Smartphones contain GPS receivers and transmitters that allow them, both iOS and Android phones, to access real-time navigation and other location-based services. In the event of loss or theft of your cell phone, you can also activate the GPS tracker remotely in order to actively track a cell phone's location. This means you can check up on the target device any time that it is powered and connected to a wireless network. Multiple accounts can also be tied together in order to let friends and family keep tabs on each other.
Obviously, the GPS location tracking service will not be able to work if the battery is completely discharged, but the service may be able to log the last known location of the device. Cell phone tracking services have been added to both iOS and Android phones, but the features are slightly different on each. Let's go over how to track a phone or tablet on both platforms.
Tracking an iPhone
Apple tracking is enabled using the "Find My" app, which can be paired with iOS devices such as Apple watches, Mac computers, AirPods and AirTags. The following tracking features are available to iOS:
Play a Sound
Mark as Lost (Lost Mode)
Notify When Found
Notify When Left Behind
You will need a second device tied to your Apple account in order to use these features.
If you want friends and family to know your cell phone location, turn on Share My Location.
Tap Find My [device], then turn on Find My [device].
To see your device even when it's offline, turn on Find My network. (The Find My network is an encrypted, anonymous network of hundreds of millions of Apple devices that can help you locate your device.)
To have the location of your device sent to Apple when the battery is low, turn on Send Last Location.
If you want to be able to find your lost device on a map, make sure that Location Services feature is turned on. To do this, go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services, and turn on Location Services.
If you're using the Find My app, you can't see your device's location if more than seven days have passed since its last location was sent to Apple.
If the iPhone isn't easily recoverable, you can also perform a remote erase:
Make sure that you try the steps above to recover your missing device — and note, this can't be undone.
Open the Find My app and choose the Devices tab.
Select the device that you want to remotely erase.
Scroll down and choose Erase This Device.
Select Erase This [device].
If the device is running iOS 15 or later, then you will still be able to identify and track it on the Find My app after erasing its contents.
Tracking an Android Phone
Android's "Find My Device" feature allows users to track a smartphone or tablet, lock it remotely or wipe the device. This can all be done online using the Google account that is paired to the targeted device. Google support outlines the steps to take in order to track Android devices.
To find an Android device, make sure that device:
is signed in to a Google account
has Location turned on
has Find My Device turned on
is connected to mobile data or WiFi
is visible on Google Play
If your device is off or isn't connected to mobile data or WiFi, you may still find its most recent location if you've enabled "Store recent location."
Once you've verified that all these settings are correct, you may begin the tracking process:
On a browser, go to android.com/find, or download the Find My Device app onto a second phone from the Google Play store.
Sign in to your Google account.
The location is approximate and may not be accurate.
If your device can't be found, you may find its last known location, if available.
The lost Android phone gets a notification.
On the map, you'll get info about where the device is.
If you have more than one device: At the top of the sidebar, select the lost device.
If your lost device has more than one user profile, sign in with a Google account that's on the main or personal profile.
After that, select the course of action you want to take:
If you get a prompt, tap Enable Lock & Erase.
Play sound: Rings your device at full volume for five minutes, even if it's set to silent or vibrate.
Secure device: Locks your device with your PIN or password. If you don't have a lock, you can set one. To help someone return your device to you, you can add a message or device number to the lock screen.
Erase device: Permanently deletes all data on your device, but may not delete SD cards. After you erase, Find My Device won't work on the device.
Now That's Recent
Apple's AirTag tracking device was released April 30, 2021.
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