Do you want to be able to track your friends’ and family’s location on a map?
Admittedly, it sounds a bit creepy, but these days most people continually broadcast their whereabouts on social media anyway. Surely one more privacy-eroding app won’t hurt?!
GPS tracking apps have been available for many years. Sadly, some of the greatest early pioneers — such as Google Latitude — have gone to app heaven. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great tools available in the Google Play Store.
Here are five of the best apps for finding and tracking your friends and family.
Familonet is arguably the best tracking app available. It’s free to download and has a four-star rating from almost 20,000 reviews.
Even though a tracking app is always going to set off privacy alarm bells, Familonet does it’s best to minimize the risk. It never asks you for an email address and it doesn’t connect with your Facebook or Google account. To make an account, you only need to supply your name and phone number.
When you’re broadcasting your location, your contacts will see you moving in real-time on their own app. Anyone can stop broadcasting their location at the push of a button, making it easy to go “off the grid” for a period of time.
Its “Places” feature lets you save regularly frequented locations — such as homes, offices, and schools. You’ll get a notification every time one of your contacts arrives at one of the specified destinations.
You can even organize your contacts into groups, like “Friends” or “Family”. You can broadcast your location to one group while appearing offline to another.
The app also offers a panic button, private chat, and shared photo albums.
Download: Familonet (Free)
Glympse has been around for a few years and has built up a loyal following, especially among office workers.
The app is geared towards temporary sharing. Each “Glympse” only lasts for a maximum of four hours at a time. As such, it’s not a great tool if you want to track kids and relatives, but it’s an excellent way to coordinate with a large group of people in a foreign city.
Two features have helped make the app popular in offices:
- Requests: You can ask for a Glympse of someone, ideal for finding the location of a person who’s late for a meeting.
- Open Sharing: You can share your Glympse with anyone. The receiver does not need to have the app installed on their own device.
The app comes with built-in messaging tools for instantly getting in touch with other users, and it also offers a web interface in case you’re ever stuck somewhere without your phone.
Download: Glympse (Free)
3. Foursquare Swarm: Check In
Foursquare Swarm turns location tracking into a game. The more places you check into, the more points you earn. The app displays your score on a leaderboard alongside all your other friends.
But the app isn’t only a game. When you check into somewhere, you can share your location with your contacts and see who else is nearby. It doesn’t offer real-time updates like Familonet and Glympse, but it’s still a great way to organize a night out or keep track of large groups on a foreign vacation.
It has an integrated messaging app, so once you’ve checked in, you can coordinate your plans with nearby people, even if you don’t have their numbers saved in your phone.
Essentially, it’s more casual than the two previous apps but could be useful in certain scenarios.
Download: Foursquare Swarm: Check In (Free)
4. Life360 Family Locator
The Life360 Family Locator uses “Circles” to manage contacts. The Circles work just like Circles in Google Plus; you choose what data you share with each group of people. You can add contacts to as many circles as you wish.
Each circle has its own private map, and anyone in the circle can see everyone else’s location. The messaging function lets you instantly communicate with everyone in your circle, but one-to-one messaging is also supported.
Like Familonet, there a “Places” feature. Add your most frequent destinations and your phone will send out an automatic message every time you arrive there.
An attractive premium add-on is the “Driver Protect” feature. It automatically detects when you have a car accident and alerts the emergency services to its location and estimated severity.
Lastly, the Life360 website offers phone tracking in case you’re unlucky enough to get your device stolen.
Download: Life360 Family Locator (Free)
5. GeoZilla Family GPS Locator
GeoZilla is Familonet’s biggest competitor.
The most significant difference between the two is GeoZilla’s social network integration — the app lets you broadcast your location to all your social networks with a simple tap. You can also sync any check-ins you make on Facebook and Swarm back into the app.
One of the app’s strongest features is its location history. It’s perfect for retracing your steps if you’ve lost something or want to recall where you went on a particular day. The free version only saves a few weeks of location history. For an unlimited history, you’ll need to pay $1.50 per month for the premium version of the app.
Another fantastic feature is the shared task lists. You can add grocery items or appointment reminders to a contact’s list, and assign them to a certain location. As soon as the contact approaches the saved location, they’ll get a notification on their phone to remind them about the tasks.
Download: GeoZilla Family GPS Locator (Free)
Which Apps Do You Use?
Remember, tracking apps don’t have to be privacy destroyers. They can help you keep an eye on your kids, monitor the well-being of elderly relatives, or even stay close to your friends at music festivals and other large public events. It’s all about context. As long as you remain in control of when and what you’re broadcasting, there is nothing to be worried about.
Now it’s time for you to share your recommendations. How do you monitor the locations of your friends and family? What other apps deserve to be included in my list?
Concerned a free app may be causing the popup ads on your Android device. Here’s how to track down which one it is:
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock.com
Originally written by Steve Campbell on May 10th, 2010.