Ever since smartphones have existed, people have wanted to know how to trace a mobile phone location. The reasons vary. Some people want to keep a close watch on their children or a spouse. Others want to travel with friends and make sure no one gets separated. And some are just looking to find a lost device.
Whatever your reason for wanting to trace the location of a mobile device, these days, there are countless ways to do so. It’s much easier today than it was years ago. So many people are voluntarily sharing their location with friends and family.
Both Android and iPhone come with built-in location tracking utilities, so long as the location services (GPS) on those phones is enabled, and the owner has provided the application with permission to share their location. The following are a few ways you can take advantage of those location-tracking services if you own an Android phone (even if the phone you want to trace is an iPhone).
Trace a Mobile Phone Location With Device Manager
Tracing the location of your Android phone really couldn’t get any easier. So long as you have location services on your Android turned on, you can visit Google’s Android Device Manager’s Find My Device page to get the location of your phone.
You do need to be logged into your Google account and provide the service permission to collect location information.
Once you do, you’ll see the precise GPS-location of your phone identified by a small green icon on Google Maps.
To the left of the map, you’ll see three services that you can use if your phone is not currently in your possession.
- Play a sound: This feature will ring your phone for five minutes even if the sound is set to silent. If the phone is anywhere in your vicinity, you should hear it.
- Lock: If you know your phone is lost, you can make sure it’s locked so no one can open it and see all of your information.
- Erase: If you’ve lost all hope of finding your phone and want to ensure your sensitive information on the phone isn’t discovered, you can remotely (and permanently) erase everything.
It’s a good idea to make sure you’ve enabled location services on your phone and provided Google with permission to trace your phone location. This way, if it ever does get lost, you can quickly enable one of these features and protect your information.
Also, the lock feature alone could end up helping you retrieve your phone. It lets you display a message to whoever found it (if anyone did). It also lets you provide a phone number where they can reach you to arrange a time and place to get your phone back.
In addition to the page above offered by Google, under your Google account. there’s also a Find Your Phone page where there are even more features available.
This page will show you a list of every device you’ve used to log into your Google account. You can select the phone or tablet that you want to locate from this list.
Once you do, you’ll see a long list of utilities you can use, similar to the Android Device Manager.
- Check recent security events: This will show you a log of any recent password change or reset requests submitted to Google.
- Lock your phone: You can immediately lock your phone so no one can access it.
- Try calling your phone: Gives you access to your contacts list (to find your number if you forgot it) or a Google Hangouts session so you can call your phone.
- Sign out of Google on your phone: This will log you out of your Google account on the device, so that nobody with that device can access your Google account information.
- Erase your phone: This will immediately erase all information from your phone.
Pressing the “Locate” link on the right side of this page is obviously the easiest and fastest way to trace a mobile phone location — it’ll provide the map shown above, and you’ll know exactly where to go pick up your phone.
The option to lock your phone will provide the person who found your phone with a call button they can press (and a customized message you can write to them). This way, they can use your phone to call you at whatever number you specify. This makes it as easy as possible for whoever has your phone to help you get it back. They don’t even have to dial a number — all they have to do is press the green button!
Keep in mind that the option to “erase your device” will wipe out everything that Google has access to on the phone. It’s possible that Google may not be able to erase any additional memory cards you added to your phone. Also, note that the moment you erase your phone, Google account information is lost as well. You will no longer be able to use any of the services above to locate or ring your phone.
So, obviously use the “erase” feature as a very last resort. You should use it only if you’re fully convinced that you’ve lost your phone and will never get it back. You may want to do this when the battery status on the phone has reached single digits, and you’re likely to lose contact with the phone anyway.
Tracking an iPhone on Android
Is it an iPhone that you want to track the location of? No worries. Even though you’re working from an Android device, you can still trace the location of an iPhone using Apple’s Find My iPhone service. But there is a catch.
If you try to visit the iCloud page to find your iPhone location, you’ll notice that the web page says your browser isn’t supported.
This is Apple’s way of sticking it to Android users. But that’s okay, because Android users have a way around that. All you have to do is click on the menu icon in the upper right side of the browser window and click the “Request desktop site” in the drop-down list (assuming you’re using the mobile Chrome browser — which you should be.)
Once you enable this, the sign-in page for iCloud comes up just fine. Sign into your iCloud account, and voila — a map will appear with the precise location of your iPhone.
Just like in the case of your Android phone, you do need to have location services enabled. You’ll also need Find My iPhone enabled on your iPhone before you can use this service. So don’t hesitate — enable that feature today just in case you do end up losing your iPhone at some point.
The Find My iPhone feature has saved countless Apple owners over the years. Now you know how to trace the location of your iPhone even if the only device anyone else in your household owns is an Android phone.
Trace a Mobile Phone Location with Other Apps
Maybe you’re more interested in tracing the phone location of your family or your friends, and not just your own phone.
It’s very important to understand that there is not a single app out there that will show you the location of any cellphone just based on a cellphone number. Any app on the Google Play Store that claims to do this is a scam. The only way you can ever trace the location of a mobile phone is by installing software onto that phone. The phone owner must also give permission to enable the location services on the phone.
The good news is that many people out there willingly and freely share their GPS location with the entire world. Yes, even many of your own friends.
Smartphone Location via Facebook
If you go into your Facebook app on your phone, click on the menu and scroll down, you’ll see a “Nearby Friends” link. Click on this, and you’ll see just how many of your Facebook friends have enabled sharing their location with friends on Facebook (or unwittingly shared it).
This area of the Facebook app will show you how recently your friend last logged into Facebook. It also shows what location they were in when they did so. This is probably the easiest way of any to identify the location of your friends through their cellphone. But it only works if they’ve enabled the location feature in Facebook.
Another way Facebook is offering location-tracking is through the Messenger app. As we recently announced, Facebook now offers users the ability to share their live location with anyone via the Facebook Messenger app.
This is accomplished from inside Messenger by pressing the “+” icon to the left of your message, and choosing the location icon.
This will show the message recipient a small map with the location of your smartphone on it.
Share Your Location on Google Maps
Another really cool way you can let your family or friends trace the location of your mobile phone is by sharing the location via Google Maps.
This is a relatively new feature that Google just added to Google Maps. If you open Google Maps and click on the menu, you’ll see the “Share location” link in the list.
When you click on it, you’ll have the option to share your phone location for a limited time. You can customize a time, or permanently share your location until you turn off the feature.
You can specify all of the people you want to share your location with. Once you and your friends share your location with one another, you’ll see each other’s smartphone location on the map identified with your Google profile image.
This is actually an awesome way for a mom or dad to provide the family with peace of mind when they’re away on business or for any other reason. It’s also a great way for an entire family to have peace of mind. The parents don’t have to constantly worry about where their kids are, and kids don’t have to keep “calling in” to report on their whereabouts.
What Works for You?
Whether you go with Facebook, Google, or one of the “Find My Phone” services described above, locating a phone is without a doubt far easier than it ever has been. There’s really no reason you should ever not be able to find your phone — or even the phones of your friends or family members either!
For more, check out Android apps that make awesome use of your location.