A Comprehensive Introduction to Cell Phone Tracker Software

Written by Felipe on January 2nd, 2018

I receive compensation as a result of endorsements, ads, or affiliate links on this website: Compensaton Disclosure

I’m very excited to welcome you to my website on free cell phone tracker applications today. If you’re at all interested in learning about the fascinating world of tracking cell phones online or with your smartphone, you’re in for a real treat today!

I’ve done a tremendous amount of research and testing on the various software applications that use GPS technology to track cell phones and I’m very excited to share the knowledge that I’ve accumulated with you here at www.freecellphonetracker.net.

GPS functionality is being added to all kinds of smartphone applications these days. As a matter of fact, it’s being used in ways that you probably never dreamed it would be used.

Follow along with me today and I’ll introduce you to this exciting technology and get you up and running with it in no time at all! Once you know how to track a cell phone online, you’ll wonder how you ever got by in life without this ability!

Let’s Clear The Air First

Before we go any further, I would like to point out that you should never use any form of technology or software to track or monitor anyone without both their knowledge and consent. Now that we have that out of the way, please read on.

What Got Me Interested In Free Mobile Phone Tracking Technology?

cell phone tracker app infographicEveryone will have their own reasons for becoming interested in tracking a cell phone with GPS. Allow me to take just a minute and share with you what motivated me to become an expert in this kind of software. I first became interested in this technology while I was trying to find my phone when it was lost but another reason was that I when I turned 40, I was enjoying the pleasures of raising two teenagers. How could anyone be so lucky as me? I was always worried about them whenever they weren’t with me. Unfortunately, sometimes I worried to the point that it was becoming unhealthy for me.

My children were constantly giving me grief because I worried about them so much. Since they were both teenagers and driving, they wanted us to give them more and more freedom. Needless to say, this was very difficult for me!

This had my wife and I a bit worried because we have always been so very careful to keep them close to us so that we could always keep a watchful eye on them and make sure they were always safe. Maybe we were a bit overprotective but they mean the world to us and we didn’t want to let them out of our site for any longer than we absolutely had to.

Here’s why I became so interested in finding the ideal free phone tracker app. Our kids always wanted to be somewhere other than home. This was really tough for us and to tell you the truth, we had a really hard time adjusting! When they were little, it was easy to keep tabs on them but once they started wanted more freedom to explore the world, we worried about them all the time!

After learning about software that could track my phone, the solution that became clear to us was that we should buy them both new cell phones. During my research, I learned about a way to set up a program on their phones that would make it possible for us to use GPS to easily track their whereabouts. In retrospect, this was the best money that we could have possibly spent. We didn’t worry near as much after we had GSP tracking software on their phones. Thanks to this technology, we finally had a little piece of mind.

Throughout the course of deciding which app to install on their phones, I learned absolutely everything I could about how to track a cell phone location with this kind of software and I really do think that it’s the best thing since sliced bread! This driving force to learn how to keep our kids safe resulted in me becoming quite the expert in this kind of technology. My interest in this kind of technology started out of necessity but it has evolved into a passion.

Can You Really Track A Phone With Free Cell Phone Locator Apps?

Follow along with me on my website and I’ll teach you how to track a cellular device’s location with tracking applications that are absolutely FREE! That’s right! I said FREE! That might seem a bit hard to believe but it’s true and they actually work really well. You won’t believe how cool this technology is.

While there is certainly no shortage of free apps for people to use, there are some that you’ll have to pay for. Some charge a couple of dollars for the actual app and the tracking service is free and some give you the app for free but charge a few bucks a month for a subscription that you need to sign up for if you want the app to actually be able to do anything for you.

In the spirit of striving to make this website the most detailed and comprehensive website on this type of technology, you’ll find articles about both free and pay to use apps here on my website.

Basics of Mobile Phone Tracker Technology

If you want to start using this kind of software, there a some things you should know first. Let me take a minute and give you a quick lesson on how these apps work:

  1. In most cases, the device that you want to be able to track must be a modern smartphone. If your device has the capability of downloading and installing apps onto it, then there’s a pretty good chance that there is a tracking program that will work on it. It’s worth pointing out that Sprint has a program called the Sprint Family Locator that doesn’t require the user to own a modern smartphone. This service will work equally well on any mobile device that is supported by the Sprint network. AT&T has also entered the game with their version called AT&T FamilyMap and users aren’t required to install any software on their phones to use this service either.
  2. You must subscribe to a data plan with your cellular service provider in order for these apps to function. The exception to this rule is if you use Sprints cell tracker service.
  3. The app must be installed on the device you wish to track BEFORE the need arises to use it. Many people don’t think about installing this kind of software on their phone until after they lose it. Unfortunately, by then it’s too late. Without a tracking app installed on your phone, you won’t be able to locate it with GPS.
  4. The device must always have the app running in the background of it’s memory so that when you have the need to track a particular device, the software will be able to do its job. Update: Some apps now actually have the capability of being started remotely! You can read my article about that here: Remotely Starting Tracking Apps.
  5. The cell phone that you want to track must be in a cell phone service area. Unlike standalone GPS tracking devices, these apps require both the cellular network and GPS satellite network to function properly.
  6. The phone must be turned on. I believe that someday, someone will figure out a way to remotely power up a phone so it can be tracked using GPS but as of now, this capability just doesn’t exist. At least to my knowledge it doesn’t exist.

How Do Cell Tracker Apps Know Where A Particular Phone Is Located?

The most widely used method of tracking down a phone with a mobile tracking app is for the software to utilize the GPS receiver that is built into most modern cell phones. GPS stands for “Global Positioning Satellite” and it is comprised of a network of satellites that are constantly orbiting the earth. A mobile device basically locks onto or “acquires” a connection with several satellites simultaneously. These satellites transmit data to the device nd when the phone has received enough data from enough satellites, the exact latitude and longitude can be determined.

Now unless you’re a sailor, knowing the latitude and longitude won’t be of much use to you since most people navigate by the use of physical addresses instead of GPS coordinates. Fortunately, these location tracking programs are capable of converting the GPS coordinates into physical address and displaying those addresses on a computer generated map. This makes using the data that is provided by these apps very easy. As a matter of fact, most location based applications are quite user friendly these days

What If The Phone That You Want To Track Is Inside A Building?

Most of us don’t consider the fact that being inside a building may pose a problem for GPS tracking software. In modern times, we have become accustomed to our phones working just fine when we are indoors. It wasn’t always like that however. In the early days of cell phones, users would often have to walk outside to make a phone call because the signals were so weak indoors. This is because the signals had to try and penetrate the walls of the building.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t possible with current GPS technology. If you happen to be standing near a large window, your phone will “possibly” be able to receive a GPS signal but the chances of you being positioned near a large window very often is quite slim. Some of you might be thinking that this means that these apps just won’t work when you are indoors.

Fortunately, there are some “alternate methods” that tracking software can use to determine the location of a cell phone. These methods aren’t generally as accurate as GPS but they are better than nothing. There are four technologies that can be used to hone in on the location of a cell phone if GPS reception isn’t an option.

Alternate Tracking Method #1: “Network Based Location Detection”

This method utilizes the customer’s cell phone service provider’s network to extrapolate the location of wireless devices. The advantage of this method is that users don’t have to download or install an application on the phone in order to be able to track it. An example of a service that makes use of this technology is Sprint Family Locator. Any phone that works on either the Sprint or Nextel network can be located with this service.

Let’s dig a little deeper and talk about the three network based tactics that can be employed to determine the location of a cellular phone. They are advanced forward link trilateration (AFLT), triangulation, and cell identification.

  1. Forward link is a relatively new technology that appears to be very promising. Basically, this method requires the phone to measure the signal strength of nearby cell phone towers. It then measures the time that a signal takes to travel from the tower to the phone. This time/distance data can then be used to improve the accuracy of the triangulation method of determining the location of a device.
  2. Triangulation is a method of tracking cell phones that has been used for a long time. Utilizing this method requires that the three cell phone towers that are nearest to the phone be identified. Then, a rough approximation of exactly how close the phone is to each of these towers is calculated based upon the strength of each signal. Then, through a complex calculation the location of the phone is “estimated”.
  3. Cell Identification is the least accurate method and it is generally used is rural areas where the phone isn’t capable of acquiring a signal from three cell phone towers. With this method, a “very rough guess” of the location of the phone can be made because the range of any given cell phone tower is the known variable. For example, if the phone is reported to be receiving a signal from cell phone tower “A” and the known effective signal range of the tower is a 20 mile circle, one can deduce that the phone is “somewhere” withing 20 miles of that tower’s location.

Alternate Tracking Method #2: “SIM Based Location Detection”

With this method, wireless devices that utilize Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology can make use of raw radio measurements that may be acquired from the device’s SIM card to extrapolate the location of the phone.

Alternate Tracking Method #3: “Hybrid Based Location Detection”

This method utilizes a combination of one or more tracking methods to determine the location of a wireless device. You may have heard the phrase aGPS being thrown around from time to time. This is a perfect example of a hybrid based method of tracking cell phones. With aGPS, both GPS data and data from a wireless network is used to acquire the initial GPS coordinates much faster and to reacquire the signal quickly when the phone happens to lose GPS reception due to the surrounding terrain or obstacles.

Alternate Tracking Method #4: “Wi-Fi Based Location Detection”

The use of Wi-Fi to determine the location of a mobile phone is bit unpredictable. When this method is utilized, the cell phone will attempt to connect to the nearest Wi-Fi signal and determine its location based on the known location of that particular Wi-Fi signal. While on the surface this may appear to be a reliable method of tracking, it can actually be surprisingly unpredictable. In some instances, the location that is reported with this method can be very accurate and in other case the reported location could be 100 miles or more away from the phone.

The reason for this wide margin of error is because not many people have a static Internet Protocol (IP) address for their broadband Internet connection. If the Wi-Fi signal that your mobile device is connected to does in fact have a static IP address, the location that is reported could be fairly accurate. The problem with this type of location detection lies in the fact that many people get assigned “dynamic IP addresses” from their Internet Service Provider (ISP). For example, your ISP may assign you a new IP address each time your Internet modem is restarted. In my case, the dynamic IP address that I’m assigned right now is actually 50 miles north of my home.

Where Can You Download Free GPS Tracking Apps?

In the section below, you’ll find several links to articles where I have written extensive reviews on many of the various apps that are currently available. In each article, you’ll find instructions for where to go to download the app that the article is about.

Free Cell Phone Tracking Apps and Premium Apps That Are Currently Available

If you are interested in learning how to do free phone tracking online, you should know a couple of things. The first is that there are several great apps that really are 100% free. There are also several apps that have a one time purchase price and some that charge a monthly subscription fee. For your convenience, I’ve complied a list of the applications that I have written reviews for on my site. Please note that each link will take you to an article that describes the particular app or service in much more detail. I’ve broken this list down into two sections. The first section lists the free apps and the second section lists the those that charge a fee.

Be sure and check my website frequently because as new apps hit the market, I’ll be writing reviews on them and adding them to this list. My goal is to make my website your “one stop” resource on mobile phone tracking software and services and I’m working very hard to accomplish this goal.

List of Free Cell Phone Tracker Apps:

  • Find My Phone – This one may help you find your lost or stolen smartphone.
  • GPS Tracking Pro – This one will let you keep track of all your friends and family members much like Google Latitude used to.
  • Find My iPhone – This one is designed just for the Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and it has some powerful features such as remote lock and remote wipe.
  • avast Anti-Theft – This one is designed to help protect or recover a lost or stolen mobile device.
  • Glympse – This is a particularly useful app for business users because they can set tracking timers that expire within a few minutes to a few hours. This way business users can allow their associates to track them and still maintain their privacy after business hours.
  • BuddyWay – Another free app that has an interesting proximity alert feature that many people find quite useful.
  • MobiWee – Offers premium features like those seen on Find My iPhone and iLocalis but it’s free.
  • Map My Tracks – This app is designed to track sporting activities. It has features that can help athletes train more efficiently and improve their performances.
  • Family Locator Pro (Life360) – Great one designed for keeping families safe. If you’re interested in family safety, this software has a very interesting feature that will show visible indicators of registered sex offenders that are near the phone’s current location.
  • Mologogo – This app is supposed to work with prepaid phone from Boost Mobile.
  • Where’s My Droid – This app is really interesting because you can send a text message to retrieve the location of your lost phone. You can also make your phone start ringing for a predetermined length of time simply by sending a text message to the phone. This feature works even if the phone is on silent mode.
  • GPS Logger For Android – This is a simply, no frills, bread crumb type GPS tracking application. Even though it’s not packed with lots of features, I think many of you will still find it quite useful.
  • WAZE – A very cool free app that makes use of the GPS capabilities of modern cell phones to point out traffic jams and warn drivers of road hazards such as speed traps, accidents, and more.
  • Prey Anti-Theft – This one is designed specifically to help people track down and recover their stolen smartphones, laptops, or tablet computers.

List of Mobile Phone Locator Apps That You Must Pay To Use:

  • Sprint Family Locator – This is Sprint’s GPS tracker service. It offers a feature called “Safety Checks” that sends the location of a particular phone in the form of an email or text message to specific users at predetermined times during the day. Many people like it because you don’t need a smartphone to use this service.
  • iLocalis – This one is another iPhone specific app that offers many of the same features that Find My iPhone offers. It does require that you jailbreak your device which poses its own risks.
  • AT&T FamilyMap – Works without installing software on the phone.
  • Verizon Family Locator – This service from Verizon has an interesting feature called “Departure and Arrival Notifications” that will send predetermined users messages when a person carrying a specific phone either arrives at a certain location or leaves a certain location.
  • AT&T FamilyMap – This is AT&T’s take on this technology. Much the same as Sprint’s version, it doesn’t require users to download or install any special software onto their mobile phones.
  • VZ Navigator – This isn’t really a phone tracking app. It’s actually a GPS navigation app but you can update the location of your mobile device on Facebook with it so I’ve included it in this list.
  • InstaMapper (New Version) – This appears to be a new version of InstaMapper that is developed and run by a new group of people.
  • Cell Tracker – This is an app that you are supposed to install on your own phone and not the phone that you would like to track.
  • SpyBubble – A popular app that is loaded with many features.

How To Choose A Free Phone Tracking Application

With so many options when it comes to tracking software to choose from, how is one to pick just one? My advice would be to try several of them to find out which apps you like the best. Many of the most popular programs are free so there’s really nothing to keep you from experimenting a bit to find the perfect GPS tracking application for your needs. Some of the premium apps and services have free trials that you can sign up for if you want to test them out. This will give you a chance to find out if you really want to pay to buy or use a particular app.

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably end up using several of them. We actually have several installed and running on our family’s phones right now. I’m not counting those that I download and install simply for the purpose of testing so I can write thorough reviews for the readers of my website.

I receive compensation as a result of endorsements, ads, or affiliate links on this website: Compensaton Disclosure

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