Mobile Phone Tracking

There are a lot of options out there for people looking for a mobile phone tracker. It seems as though everyone has some reason to know the location of a cell phone – either their own or someone else’s. A lot of the reasons are good and straight forward. Other reasons are often less than noble.

You could be the parent that is trying to make sure that your family is able to stay in contact with each other and keep each other safe. Or you could be an employer who is seeking a solution to improve company logistics, reduce costs, and create revenue opportunities. Or you could be a creepy stalker trying to find out where someone is. Whatever your reason, there are some things that you should know about tracking a mobile phone.

What is mobile phone tracking?

Wikipedia defines it this way:

Mobile phone tracking tracks the current position of a mobile phone even on the move.

Simple enough. Another way to put it is this, it is the process where you use the natural working of the phone in order to tell the exact location of the mobile.

Anyone looking for ways to track a mobile phone probably already have an idea of what it is due to the countless number of times a cell phone is tracked on a TV crime drama. But what you see is a caricature of how it actually works. For starters, law enforcement does need to request the information from a carrier – they just don’t type into their computers and get the info. Heck, they may even have to get a warrant!

However, there is some truth to the way it is portrayed. Many tracking programs do have a web interface that will display the exact location of the person (give or take a few metres) that has already consented to having the tracker installed on their phone. This is really powerful stuff and all you need is a computer to now exactly where someone is.

How does mobile phone tracking work?

Without getting too technical, its magic. Just kidding. It can get pretty complex, but the tracking mechanics either use GPS satellites or cell towers to find out the position of the mobile. The technical name for the process is called trilateration, but some people refer to it as triangulation (which is wrong, technically, but works fine for most people).

What this mathematical process does is takes the position of some fixed objects – like satellites in space or cell towers on the ground – and draws big circles around 3 or more of them. The points where all the circles come together is the point where the phone is. Here is a pretty good video that explains it perfectly:

The guys voice is a little monotone, but he’s a scientist – so that makes it okay. Simple enough, right?

Are there free mobile phone tracking options?

Yes! There are tons of different free mobile phone tracking programs out there on all types of cell phones. The real question that you should be asking is which tracking program is right for me?

Unfortunately, the only one who is going to be able to answer that is you, but here is some things that you should consider. There are a few main types of tracking programs for mobile phones. There are social trackers, sport trackers, family trackers, and business trackers.

Social mobile phone tracking programs are designed to keep friends in contact with each other. Programs like foursquare and Gowalla allow users to share their position information with their friends to earn “cool points” from each other. A conversation could go something like this:

Dude 1:  Hey, man.  I just checked in at hipster bar #3.  I’m hip.

Dude 2: Dang bro, your the coolest.

Dude 1: Yeah.  I totally know.  That is why I posted it on the Internet.

Pretty deep stuff, I know.

Other social trackers, like Google Latitude, let your friends know exactly where you are whenever your phone is on and it is getting a good location from the GPS satellites. This is very creepy, but only if you give even mild friends access to know where you are at all times. If you just use it for family (and maybe very close friends) it is not that crazy.

Sport trackers can be used by the physically adventurous to record their exercising. It will do all the normal things that you might want a GPS to do for you. It will log the time when you started the run and then give you the time you stopped so you have the total time exercised. They are even good enough that they can add up all your time stopped at traffic lights or at duck crossings and find your actual run time.

In additional to this pretty rudimentary stuff they also give you an average speed, altitude changes, and peak speeds. All this information can be used to look at your exercising routines and determine where you can improve. Most people will just use it to keep track of their exercising.

Family mobile phone trackers are designed to help families stay connected and safe. Some family trackers are social trackers that have been hijacked for the purpose. Google Latitude is one such example. It is billed as something for friends to use – but it is really better for families.

Then there are apps like Life 360. This app is for families and pets and lets you keep track of your children. It also displays the known addresses of sex offenders as well as safe places to go if you feel like you are in danger.

Business mobile phone trackers still work like all the other tracking programs they just have specific business applications. Businesses might need dispatcher support as well as ways to push information out to the mobiles on the field. These programs are certainly not free, but they do provide businesses with powerful personnel command – making them leaner, meaner, and more productive.

Who can use mobile phone tracking?

Anyone who is smart enough to install it. You also have to have access to the mobile phone in order to install the tracker and get it working properly. This is all pretty easy. If you need some help you can check out our article on how to download cell phone tracking software for help.

Can you secretly track a mobile phone?

The answer is yes and no. If you are looking to do covert mobile phone tracking on someone else’s phone without their knowledge then the answer is NO! You should never, ever, ever, ever, ever track someone’s mobile phone without their consent. If the police find out about you will be faced with stalking charges. Private citizens have no power to secretly track someone else without their knowledge.

It also doesn’t pass the common sense test. Would you want just anyone to be able to track your mobile phone to know where you are?

But I did answer the question with a yes, but it is a qualified yes. The only way that you may (consult your attorney to determine what the law in your state is) is if you are the owner of the property being tracked. Businesses, spouses, and parents all potentially have the ability to track another individual without their knowledge or consent as long as they are tracking their own property.

For example, a business issues mobile phones to their employees as part of the job. Without the employee knowing the owners of the business can install tracking software on the phone to ensure that the employee is doing their job. Parents can also activate parental control tracking features through their mobile carrier without the consent of any of the lines on their plan. This could be a teen, a spouse, a friend, or even a boyfriend or girlfriend. As long as they are on your plan you have the ability to track them without their knowledge.

The real question is should you use a covert mobile phone tracker? Most cases probably don’t warrant it, but I know that some do. Tracking a cheating spouse is one that comes to mind.

Can I type in a number on a website and track a mobile phone?

GPS mobile phone tracking does not really work that way. Now there is a way if you are in Europe to do this, but you have to have the consent of the person for it work – and most people hardly will get the person they are trying to track to approve their request.

Now you can access a website and see the location of the phone if you already have the program installed on it. Just log in with your credentials and you will see exactly where the phone is, give or take a few metres.

If you have any more questions about mobile phone tracking just leave them in the comments below and we will be more than happy to do our best to get them answered for you. Thanks!

Is Free Cell Phone Tracking Really Free?

We are all aware of the many different free GPS tracking software applications that are available for cell phones. The different developers and tracking companies who provide this software have done so out of the goodness of their hearts and the hope that the advertising in the application or the up sell market is going to make them some money. Even if they do not monetize these tracking systems they are at least hoping that the reputation they establish will benefit them in some other way in the future.

Either way, you have a market today where there are dozens of 100% free to use cell phone GPS tracking systems. But the question is, are these free cell phone tracking systems really free?

I think that as we look deeper into this issue we are going to find that the answer is that it depends on a person’s particular circumstances. But in order for any of the discussion of cost to make sense to us we first need to establish a basic understanding of how free cell phone tracking actually works.

How Free Cell Phone Tracking Works

When coming to this question we need to divide our understanding into two distinct parts. The first is how does the cell phone determine where it is in the world. The second is how does the cell phone communicate that information to outside parties. Once we understand these things we will see just how free free GPS tracking really is.

For the first part we need to look at the principle of trilateration. This geometric rule says that if you know your distance from three or more known points you can determine your exact location. Cell phones that can be tracked tap into this geometric principle via GPS. The way this works is like this:

iPhone GPS Tracking
iPhones are extremely popular and can be used as GPS tracking devices.

Certain phones (iPhones, Blackberries, and other smartphones) have a GPS receiver installed in them when they are made. Once the phone is bought and activated by a user the full functionality of the GPS can come alive, all it needs is for the cell phone to be turned on (some GPS functionality, like GPS tracking, will also require that the cell phone be receiving a signal, but more on that later). If you do not have a GPS-enabled cell phone then you cannot take advantage of the free cell phone tracking available for download on the Internet.

The second part we need to understand about GPS tracking with cell phones is how these devices transmit the position information that they gather from the GPS. For this, cell phones are going to need to have access to one of two things: the Internet or GPRS. Once the cell phone has its location from the GPS receiver it will then process filter it through the free cell phone tracking software. This software will package the information in such a way that it can be made available online for the for the users friends or family to view.

If the free online GPS cell phone tracking software is a real time tracker, this information is going to be sent in a nearly continuous basis for as long as the program is running on the phone and the phone is receiving a signal from a cell phone tower. If either of these items is lost, so is the real time tracking ability of the software.

So now that we have a cursory understanding of how free cell phone tracking services work I hope that it is fairly clear how this can be less than free for some people. The main points of cost are in the cell phone itself and in the data plan that you must have in order to make use of the tracking software.

The Costs: GPS Enabled Cell Phones

The free, online GPS cell phone tracking software ceases to be free when you have to upgrade your phone to one that is compatible with the software and that has GPS installed in it. Some of these phones can be pretty pricey. An iPhone 3G will run you $99 and a Blackberry Curve can run you $129. This is certainly not free. Now if you already owned one of these mobile phones then downloading the free GPS tracking software onto your mobile phone isn’t going to cost you anything extra.

This is why up above I mentioned that the answer to the question posed in the title of this article was, “It depends.”

The Costs: The Data Plan

The second cost that is going to be associated with GPS cell phone tracking is going to be that data plan on your phone. I recently looked to see if this was something that my wife and I should get on our cell phone plan. She was about to get a free upgrade for her old phone and some Blackberries were available. But in looking at the data plans her carrier offered it would cost an additional $30 a month. Since we wouldn’t have gotten the data plan otherwise this seemed like a lot of money to us.

As a result, she went with another phone instead (the LG Envy) because there was no use in getting the Blackberry since we weren’t going to pony up the cash for the data plan. Paying $30 a month will quickly turn into $360 over the course of one year. That is a lot to be paying for a “free” GPS cell phone tracking service.

Can GPS Tracking Truly Be Free

But this leads us to another important point – GPS tracking is probably never going to be free in my lifetime. There are too many powers that be that have a vested interest in making me pay for this type of information. If it is not the GPS manufacturers, it is going to be the cell phone companies that I would be using to send my position information wireless to my wife who would be sitting at a computer, checking out where I am online. At almost every point in the system there is someone to pay. So, if you are already paying all those people then you can say that your cell phone tracking is free – but it is not truly free.