and do not carry on our persons — to mention just a few of the highly feasible empirical configurations.
Again, this is talking about the police tracking a suspect with GPS, but it also correlates rather nicely with the activity of Palm in this instance. Do you really want Palm delivering ads on your phone based upon your current destination or one of your previous locations? Is that really going to make your life better?
For example, let’s say that you have been having some bowel problems lately and have been going to get a colonic regularly as part of the treatment. Once you have made a recovery are you going to want to have ads displayed on your cell phone for a colonic every time you drive in the general vicinity of the clinic?
Or what if you made an appointment to get a massage at a local massage parlor. You have never gotten a message before and this place was close to your home when you looked on Google Maps. You add it to your mobile phone’s address book. When it comes time for you appointment you head on over to the massage parlor and you enter it and there are tons of scantily clad Vietnamese women walking around the waiting room. You get this sick feeling that this might not be your sort of massage parlor and you leave.
Well, if you were using a cell phone that didn’t feel a need to invade your privacy and track your position with GPS then this embarrassing experience would be over. However, it seems possible with the vision expressed in the patent application submitted by Palm that you would be reminded of that fateful day with advertisements as you head in that general direction. Yuck.
Then there is the issue of what Palm could do when they start correlating different pieces of data between cell phone users. Let’s say that you are a generally very respectable, moral person who attends an event that draws people from a bunch of different backgrounds. It could be a church service, or a PTA meeting, or even just a mom event at a park. Now let’s say that another person who attends these events does not necessarily hold the same value system that you do – they could drink, or smoke, or go to clubs, or do something else that you don’t necessary disapprove of, but certainly don’t want to do yourself. Now, would you want Palm to suppose that because you meet with this person you also must like doing what they do and therefore display ads for these activities on your cell phone?
While this last scenario isn’t necessarily in the patent information, it sure seems possible – and that possibility is scary. What business does Palm have knowing this type of information about us and serving advertisements on our cell phones? I think that this is pretty bad and should be stopped.
Now I need to make it clear that I don’t think GPS tracking is bad in and of itself. I think that it can be a great way for a business to improve efficiencies by tracking their fleets. Fleets that utilize GPS for the purpose of driver routing and maintenance have been able to realize huge cost savings and increase the overall output of their fleets. This is a great way for businesses to utilize GPS tracking, whether by cell phones or by traditional GPS tracking devices, and to benefit their companies bottom line.
But a business should never invade their users privacy so that they can better target them with advertising – that is just lame.
Another perfectly viable use of GPS tracking in my opinion is the use of this technology by the police to catch criminals. While some may think it odd that I think that the police can track a suspect without the use of a warrant in light of my disgust with Palm for invading their users privacy, I don’t see a contradiction. The police are trying to uphold justice – catch murders, stalkers, rapists, thieves, etc – while Palm is just trying to make an extra buck. Which aim do you think is a little more noble?
Another perfectly legitimate use is to track family members, such as your child, teenager, or spouse. I think that this is entirely in line with the dynamics of a family and the way that it ought to work, as long as GPS is used as a supplement to good parenting techniques and with open communication between spouses. It should never be used as a replacement for these things, and if it is it is being used poorly.
GPS tracking is also great in fitness applications. GPS running watches are just one of the many different ways that tracking technology has been appropriated for use in fitness. These devices are powerful training computers that fit easily on your wrist and work, look, and feel like a regular watch that has all the power of GPS infused within it. When paired with a heart rate monitor there are few things that can compare to the power of a GPS tracking watch.
Finally, GPS tracking is also a great way for people to stay connected with friends and family. The cheapest alternative out there is certainly the cell phone, and this is why it is so tragic that Palm is turning GPS enabled phones into privacy invading devices. All that you needed to do to make your phone into a GPS tracking cell phone was download some free GPS software and you were already well on your way to having an easy to use tracking system for your family or friends to use to find you. Now that Palm is invading your privacy many people might be more wary of pursuing this route, and that is unfortunate in my opinion.
While there is little doubt that GPS tracking is always going to have a commercial aspect to it, it is sad that the desire to make money off of position data has led some companies *cough*Palm*cough* to disregard their user’s privacy and use their information without communicating it to them in a useful way. I hope that other cell phone companies and GPS tracking providers are watching this debacle and learning the lessons the easy way: don’t steal users GPS location information for advertising – make sure they opt in to it themselves!