With great power comes great responsibility, a statement that has never been truer when discussing the advanced feature sets of mobile smartphones. With the majority of new devices hitting the market having at least a basic set of GPS based features, mobile phone tracking applications have risen to prominence and allow family members to track their loved ones or individuals to keep abreast of where their range of devices are located. The tracking of devices will obviously raise some security concerns but it is worth pointing out that tracking a mobile device is perfectly legal as long as the consent is given by the device owner that is being tracked. Putting aside the ethical aspects of tracking, how does it actually work? See the apps for android and iOS apple devices

Triangulation of your mobile phone

Triangulation is the most well-known and commonly used method for tracking and location mobile devices. Before triangulation can be successful, the device in question has to be switched on and connected to the cell network as it is the constant communication with the nearest cell towers that allows the location to be pin pointed. By constantly communicating with the towers and sending pings back and forth, an approximate location of the device can be determined.

It is worth noting that the returned location through the triangulation method is now exactly pin-point accurate. Location can only be determined based on the last ping received by the towers, an issue that can cause problems when attempting to track a device in rural areas with limited cell towers.

Mobile Phone GPS Tracking

The thought of GPS Tracking is actually quite off-putting to some people who really don’t like the idea of their personal devices being tracked and located. Once upon a time the whole idea of having GPS on personal devices like smartphones was actually quite scary but has become accepted overtime and is used in smartphones for mapping solutions and on-device navigation systems. Like all tracking methods, GPS tracking has its own set of limitations. Tracked hardware must first of all be built with embedded GPS receivers. Additional problems can occur in heavily built-up areas that prevent satellites from gaining a connection to the device.

GPS services are also an extremely power intensive offering and are known to drastically rift through a battery on a smartphone. When a battery is drained, tracking becomes pretty much impossible.

As mobile tracking becomes more established we will see more and more companies creating software that allows us to easily locate devices. Until then, we already have a number of advanced and extremely well-written options that bring that functionality.

Apple mobile tracking app options

Apple themselves offer a free of charge tracking solution that works across multiple devices with a single Apple ID. The Find my Phone software is available as a free of charge download and works with iPhones, iPods, iPads and OS X machines through a native mobile app as well as an easy to user web interface. Features include being able to remotely lock the device or send a message to it as well as remove all data from a lost or stolen iOS device.

Find My Phone

Use another iOS device (e.g. iPad, iPhone) to locate it on a map, sound a siren, lock and protect your device.

View the Find My Phone app in iTunes


Google latitude

See your friend on a map, stay in touch easier and see who’s around the corner.

View the Google Latitude app in iTunes

Lookout Security

Advanced security app for you to track a missing device, add anti virus security to your mobile device and backup data.

View the Lookout Security app in iTunes

Android phone tracking app options

Android users have the option of using the Lookout Mobile Security or Plan B creations that work in a similar fashion to Apple’s own implementation. All tracking and location services are handled through a web based control panel with the ability to find the missing Android device, lock it, disable features and sound a very loud alarm. In addition, Android users can also use creations such as Google Latitude and although it also works on other platforms it performs perfect on Android smartphones. Latitude is extremely similar to Apple’s Find my Friends app in that it allows friends and family to be tracked based on the location of their device with the same app installed.

Plan B

Alternative to iTunes Find My Phone. Locate your devices on a map using Plan B

View the Plan B Security app in Google App store


Lookout Security

Advanced security app for you to track a missing device, add anti virus security to your mobile device and backup data.

View the Lookout Security app in Google App store

Google latitude

EDITORS NOTE: This has been retired now

 

Summary

Both methods of tracking devices offer pros and cons to users and those companies out there that actually offer services location mobile devices. With that said, the ability to locate a device is often increased by adopting both GPS and triangulation methods. As time progresses so does technology and it looks like methods could soon be boosted with the addition of Wi-Fi tracking that will reduce the dependencies that we have on GPS and triangulation. We can see that multiple apps already exist that not only utilize tracking functionality from a security aspect but also from an entertainment view to be able to locate and interact with friends and family. Just don’t forget to enable GPS from the get-go.

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