How To Use Your iPhone To GPS Track Someone's Location

Applies to: iOS8 and iOS 9, iPhone, iPad, iPad2, iPad 3, "New iPad", & iPod Touch

 

Update for 2015 and iOS 9 

The instructions on this page are specifically for iOS 6, if you have a new iPhone with iOS 9 or if you have upgraded to iOS9, the settings are virtually the same.


Did you know that your iPhone (iPad or iPod Touch) can be used as a real-time GPS location-tracking device, giving the (near) exact location of the phone (or the car, or purse that it is in) in near-real time?  You can watch on your PC or Mac as the location is pinpointed on a map, and updated every several seconds, accurately to within just a few feet!  The person holding the phone doesn't even have to do anything, and won't even know they are being tracked. Perfect for parents that want to keep an eye on their children's location - now buying (or loaning) an iPhone to your kids might make more sense.

 

Watch the video version:

WARNING: Using this method to turn an iPhone into a real-time GPS location tracking device should only be done to an iPhone that you own.  Tracking someone's iPhone that you do not own, without the owner's permission or placing any tracking device on someone without their permission or knowledge is not only immoral, but it may also be illegal in some states.Iphone Tracking via GPS

What you need to track your iPhone location:

  • Any iPhone (1st generation, iPhone 3g, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S) running iOS 5 or newer - Jailbreaking is not required.  First generation iPhones will provide slightly-less accurate location information due to the lack of a GPS chip, and must be in range of cell towers.  Works on all iPads, but for non 3G iPads, it will only work if/when the iPad is in range of a wireless network and the location data may be less accurate.  Also works on iPod Touch but only if wireless is enabled and the device is in-range of a wireless network
  • MobileMe Account:  Mobile Me is a service provided by Apple for email, online data backup/storage, calendar/contacts sync, and Find My iPhone.  The normal cost for Mobile Me is $99/year, but you can usually find memberships for less on eBay (buyer beware!).  You can often get several months of Mobile Me for free when buying a new iPhone or computer from Apple, and you can also sign up for a free 60-day trial membership at the Mobile Me website to try the service.  For more info on the Mobile Me service, see Apple's Mobile Me website.
  • iCloud Account (FREE!): iCloud is a service provided by Apple for email, online backup of iOS devices, calendar/contacts sync and Find My iPhone.  iCloud is FREE.  See Apple's iCloud Website

How to turn your iPhone into a GPS location-tracker:

The key to using your iPhone as a real-time GPS location tracker is the Find My iPhone service which is part of iCloud.  Most people have probably heard about the Find My iPhone service - Apple markets the service as a way to find your iPhone if it becomes lost or stolen - but what many do not realize about the Find My iPhone service is:

  1. You can use Find My iPhone to get real-time maps of where your iPhone is at any time.  You do not have to 'report' the phone as stolen.
  2. You can get the location of your iPhone as often as you wish, with no limits
  3. There is no limit to the number of iPhones you can track - they don't even have to be owned by you! Just remember: do not track a phone/person without that person's permission.  Should the iPhone owner catch on that you are tracking their every movement, the information they need to convict you will be stored in the iPhone.

How to setup location tracking on an iPhone:

  • On the iPhone you want to track, go into SETTINGS, then iCloud
  • Enter your iCloud account information
  • Scroll down through the iCloud options (contacts, calendars, etc) and make sure that Find My iPhone is ON

Your iPhone is now setup as a location tracker! 

How to find and track the location of your iPhone:

From any computer connected to the internet: From any browser go to www.iCloud.com and sign in with your email address/iTunes account and password.  Once signed-in select Find My iPhone.  When prompted, re-enter your password.  After a moment a list of all devices you have configured for tracking will show on the left of the screen.  Click the device to track - after a moment a map will appear with the location of your device pin-pointed in the center (this usually takes a few seconds).  If the iPhone is in motion it will not be updated live on the screen - click the refresh button near the upper-right (near the time) to update the location.

From another iPhone or an iPad: Download and install the free Find My iPhone app.  Start the app and enter your Mobile Me membername (email) and password.  Select the device to track from the list and a map will appear with the location.  To update the map/location, click the refresh-button in the lower left.

When tracking on either a computer or another iPhone or iPad: on the map, select "hybrid" view for the best map view.

 

That's all there is too it!  There are other, cheaper ways to track an iPhone but they require jailbreaking and the person with the iPhone must first run a specific application on the phone, and are just not as simple or 'fool proof' as this method.  This method requires only a minute to setup and does not require you to do anything on the iPhone once configured. 

 

More reading about tracking and locating iPhones, iPads, iPods:

 

 

   

   

Comments

I am just trying to locate where I may have misplaced my iPhone, or my child's iPhone. When I use the Find my iPhone feature in mobileme is there any indication on the iPhone that it has been identified as "found?" I know you have the option of sending a message to the phone or wiping it. But if I just want to locate where my kid is can I do that without them knowing? Thanks!

The 'findee' will have absolutely NO idea and no way of knowing that the device has Been located. ...

In reading about setting up the GPS on the iphone it says you have to Enter your existing AppleID name and password - What is considered the appleid name? Hoping I know what it is and just didn't know that's what it was called. If I don't know what my appleid name and password are how do I find out what they are? Also, would you mind clarifying if this is free? Thanks!

That would be your MobileMe account ID and password or your iTunes account which you setup in iTunes. If you have a current generation (new) iPhone, iPod or iPad and are running iOS 4.2 the newest), you can get that for free. Otherwise you will have to go to me.com and set it up.. I think if you got to www.me.com from the iPhone it will tell you what to do.

So, how do I set my phone up so I can't be tracked?

Just DON'T setup Mobile Me! There isn't a way to block or prevent it from being setup other than password protecting your iPhone.. And you can always check your settings to make sure that nobody has added the settings..

If tracking another iPhone4 that I own but carried by family member do I have to put the findmyphone app on it to use the tracking? I have a free account. Does it mean that I will need to buy the full version Mobile Me?

You can track an iPhone that has been setup with Mobible Me/Find My iPhone (as above) two ways:
1) from your PC - go to www.mobileme.com and log in with the MobileMe/Apple account you configured on the iPhone
2) from YOUR iPhone - install the free TrackMyiPhone app and log in with the Mobileme/Apple account you configured on the iPhone you are tracking.

The free account is free for using the FindMyiPhone service to track an iPhone (or multiple iPhones).. you only have to buy a full Mobile Me account if you want to use the other MobileMe services like email, online storage, etc..

Ok, so I need to have physical contact with the phone I want to track first, right?

Yes. You can't add any settings into the phone if you don't have it unlocked and in your hands..

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