If you need to track down a cell phone, youâve come to the right place. Whether youâre simply trying to track the location of your lost phone, or youâre a secret agent and you need to gain intel on the day-to-day whereabouts of a crooked diplomat, weâre here to give you the information you need to get the job done.Â Itâll be easier if youâre tying to track a smartphone, but there are ways to locate older phones as well, so donât give up hope if youâre still rocking a first-gen Motorola RAZR or a SamsungÂ Juke â" weâveÂ still got your back.
Tracking your phone before you lose it
If youâre here just to prepare for the day that you lose your phone (which is inevitable, really), then youâre ahead of the game. If youâve got a smartphone, consider installing the apps listed below
|For smartphonesÂ of any kind, we recommendÂ Prey  . ItâsÂ a free and open-source anti-theft application that can be used for both computers and mobile phones. After you sign up for the service, you simply sync your devices with it, sit back, and relax. The day that your phone goes missing, all youâll have to do is find a computer, log into your account, and start tracking. It runs discreetly in the background and wonât track your phoneâs location until you tell it to, so thereâs no need to worry about your privacy while the phone is in your possession. We recommend this for any Android or iOS device  , as well as any Mac, Windows, or Linux PC.|
|Â||For non-smartphones, we recommend using a GPS tracking service calledÂ AccuTracking  . Itâll cost you six bucks per month (less if you subscribe for a year), but now thatÂ Google Latitude  Â andÂ InstaMapper  Â are dead, itâs the best option you have left. The service uses your phones built-in GPS to track the location of your phone, and lucky for you, it works with a wide variety of feature phones. As long as your phone is GPS enabled, this service should do the trick Most modern cellphones are GPS enabled, so as long as your phone isnât over eight years old, you should be fine. When the day comes that you canât locate your phone, just log in to AccuTrackingâs web interface from any internet-connected computer and â" so long as your phone isnât dead â" itâll immediately show you the location of your phone.|
Tracking your phone after you lose it
If you didnât have the foresight to install a device recovery app on your phone before you lost it, donât worry. There are still some easy ways to get it back.
AndroidÂ users can download an application calledÂ Plan B  . Even though your phone is gone, you can log into your Google account on any computer install the app from Google Play. When you click install, the app will begin downloading to your missing phone, and when the download is complete it will send your phoneâs location info to your Gmail account. To retrieve the phoneâs whereabouts again when youâre away from a computer , just text the word âlocateâ from a friendâs phone and youâll receive a text with location info.
iPhoneÂ users can download the infamousÂ Find My iPhone  Â application. If youâre rocking a phone with iOS 5 or later, then this app will come preinstalled on your device. If not, just borrow a friends iDevice, install Find My iPhone on it, and log in with your Apple ID. Once youâre all logged in, the app will display your phoneâs location on a map. You can even remotely trigger your phone to make a loud noise for two minutes, which makes pinpointing it a snap when itâs nearby.
Tracking someone elseâs phone with their permission
If somebody doesnât mind you tracking their whereabouts, donât forget that thereâs always the option of calling and asking where they are. Thereâs no need for any fancy GPS applications if the person doesnât care about you knowing their location. Then again, if you do it this way thereâs always a chance that the person in question could lie to you. So, if you canât always trust the word of the person youâre trying to locate, hereâs what we recommend:
Tracking someone elseâs phone without their permission
Itâs best to be upfront about tracking somebody and respect their right to privacy, but if you absolutely must track a phone without the ownerâs consent or knowled ge (i.e. if youâre a parent), here are a few tips on how to do it.
Unfortunately, if the phone youâre trying to track isnât GPS-enabled, youâll have to pull a James Bond maneuver and install a GPS chip on the phone before you can pinpoint its location. This might be a bit of an arduous task, as youâll have to figure out which particular archaic model of phone they have, find and purchase a GPS chip thatâs compatible with the device, and then successfully install the chip without the personâs knowledge. Try going to a specialty electronics shop or spy gear retailer to find the right hardware. The other option is locating the phone in question via triangulation, but doing it this way means gaining access to cell phone tower data â" andÂ the feds probably wouldnât approve of that.
In conclusion, we know that there are tons of other great tracking apps we didnât mention here, so we invite you to share your favorites with us in the comme nts.
Update 10-13-14:Â This article has been updated since it was originally published to include an instructional video.