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.
Almost everyone has had the experience of misplacing or losing their cell phone. We also all know what it is like to search and search for our lost cell phone in the hope of finding in some obvious or not so obvious spot. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to leverage a cell phones built in GPS technology to help it “find” itself? Lost cell phone GPS tracking is real and is a very powerful and efficient way for people to recover their mobile phones once thy have misplaced them.
This article is going to attempt to give an introduction to how GPS locates cell phones in the world and how this information can be used by owners to find their lost cell phone.
GPS: What Is It?
The Global Positioning System (of which GPS is the acronym) is a network of satellites that orbit the earth and specialized receivers here on earth that interact with each other. The system was developed by the US military in an effort to get a better understanding of where their forces were at any given moment and has been around fro several decades. It was made available to the public under President Ronald Reagan and since then there has been an explosion in the use of GPS technology by regular citizens. We are all familiar with GPS navigation technology, and this is one of the most prolific uses of GPS in the consumer market.
The way GPS works is through a mathematical principle called trilateration. The simple explanation of trilateration is this – if you know where three things are in the world and you know your distance from each of those things then you can figure out exactly where you are. If that doesn’t make much sense then just take a look at the picture to the right. You can know where Point B is in the world if you know where P1, P2, and P3 are.
The world of the Global Positioning Systems, the satellites that orbit the earth are represented like P1, P2, and P3 in our picture above. These satellites emit a signal through the air the travels at a certain speed. This signal contains information like the time that it was sent and a uniquely identifying id. This information is then process by a GPS receiver, which is the same as point B in the picture above. The receiver takes the information sent by the satellites and finds out its distance from each of P1, P2, and P3. It then does some fancy math and finds out exactly where it is right now.
Some GPS receivers that are used for navigation will then show the user this data in map form so that they can know where they are. GPS tracking devices will take the data and send it out over a cell phone network (GSM tracker) or over a communicate satellite (satellite tracker). Still other devices, known as data loggers will simply store the data on its hard drive for download at a later time. Whatever GPS device you are using, they all work of this same principle of trilateration and all fit into the same category.
GPS In Cell Phones
A few years ago GPS receivers began to find their way into cell phones. Then there was a move by the federal government that required cell phone carriers develop a way to help them find out the location that 9-1-1 phone calls made from cell phone originated. The carriers had the option then of using their own GSM networks to create a tracking system based off of the same principle as the GPS network. Some carriers went with this option. Other carriers decided to go ahead and put GPS in cell phones that they were going to provide to their customers.
There are a lot of different things that people use GPS in cell phones now these days. The first and most obvious is navigation. Almost everyone likes to get turn by turn directions spoken to them, especially when traveling in new and unknown places. Cell phone navigation has become to prevalent that some industry experts suspect that the cell phone is going to surpass the PND (Personal Navigation Device) as the navigation device of choice in just a few years time.
Cell phone GPS is also used for all sorts of fun apps and internet surfing features. If you want to know of good restaurants that are near you right now, there are internet searches and apps for that. If you would love to find out the prices of homes in your neighborhood then there is a real estate GPS tracking app for that too. There are literally tons and tons of different ways that GPS is being used by everyday people for any number of normal activities. It is safe to say that GPS receivers in cell phone are making the world a thoroughly more navigable place.
GPS Tracking of Cell Phones
But this article is about lost cell phone GPS tracking, not about all the cool things that GPS is doing for cell phone technology. So to help us understand how GPS can help us find lost cell phones a quick word needs to be said about the GPS tracking of cell phones. A brief definition of GPS tracking should be given: GPS tracking is the ability to track the location of a person, vehicle, or object as it moves throughout the world. There are two types of GPS tracking, passive and active. Active tracking occurs in real time and lets you find out where something is right now. Passive GPS tracking has to do with data loggers, which find out your position and then store it on the device for use later when you can download the information into some tracking software.
Anyway, the tracking available in cell phones is real time GPS tracking – and this is important because it will allow you to use it in order to find a lost cell phone. It would work something like this. You download a GPS tracking application onto your cell phone from among one of the many different free GPS tracking applications or software available. Once it is downloaded and installed you just keep it running on your phone so that you will have a running GPS log of your location. If you ever lose your cell phone, you can find out the last place it was when the battery still had a charge.
In order to use your GPS to help find your lost cell phone you need to have the following conditions met:
Your cell phone must be turned on.
You must have a GPS tracking application installed on your phone.
The tracking app must be running. This will ensure that the GPS is actively reading signals from the satellites in order to find out its location. It will also then send that information over the cell phone network so that you can view it on the internet.
Your cell phone must be receiving signals from satellites. If your phone is buried beneath 100 feet of concrete then there is no hope of finding it!
Your cell phone must be getting a signal from cell phone towers. If it is not then you will not have a method of sending information to the Internet for you to look at it.
If you meet all of these criteria then you should be able to find a lost cell phone with GPS tracking.
We have also included a larger list of apps that you can download to smart phones of several different varieties. Just check out our post about free GPS cell phone trackers.
Ways to Use It
One of the most important ways that this technology can be used is to help children keep track of their cell phones. GPS cell phones for kids are great because they provide excellent safety for our children, but they are no good to use or to them if they lose them. If you need to know where their lost mobile phone is just log onto the computer and figure it out.
The same is true for businessmen who have a cell phone with all their work contacts and email on it. If they were to lose this device it could disastrous for their next sales call if not for their entire career. If they have GPS tracking installed on their Blackberry then they should have no problem finding their phone and avoiding certain disaster.
If you would like more information on how to use your cell phone to find itself, please check out How to Find a Lost Cell Phone with GPS Tracking. It should provide you with some helpful tips on what you should do and give you some ideas of the different programs available for use in this type of tracking.
GPS tracking works great in cell phones. Their small, light-weight nature makes them a perfect fit for the way that most people live their lives. It also is the perfect vehicle for tracking because it is connected to GSM cell phone networks, giving them the ability to send large amounts of information long distances almost instantly. This could not be done with standard telephones. Telephone GPS tracking wouldn’t even make any sense since they are static and do not move anywhere.
Do you have any helpful tips for people trying to utilize lost cell phone GPS tracking?
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?
Wild and crazy Zeptotools has come up with an ingenious way to incorporate an iPhone’s GPS navigation application and an HMD display with the act of riding a bicycle, creating the first cell phone based bicycle navigation system that I am aware of. They call this system ARider.
While there are many, many detractors of this system – the folks over at Zeptotools do deserve some credit for putting together a prototype of their idea even if it doesn’t prove to be commercially viable. One has to admit that what they have done in combining these technologies together is just plain cool and that the world of cell phone navigation, GPS tracking applications, and the iPhone will never be the same.
Zeptotools is an iPhone app developer who has created some very slick, very interesting applications. There current applications include ZeptoPad, ZeptoLiner, IRCon, iShodo, BullCam, Quick Pigeon, and Montblanc Pen. The short video to the right gives a really good impression with the type of stuff that these guys are putting out. Everything about it, the music, the cinematography, and even the way the people are dressed gives you all you need to know to understand what these guys are about. Cool stuff. Chic. Web 2.0. Etc.
ARider does not stray from this feel. While still in the prototype phase, the design is sleek and appealing. And even though they use Scotch tape to attach the HMD to the bike helmet it still looks really cool. Here is a video of the GPS system in action to give a little flavor of what this device actually looks like. It was put together by the folks at Zeptotools so you know it is going to have a cool music score (which it does). So here it is:
Pretty cool if you ask me. A working prototype for cycling GPS navigation.
With anything so visionary you are going to get people who want to hate on it. The ARider GPS navigation system is no different. Just take a look at some of these comments about this revolutionary GPS tracking mapping device:
Putting your expensive smart phone on top of your bike helmet seems like a good way to destroy it and possibly yourself too, if you get into an accident, which is in turn made more likely by adding distracting displays to your field of view.
And this one:
Dangerous to your expensive iPhone and useless. The only way this would be slightly useful is if you were in a new, unfamiliar city. Urban cyclists, after a year or so of riding, don’t need a map to tell them how to get around their city. In fact, most of the pertinent information to cycling isn’t on any map, let alone Google. Isn’t cycling wonderful because of the freedom? Why would we want to make it more car-like and stick a HMD in front of us?
As a cyclist, I must say this is a great way to get badly injured while cycling. It’s bad enough to text while driving, but to be distracted on a bike is insanity.
This pretty much sums up the voices of dissent who are too short sighted to see just how cool this thing is. As a regular bike commuter I think that this devices is incredibly cool and could be extremely useful for a whole host of applications, not just GPS navigation related.
ARider and GPS Tracking
One of the coolest things about this application is that it offers an augmented reality. Apache helicopter pilots experience the same sort of thing when they pilot their helicopter. The main machine gun mounted on the underside of the helicopter is controlled by the turning of the head of the gunner. His vision is completely augmented by his helmet and it does take a lot of training to get used to the effect that this has one’s vision. But that doesn’t mean that this is bad.
For example, not military personnel say, “That sure seems like a good way to crash a multi-million dollar helicopter and waste all the man hours we spent training that pilot.” That is just silly. The fact is that augmented reality is powerful and useful tool for incorporating electronic inputs into our realm of experience.
I can imagine something like this but use it in relation to people. Bionic Eye, an iPhone app, already augments reality with business locations. What would prevent someone creating an application that works together with a GPS tracking application that will give you an idea of where actual people are in your field of vision? Now that would be fun, useful, and interesting to use.
You could always know where friends and family are at any given moment with the aid of GPS and an augmented reality. All you would have to do is look in their general direction and you could get a really cool visual of exactly where they are in relation to you just the photo to the right suggests.
The applications for this technology would be robust. How easy would it be to keep your kids safe in a theme park if you could get a visual idea of how far away they were at any given moment? You wouldn’t panic if your child gets lost in a crowd or is briefly separated from you. All you would need to do is use your GPS tracking augmented reality to come up with an idea of where they are at.
The same is true for Alzheimer suffers, teen drivers, spouses, friends, important assets, and the list goes on and on.
So I think that the work by the folks at Zeptotools is really, really cool and could impact not only the world of GPS navigation for cyclists, but also impact how people begin to interact with their position in a way that is currently only being utilized by the military. Once GPS tracking augmented reality feasible in the day to day of life I think that it will catch on like wildfire and change the face of GPS tracking forever.
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.
We love cell phones. They can do anything … well, almost anything. For golf lovers, they now provide a way for users to turn these every day devices into golf GPS systems.
Over the past decade the place of the cell phone has become more and more prominent. Just 10 years ago they were still fairly rare. Today, it is crazy not to have one. They have become the repository of our entire social lives, holding all our personal information in their small but powerful computers. Cell phones now interact with nearly every aspect of what we do on a daily basis. Cell phone applications are making various things obsolete – day planners, watches, alarm clocks, phone number memorization, navigation GPS, digital cameras, MP3 players, and golf GPS.
Very soon, cell phones are going to be the only piece of electronica that we are going to need – ever.
As far as golf GPS systems for cell phone go, there are two main routes that people can go. They could choose to use some free software or they can go the paid route. As we all know there are pros and cons to going with either solution. Paid services cost money while often making things really easy for users and often have very rich feature sets. Free services are free but generally take a little more work to get running properly and generally have less features than a paid counterpart. This is some gross generalization and isn’t always the case in every situation, but you get the general idea.
The rest of this article follows this division between free and paid golf GPS systems for cell phones.
Free Golf GPS Systems for Cell Phones
Did you say free? Getting our GPS golf tracking software for free is certainly better than having to pay for it out of your own pocket. Some golf systems for cell phones not only cost money, but they also have an annual fee! Here is a list of some of the free golf GPS systems for cell phones currently available:
This is a golf GPS that gives you the basics for your cell phone. No more. No Less. In its free version (yes, there is a paid upgrade version) you get to know the distance from where you are at to the front, center, and back of each green on supported courses. As far as supported courses go, Free Caddie offers a pretty good selection in terms of the number of courses available for use. If they don’t have your specific course on file, you can always make one using their course creator. The course creator is available in both the free and the paid version of Free Caddie.
Right now, this golf GPS tracking system is available on a wide range of phones including Windows Mobile Smartphones, the iPhone, Blackberry phones, and Java enables phones. There are plans on adding it to the Palm Pre, but who would want to do that after their privacy invading cell phone tracking software.
This free application is from the same makers of the GolfLogix GPS-8, a Garmin golf GPS system. GolfLogix is a free golf tracking software that is designed for Blackberry. It also has a iPhone version, but it is mostly used for the various Blackberry versions. It is currently supported on:
In terms of course coverage, it appears that this golf GPS system has a few more courses than the other free application listed above. With over 24,000 golf courses mapped this is bound to have the course you regularly play. Unfortunately, it does not appear to have a way for users to build their own course files. This is a feature that most definitely needs to be added to this GPS tracking system if it is to reach its full potential.
Also, by limiting the phones that can use this software the folks at GolfLogix have really narrowed their market considerably. If you are a traveling business man or woman who likes to play golf then this is probably going to be the service for you, but if you don’t have a BlackBerry then you are out of luck.
To be honest, Green Finder is a way over priced. Right now it costs $35 per year. When you consider that it only has 10,000 courses that is a ridiculously high price. I would avoid Green Finder unless it is the only golf GPS software that works for your cell phone.
Like some of the free versions, it is compatible with BlackBerry, iPhone 3G, Android, and phones that run Windows Mobile. It also has a software in the workd for Palm Pre.
This paid service is definitely not a cheap golf GPS system, coming in at just under €35 ($50), but this is a lifetime price. This already makes it cheaper than Green Finder. Also, you get a lot of features with iGolfScorer that you just don’t get with other golf GPS applications. Some of the features include:
On the course scoring
Side games for betting
Shot distribution and tracking
Email your scorecard feature
And free web analysis
This is certainly a very full featured golf GPS system. The only problem that American users are going to find with this software is that it is heavily weighted toward European users. We find this first in the phones compatible with the software. There are just a handful of phones – all of which are made by Sonny Ericsson or Nokia. This means that the most popular GPS enabled cell phones on the American market won’t even run the software. Also, the course that the software supports is heavily weighted toward European users. Of the 2,000 courses on iGolfScorer only 260 are US courses. Chances are, your home course isn’t going to be one of them.
Most American’s won’t be able to use this software, but it make a great European golf GPS system for cell phones.
The last golf GPS tracking system that we are going to look is IntelliGolf. It currently runs just under $40 and looks to be a pretty solid golf GPS features wise. There is an additional upgrade that costs you $30 and allows you to do a host of things with the data you collect on your cell phone – like make printouts of your statistics and grants you the ability to interact with other IntelliGolf user data. I probably wouldn’t get the upgrade since this type of data isn’t that useful to me in my own golf game, but some users will really like this type of information.
When it comes to compatible cell phones, IntelliGolf is compatible with the following phones:
Palm OS or Treo
Nokia Series 60
IntelliGolf also boast having course data on over 25,000 courses – the largest of any software package on the list. It also has a very robust feature list, including:
Score cards for up to 5 golfers
Tracks shot statistics
Automatically keeps track of side games
Lets you recall past course statistics for players
The website for this product is a little cheesy, and could be updated to give the system more credibility to first time users. But aside from that, this seems like a fairly useful golf GPS system for your cell phone.
If you can, go with a free golf GPS system. If you don’t like it, you can always remove it and not worry about all the money that you just wasted on the software. If you love it and find yourself craving even more features then you can take a look at some of the paid systems out there. But until you give a test drive using a free service I think you should stay away from paying if you can. Even if you really like a friends version of one of the systems it is always best to take a look at the golf GPS system on your own before making a purchase that you might come to regret at some point in the future.
Creating your very own GPS system for cars is really a lot easier than you think. In days long past you would to have had a hell of a lot of technical experience, a great understanding of how to create software, and a lot of money to get something like real-time GPS tracking to work for yourself. You would have had to buy a ton of equipment that you would never normally use and spend countless hours coding software and making firmaware so that your devices could interact with your software. This process would be both time and money intensive and very few of us would be able to get through it.
Today, it is a totally different story. All you need to create an awesome, real-time GPS tracking system for your car is a navigational GPS that has bluetooth capabilities and a cell phone that can run a free GPS tracking application called 3dtracking. It will also help to have a good cell phone plan with your provider that has plenty of data sending capabilities. That is it.
The Equipment Needed
The very first thing that you are going to need is going to be a GPS navigation unit. This is because the 3dtracking software must have access to coordinates generated by a GPS device in order to provide real-time GPS tracking information. Without some form of GPS information to feed your cell phone that is loaded up with this free GPS tracking software you are not going to be able to get yoru desired results.
While I don’t personally have a navigational GPS, I have heard some good things about the following devices that have Bluetooth capabilities:
If these prices are still to high for you personally then you might want to consider trying to find a refurbished GPS. A refurbished device can sometimes come at a very steep discount (from 20%-50% in some cases) and it should work just as well as a ‘new’ device.
In some cases you won’t even need to own a stand alone car navigation GPS for this system to work. If you own a phone with GPS tracking capabilities already installed into the phone then you don’t need to connect to an external GPS device via Bluetooth. Everything that you are going to need is going to be inside the case of that cell phone.
The Cell Phone
3dtracking published a list of compatible cell phones for their system. If you do not own one of these phones then you will not be able to use this system as I am describing it. Here is a list of the cell phones that is currently compatible with this software:
Some of these phones are rather inexpensive (some can be found for under $20) while others will cost over $200. Which phone you choose will depend largely on your needs for the cell phone and whether or not you want to use it for more than just GPS tracking.
Once you have one of these phones you are going to want to make sure that you have a good data plan for your phone. This way you can send data to the 3dtracking servers without incurring exorbitant fees. Right now, AT&T wireless is offering a unlimited data plan for its phones for $35 a month. This would put your access to real-time GPS tracking information for your car at roughly $1.17 per day.
In order to download the free 3dtracking software simply go here. There are onpage instructions for what to do depending on whether or not you have a Windows-based PDA or a smart phone. Once you have downloaded the application and installed it on your phone or PDA you will do a brief 3 step application process and will be ready to begin tracking with your cell phone right away.
Total Cost to You
The startup cost of this GPS tracking system for cars can be pretty steep, coming in at over $400 if you buy some of the higher end equipment. With a $35 unlimited data plan that would bring the first year total out of pocket expense to somewhere between $800 and $900. The second year of operation would be $420. While this certainly isn’t cheap, if you already have the GPS navigation unit and the compatible cell phone you won’t need to spend any money out of pocket so your expense will probably be $0 unless you have to upgrade the data plan on your phone to handle the load. Free GPS tracking is certainly better than not free GPS tracking.
What Will You Track?
From where I sit there are two main applications for this type of GPS tracking system for cars. They are tracking a teen driver and snooping on a spouse suspected of cheating. For the former you should be completely up front and honest with your teen about what you are doing to their phone and why you are doing it. They should know that you are concerned about their safety and that you want to make their driving experience as safe as possible. Then you should work on some sensible rewards and punishments for your teen drivers. Making sure they they buy into your GPS tracking system is key if it is going to be useful to them and to you.
IF you are tracking a spouse that you suspect of cheating you should not let them know that you are tracking them. To do this, you might have to buy a special phone that you put in their car for them so that they don’t realize what is going on. You will have to leave the phone on and recharge the battery often, but the ability to know if they are cheating or not can certainly be worth the price.
But this set-up, especially one where your phone has GPS capabilities built in, can be used in many more applicaitons. A few of them are to:
There are practically as many things that you can do with this technology as you can dream up, so sit down, grab a beer, and dream. This GPS tracking system for cars is definitely going to blow your mind if you let it.
“Blue Dodger, this is Home Base. Do you read me!? Over.” The radio gives a slight crackle as the voice of Home Base abruptly ends with a click. You slowly touch the radio button on your vest and respond to Home Base, “Home Base, this is Blue Dodger. I copy. Over.” You feel a slight tickle of excitement course through your veins as you await the message. You know that Home Base is going to be giving you something good. You have installed a covert GPS tracking device on a target vehicle and Home Base is going to be giving you the coordinates for you to track it down and discover what they are up to.
“Blue Dodger, we have the vehicle parked outside 13141 West Palm Avenue. Head on over and report back your findings.” This is your very first covert op and you feel a surge of adrenaline wash over you like a shore breaking wave, smoothly rattling the content of your chest. The drive to the location isn’t long and you soon find yourself on a normally quiet residential street with cars lined up bumper to bumper on both sides of the street. You find the 1995 Teal Corolla that you attached your covert GPS tracking device to parked exactly where Home Base said it was, but the car is empty.
“Home Base, this is Blue Dodger. I’ve found the vehicle, but its clean. I’ll park and see if I can get a visual. Over.”
“That’s a Roger, Blue Dodger. Report in when you have a visual.”
You get out of the car and park. Your palms begin to sweet as you slowly walk through the lamp lit street, keeping a low profile while trying to observe as much as you can. As you make your way back to the Corolla you notice the sound of loud, thumping music coming from the other end of the street. Without any sign of activity at 13141 West Palm Avenue you make your way toward the music.
As you draw closer you begin to hear the din of voices, laughing and the steady thumping of base. It looks like the driver of the Corolla may be at this party. Unfortunately, you don’t have your party threads on and the age of the crowd is significantly below your own – but you press on anyway knowing that you need to find the driver of the Corolla before it is too late. You radio back to Home Base, “This is Blue Dodger, I’m going in.”
The music inside the house is deafening and it is all you can do to hug a wall and work your way around the interior of the house. There is no communication with Home Base now. You scan the crowd looking for the driver you were tracking but they are nowhere to be found. Then, all of a sudden, you see in the other room a the long blond hair of the driver you have been trying to covertly track. She is standing talking to a man several years her elder, his face stubbled with a healthy five o’clock shadow.
You make your move on the target.
But before you do, you need to create a diversion to get her away from Mr. Five O’Clock. You pull out your trusty cell phone that has been relaying your position to Home Base via GPS. You send a simple text message, using your full qwerty keyboard because that is how you roll, with the message,
create diversion. call target. test time
In just a moment you see Long Blond Hair reach into her bag and pull out a glowing, vibrating cell phone. She looks up at Mr. Five O’Clock shadow and seems to say something. He smiles and waves as she leaves the room. She walks past you in a hurry, but you are still holding the wall tight and she doesn’t notice. You had anticipated that since the room is dark except for the constant flashing of mutli-colored lights.
Long Blond Hair leaves the house at a run and is soon 50 feet away from the house when she puts the still glowing and vibrating cell phone to her ear. “Hello,” her voice sounds strong and confident. She pauses for just a second, then with an oune of frustration in her voice she says, “What do you want? I’m watching a movie at Katie’s house.” You walk up behind her and tap her on the shoulder.
She turns around with a sudden look of horror on her face. “Dad,” she says with a little fear in her voice, “What are you doing here?”
“I think the question is, honey, what are you doing here?”
If you want to go with traditionally covert GPS devices then you are going to need to fork out some significant cash. Round the clock monitoring and real-time tracking capabilities do not come cheap – so expect to shell out $100s just for the device itself. Then you are also going to need to pay up for a service fee as well so you can get access to your tracking information. You might be able to build your own system out of one of the open source GPS tracking devices that have skematics on the Internet, but then you need some high quality GPS tracking software as well to make sure that your data is getting stored and displayed properly. There is open source software for this too, but you will have to trade some of your precious time to learn how to use it.
In the end analysis, almost anyone with enough money is going to have access to tracking with GPS – and you don’t even need that much money anymore to get some really cool, cover GPS tracking devices.
Cell phone GPS tracking is a little tricky to talk about because mobile phones have GPS-like capabilities without having to be GPS devices. So, in some cases, a cell phone is able to be tracked even when it doesn’t have a GPS receiver installed in it. The reason behind this is rather simple and has everything to do with a principle I have already covered on this site: trilateration.
Once you understand the basics behind this principle you will see that is is obvious that a cell phone could be tracked whether or not it was GPS enable. Simply put, trilateration takes the know distance of an entity from 3 or more objects to calculate the exact location of that entity. I know, that sounds confusing – but it really isn’t.
Imagine that you are sitting somewhere in a room. The room is a 10×10 square and you are somewhere in it and you want to find out exactly where you are in the room. There is a desk in the middle of one of the walls that you are 5 feet from. On the exact opposite wall there is another table in the middle of the wall that you are exactly 5 feet from as well. Then there is a mirror on the third wall that you are looking at yourself from 5 feet away. Where are you in the room?
If you answered, “In the center.” Then you already know everything you need about trilateration to completely understand how a cell phone can work without actually having a GPS tracking device installed in it.
Let’s use the example of the two table and the mirrors from above to help us understand this. The tables and the mirrors here represent cell phone towers that are dotted across urban landscapes all over the country. In my city, they are dressed up to look like palm trees or other pleasant things but you still know what it is, a cell tower.
These cell towers transmit cellular signals out to mobile phones. The signals travel at a constant speed which makes finding out the distance between cell phones and cell towers very easy. All one must do is record the amount of time it takes between the time that the signal was transmitted by the tower and when it arrived at the cell phone. You then take the time that it took and multiply it by the speed at which the signal traveled. This looks something like this:
Distance Traveled = Speed x Time
This will give you the cell phone’s distance from the cell tower. Since the cell phone provider (a cell phone provider is a company like Nextel, AT&T, Verizon, TMobile, etc.) knows exactly where they cell tower is, they know that the cell phone is within x number of feet from that tower. Imagine a big circle surrounding the cell tower in the map in your mind.
Now imagine a second cell tower that also transmits a signal that is picked up by the cell phone. This is a certain distance from this second cell tower so imagine another circle around this second tower. Where the two circles intersect are the potential locations of the cell phone as far as the cell phone provider is concerned.
Once you add a third tower in the mix you should have a pretty darn good fix on the location of the cell phone – all without the use of GPS tracking devices.
It is important to understand that this is also exactly how GPS works, but instead of cellular towers on the urban landscape you have satellites in the heavenly firmament and instead of circles you have spheres around each satellite. This is pretty amazing stuff if you ask me.
Now that we have learned that cell phones can have GPS tracking without actually having a GPS device installed in it, let’s take a look at what can be done with GPS cell phone tracking.
There are several different applications that should be considered, but we will only take a look at three to give us a flavor of just how awesome this type of technology can be. Cellphone GPS tracking can be used for navigation purposes, to monitor a loved ones activity, and to learn useful things about your current location.
Cell Phone Tracking and Navigation
There is little doubt that the use of GPS for navigation purposes is a huge industry. That was, after all, one of the initial impetus behind the Department of Defense creating the satellite system. They wanted a way to know where they assets were but they also wanted to us it to tell where there assets were going.
GPS navigation has become the norm in many families across America with Garmins or TomToms or Magellans replacing the friendly AAA triptiks of two decades ago. I still remember as a child going into the AAA office with my mother to get a triptik ready for a family vacation. Now, you just enter your trip into the GPS and it does all the routing for you.
Cell phone companies realized that this was a huge market and that their technology could easily break into it. They could either us GPS technology to do the mapping just like a Garmin can, or they could leverage the cellular signals they were already broadcasting to create new navigation systems. Some companies decided to go with GPS and other stuck with the cell signal.
Either way you look at, cell phones now use GPS or a GPS-like technology to give turn-by-turn directions to drivers all over the country. While this isn’t GPS tracking as most would think of it, it still is using a cellular phone to track and record position information. It can tell people how to fast you are traveling, an ETA (estimated time of arrival), and it can actively tell you your current location. This is GPS tracking if you ask me.
As we will see this information can be used for other purposes other than navigation.
Cell Phone GPS Tracking And Location Monitoring
Location monitoring is another useful application of GPS in cell phones. Unlike the type of tracking that goes on for navigation purposes, the information used to track the location of a cell phone is actually transmitted from the cell phone back to the cell company. This process is often referred to as “tracing a cell phone.”
We hear about it all the time if we watch any crime show drama. They are always putting “a trace on the cell phone” or “triangulating the cell’s position” – especially when a kidnapper or other bad person decides to call up our favorite detectives for a to have a chat. Essentially what is happening in these instances is that a third party, in the case the police, are using information gathered by a cell phone provider to find the location of a caller.
The police obviously find this information particularly useful, especially when responding to a 911 call made from a cell phone. But there are other interesting applications for this as well. One of them is to GPS track a teen in order to monitor their driving habits or to make sure that they are not lying to you about where they are. All teens use cell phones these days so this service is relatively painless for you and for them. It is also relatively cheap and can be as little as $6 a month for 4 phones.
Another application of cell phone tracking is for getting fitness performance metrics. Just take your phone with you on a run or bike ride when you have a certain application installed and you will automatically get information like the average speed of your run and the distance traveled. You will even be able to see your entire course on a mapping application like Google Maps.
Another bit of information that cell phones have been regularly used to monitor is the activity of a spouse or lover suspected of cheating. In situations where this could be going on it is imperative that the suspecting spouse snoops around the other’s activities. This can involved GPS tracking or it can be through other methods, it just has to get done. Cell phone GPS tracking can be a good solution for individuals that find themselves in this situation so you might want to consider using it. It might be difficult if you have separate cell phone plans or they regularly pay the cell phone bill since any tracking charges will undoubtedly show up on your bill. But if you are in charge of this you might be able to set up GPS tracking without them even knowing it.
Finally, cell phones can be a great way to introduce GPS into a kids life. You could use the phone for GPS tracking for kids or you could just use it to help your child learn about the world around them. Kids do great with mapping applications and it can really help them get a better understanding of the world around them. They can also be used to keep kids safe in case of an emergency or other terrible occurance.
These types of location monitoring and tracking applications are going to become more prevalent over the next decade as we experiment with this relatively new technology. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
GPS Tracking Cell Phones and Random Data
The last way that I wanted to talk about was the use of cell phones to communicate random data based upon the location of the user. What I have in mind for this are apps (like those found on the iPhone) that tell you something specific that you can take action on or find interesting about your location.
If you are on a street and are feeling like Chinese food but don’t know the area you can type “Chinese” into this cell phone tracking app and it will give the location of the 5 closest Chinese restaurants along with some customer reviews and relative price points for the meals.
This idea can have many different applications in areas as diverse as real estate and movie theaters; fishing and ball room dance classes; or finding a replacement part on a car and finding a nanny. Whatever someone is willing to write an app for the GPS tracking cell phone is going to be able to provide laser-like access to position information that can be used to make life simpler and finding the closest solution to a problem easier.
All of these applications of cell phone GPS tracking have current uses today, but can only be expected to be improved upon with time and advances in personal tracking technology. You simply cannot underestimate the power of GPS tracking in a cell phone package – it is, in my opinion the future of all things GPS.
Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
I have compiled a short list of free GPS tracking software and applications, with the majority of the applications working on mobile phones. Feel free to check out this list and see if your cell phone is already compatible with one of the systems. If it isn’t, you could always buy a new phone, right?
I also have made some comments on how free free GPS tracking really is – if you are interested in reading those as well. To sum up I said that if you already have everything that you need (i.e. GPS smartphone and a robust data plan) then it will truly be free. If you don’t have either of these things then getting free GPS cell phone tracking is going to be anything but free. You will have to pay the costs associated with getting the new phone and subscribing to the data plan.