You might think of a GPS unit as the easiest way to get driving directions while commuting. But do you realize the other uses of it?
- Parents can use them to monitor their children,
- friends can use them to keep up with one another’s hangouts,
- travelers can use them to find local information and directions wherever they are.
Mobile phone tracking or Cell phone tracking or simply, GPS tracking is the process through which a functioning cell phone is detected and localized on the globe (even on the move!!).
From Wikipedia –
To locate the phone, it must emit at least the roaming signal to contact the next nearby antenna tower, but the process does not require an active call. GSM localisation is then done by multilateration based on the signal strength to nearby antenna masts
How Mobile Phone Tracking Works?
First, the Cell phone tracking system detects the closest cell phone tower to the phone, estimates the distance between them, and after that it interpolates signals between adjacent antenna towers to make a more exact approximation.
Update: Over a period of time, several readers have asked if they can track a mobile phone which is switched off. Unfortunately, the answer is NO. The reasons are clearly explained above. When the phone is switched off or the battery is dead, there is no way it can emit signals. So it makes all sense to be safe now than sorry later. If you own any smartphone, be it an android device or an iPhone or a Windows phone or even a Blackberry, install one of the apps we are going to discuss below to help you keep track of your mobile phone all the time.
(Related Read : Track Your Lost or Stolen Mobile Phone Using Phone Guardian)
Smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android bring cell phone GPS tracking and applications directly to people’s pockets. And with the right software, one can even have free GPS cell phone tracking.
Free cell phone tracking solution – Mologogo
Mologogo offers free cell phone tracking solution for the handset. Mologogo allows anyone with a GPS enabled phone to be tracked as long as the phone is operational. Basically the user downloads software to the phone which in turn sends updates to the Mologogo website which tracks the cell phone and displays updates as to where the cell phone is.
It not only shows where your friends are but it can also send alerts when your friends are close, find points of interest, and display traffic and weather updates. Tracking your phone from web is now possible, thanks to services like Mologogo.
Phones which work with Mologogo – Full List here.
Another FREE cell phone tracking service – LocateA.net
Not everyone owns a smartphone. So, isn’t it possible to track a non-smartphone? Well, LocateA turns your Java enabled mobile phone (or feature phone as they are commonly known as), or your PDA Mobile Phone running Windows in to a personal real time tracking solution, which allows you to track people, employees, lone field workers or children etc, and the good news is it’s free. With it you can track people carrying a specific mobile phone you have registered with the service.
Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking Software – Instamapper
Update: Instamapper shut down in Dec 2012. Alternatively, you can check AccuTracking, which is similar to Instamapper but not free.
Instamapper is a free GPS tracker for mobile devices that allows you to track any mobile phone with built-in GPS in real time. It allows you to track any GPS-enabled phone in real-time online. The image on the right shows how the phone gets tracked as a moving dot on a map, with the positions being updated as frequently as 5 seconds. Very useful for a free service! But yeah, you’d need to register for a free account in order to use the free mobile tracking.
The iTunes app store is rich with millions of apps and that really helps while tracking phones too. I have written a detailed post on how to track iPhone using various apps and services available, including the very useful ‘Find my iPhone‘ feature from Apple. Do check it out. I’m sure it will be of some help.
Important: The Find My iPhone app should come pre-installed on any iOS 5+ device. In any case you can borrow an iOS device from a friend and log in using your Apple ID. Once you’re logged in, the app will display your lost iPhone’s location on a map. You can even remotely trigger your lost iPhone to make a loud noise for two minutes, which makes pinpointing it easy when it’s nearby.
Android Phone Trackers
Like iPhone owners, Android phone owners too can track their lost phones using some great GPS based apps. WaveSecure is one such app which can track android phones and even lock down the phone remotely. Another such app is MobileDefense which is also free. I suggest you to check out these Android security apps and install one of them for your own good, before it is too late.
Update: Google has announced Android Device Manager which is very similar to ‘Find my iPhone’ feature of iOS. This is available for all android devices running OS version 2.2 and above. The tracking is enabled by default, but in order to erase the phone remotely, one has to follow few steps as described here.
Important: In case you have already lost your Android smartphone and don’t have any of the above apps, not everything is lost yet. You can log in to your Google account and remotely install the app called Plan B on your lost smartphone from any computer. Assuming your phone is somehow connected to the internet, the app must be able to automatically install on your phone and when the installation is complete, it should send the current location info to your Gmail account.
Tracking BlackBerry & Windows Phone
There are quite a few BlackBerry Tracker apps, some of them are free, while others are paid. MoosTrax is one of the decent free tracking apps. Another free Blackberry tracker is an aptly named app called Phone Tracker – Anti Theft and tracking. A reliable third party app is Berry Locator which costs $7, but lets you track phone from your PC.
Update: In BlackBerry 10, there’s the BlackBerry Protect service also has these same features like ‘Find my iPhone’ and ‘Android Device Manager’, but you’ll need to turn BlackBerry Protect and its tracking service on first. If you haven’t lost your phone yet, make sure these settings are on. To find your missing phone, Log in to the BlackBerry Protect website, and click View Location. If the service can find your phone, its location will appear on a map.
Windows Phone users can make use of Microsoft’s My Phone service to track their phones. Again, very similar to other tracking services and very useful.
Carrier Specific Mobile Phone Tracking
Some carriers offer free as well as paid plans to keep track of mobile phones online, specially for parents who are apprehensive about kids and other family members. Most of these have just free trials, so consider them only if the above free phone tracking solutions didn’t work for some reason.
1. AT&T FamilyMap Phone tracker plan
AT&T’s FamilyMap helps you locate a family member from your wireless phone or PC and don’t necessarily need GPS to keep a track. It’s really easy & accurate to track phones and can even locate a lost or stolen phone, assuming the phone is turned on. It’s free to try for a month & subscription based from then on.
2. T-Mobile FamilyWhere
With T-Mobile FamilyWhere solution, you can find your family members using their mobile phone’s location. If you’re using an Android phone, it lets you send your location to any mobile phone on any network for free. A more comprehensive solution doesn’t come free, but pretty useful.
3. Sprint Family Locator
Sprint Family Locator is something kids gonna hate for sure. Not only it lets parents track the mobile phones of their kids, but it also lets them lock the phone with a single mouse click! Free to try for first 15 days, and then $5 per month.
4. Verizon Family Locator
Much like Sprint, Verizon too has a family locator service which lets users track the phones of their family members right from their PC. Sadly, there isn’t any free trial. Consider paying only if the other free solutions described above didn’t work.
Over to you
How did you like this post? Do you know any other FREE Mobile phone tracking software / services? Let me know.