Free Cell Phone Locator Apps - Start Tracking Today
Introduction to Cell Phone Locator Technology
In recent years, cell phone manufacturers started installing GPS receivers in cell phones so that people could be easily located in the event that they needed to call 911 from their cell phone. This service is called enhanced 911.
It didn't take long for clever people to figure out that they could write applications that make it possible to use their cell phones as cell phone tracking devices. There are several cell phone locator services to choose from these days.
Some of them are free, other cell phone locator services charge a fee. Some require you to download and install special software on your cell phone and some don't. Some cell phone locator services require you to subscribe to a data plan and some don't.
The beauty of GPS cell phone tracker services is that there is a service that will work with most any cell phone. Whether you want to keep an eye on your children with one of these apps or you want to keep track of your employees, there is a defiantly a cell phone tracker app that will be perfect for you.
Everyone should have a tracking app installed on their smartphone for one simple reason. If you ever lose your phone, you can use the app to find it. Taking a few minutes now to install a cell phone locator on your phone could end up saving you a lot of money in the future. You'll be glad that you did when you're able to quickly find your lost cell phone!
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Is Big Brother Watching You?
I don't know how we can ever really know that answer to that one. It's entirely possible that cell phone locator technology is much more sophisticated than we are currently aware of.
For example, when GPS technology was first made available to the general public, the government felt that for reasons of national security, civilian GPS units should be restricted in their level of accuracy.
Is this happening with GPS phone tracking technology today? Unfortunately we can only speculate as to whether it is or isn't.
Triangulation - The Most Basic Cell Phone Loctator Method
Traditionally, a mobile phone locator technician would use triangulation as the primary way of determining the location of a cell phone.
Whenever someone has their phone turned on, it sends intermittent "pings" to the cell phone towers around it. This is the phones way of knowing whether it is in a roaming area, how strong of signal it has, and what towers to use when you need to either receive to make a phone call.
Triangulation as a cell phone location method is only an estimate of where the phone was the last time it was "pinged". Law enforcement can send a ping to the phone only in an emergency. Any other time, your cell phone location is considered part of your private information. They would need a warrant to ping the phone for non emergency reasons.
This method of tracking a phone isn't generally used by cell phone locator applications.
GPS Tracking For Improved Tracking Accuracy
Another, more modern and accurate way a cell phone locator service works is through GPS (Global Position System). This service is also available to emergency services via a system called Enhanced 911.
In addition to emergency personnel being able to locate a cellular phone with this service, it is now commonly available to private individuals.
In order to utilize this technology, an individual must own a phone that has a GPS receiver built into it. Fortunately, nearly all modern cell phones meet this requirement now days.
Tracking apps that utilize the GPS capabilities of a phone are much more accurate than those that are limited by the simpler triangulation method.
It's worth pointing out that in most cases, the phone that you would like to track must be in a cell phone service area and have a signal in order for the app to determine the GPS coordinates of a phone.
Using Wi-Fi To Track a Cell Phone
In some cases cell phone tracking apps make use of Wi-Fi to determine the location of a mobile phone. Unfortunately, this method of tracking isn't very accurate.
What the app does is attempt to determine if the phone is receiving a Wi-Fi signal. If it is, the app will extract the IP address of the Wi-Fi router and then report the location of the IP address.
If the Wi-Fi connection is using a "dedicated IP address", the location results are fairly accurate. If the connection is using a "shared IP address, the location that is reported can be as much as 100 miles off.
Pay Cell Phone Locator Services
One very good cell phone locator service that you must pay to use is the Sprint Family locator. Sprint only charges $5.00 a month for this service and it is well worth getting.
You don't need to download or program anything onto your phone for this cell phone tracker to work. You don't need to subscribe to a data plan. You can do an unlimited number of searches for only $5.00 a month.
They also have a very cool feature that will allow you to program the application to send you a text message with the location of anyone in your cell phone tracking network at a predetermined time of day.
The Sprint Family Locator might be the perfect solution if you don't have a new programmable smart phone
A couple of other fee based phone tracking systems are the Verizon Family Locator and AT&T FamilyMap. Both programs offer a means for the company's customers to track cell phones on their network for a small monthly fee.
Sprint Family Locator Introduction Video
Here is a short video from Sprint about their flagship cell phone tracking program.
Verizon Family Locator Introduction Video
Here's a short video about the cell phone tracking service called "Family Locator". It will give you a basic idea of how there service works.
Free Cell Phone Locator Services
There are many fee based services to choose from but there is also plenty of free applications available for users of all types of smartphones.
One very popular free cell phone locator is called Find My iPhone but it only works with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. You used to have to sign up for MobileMe to use Find My iPhone and it was free to test out for 60 days. If after the 60 days is up, you decided that you wanted to stay with the service, it would have cost you $99 a year. Nowadays, however, Find My iPhone is free to use if you have a free iCloud account.
Another free cell phone locator is called Glympse. With this one, you simply go to the Glympse website and send a text message or email to someone that you want to be able to track your cell phone. You set a time limit for each message that you send. This way, the person who receives the message can only track you for as long as you set the timer for. This cell phone locator service is great for business users.
Unfortunately, the only free tracking apps are for cell phones that have the ability to have apps installed on them. These are most commonly referred to as smartphones. If you have an older style of phone, you'll have a really hard time getting a free tracking app to work on it.
If you're looking for a free tracking application, simply go to the app store for your particular style of phone and search for the keyword "cell phone tracker". You'll find a long list of apps that are free to download. Since they're free, you can feel free to try a couple out to see which one you like the most.
Introduction Video to the Free Glympse App
Here's a short video that briefly demonstrates the free GPS tracking app called Glympse.
Geo Fencing on Cell Phone Tracking Apps
There is a very cool feature that is available with some of the premium cell phone tracking applications that are on the market called "geo fencing". Geo fencing is basically a feature that allows you to establish "virtual boundaries" for people in your phone tracking network.
This is a great feature to use for keeping track of teenage drivers. Once you have established the "geo fence" you will get a text message alerting you to the fact that the person who was carrying that cell phone breached your virtual perimeter. You can then get on the phone and find out why your teenage driver is driving some place that you have forbidden them from driving.
This feature can also be useful to businesses that employ delivery drivers. Through the use of Geo fencing, businesses can be alerted if their drivers travel outside of their assigned routes.
Using Cell Phone Tacker Apps To Recover Deleted Text Messages
I'll bet you didn't know that it's actually really quite easy to retrieve deleted text messages from a cell phone. Some cell phone tracking apps make it possible to retrieve these so called deleted messages without ever having the phone in your hand.
How doe they do this, you might ask? Well, as it turns out, nothing is "actually" deleted when you delete data from a cell phone. All that happens is the name of the particular bit of data is removed so you don't see it anymore on your phone.
This deleted data will remain on the phone until new data is stored in it's place. How long this will take really depends on the how much data your phone is capable of storing as well as how much new data is continually being added to the phone.
If you get 2,000 text messages a month, this old data may be recorded over fairly quickly. If you only get a few texts each month, it may stay on your phone for months.
If being able to recover deleted text messages from your cell phone tracker app is important to you, you can check out and app called SpyBubble.
Protecting Your Phone If It's Lost or Stolen
Many of the popular cell phone locator apps these days come equipped with a couple of very handy security features.
The first is called "Remote Lock". This feature can be used to lock your phone from a computer to prevent unauthorized access to your sensitive personal information should you ever lose it or have it stolen.
The second is called "Remote Wipe" or "Wipe Clean". This feature should only be used if you've lost your phone and you don't think there's any way of retrieving it. If you activate this feature, everything on your phone will be erased to protect your personal information that might be stored on the phone.
Limitations To This Technology
As good as these phone tracker apps have become at tracking cell phones. They still aren't perfect and there are some limiting factors that you should probably know about if you plan to use them.
List of Limitations:
- There's no way for these apps to automatically turn your phone on when you need to use them so the phone must be turned on or they won't work. This means that if you have an occasion to use them like when you misplace your phone, you should attempt to locate the phone right away before the battery dies and the phone turns off.
- The app's won't be able to start remotely either. They have to be running in the background of the phone or they won't work. They don't use many resources which is a good thing and that means that they won't slow your phone down or run your battery down. (6-8-2012 Update: Some apps such as InstaMapper can now be remotely activated by sending a text message to the phone. The software must be pre-installed on the phone but it doesn't have to be running in memory.)
- As mentioned above, the phone needs to be in a cell phone service coverage area and have a signal or the tracking app won't work.
- There are some circumstances that will limit the accuracy of the apps. If you are in a building that blocks the phone's ability to use it's GPS receiver to calculate the location of the phone, the accuracy won't be as good. In some cases it will report the last known location of the phone. In other cases, the app will attempt to determine the location of the phone with other methods.
What's The Verdict on This Technology
Well, for the time being it looks like cell phone locating a mixture of both science fiction and science fact. It is possible to some degree. Depending on the circumstances, it may work perfect one time and not at all another. For example, if you're inside a building, your phone won't be able to get a GPS signal and the app won't be able to report accurate location details.
If you're looking for a cell phone tracking app that will allow you to simply type in a phone number and you'll instantly see the location of the phone, you'll be looking for a long time because such an app just doesn't exist.
I've seen the technology of cell phone locating apps evolve quite rapidly over the past couple of years and I fully expect it to continue making dramatic strides forward.
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It's your responsibility to check the local laws that pertain to tracking someone with their cell phone prior to doing so.
You should always get permission from the user of the phone before tracking any cell phone.
You should never use any kind of software or technology to invade someone's privacy!