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


Applies to: iOS6, iPhone, iPad, iPad2, iPad 3, "New iPad", & iPod Touch

 

Updates for 2013 and iOS 7 

The instructions on this page are specifically for iOS 6, but if you have a new iPhone with iOS7 or if you have upgraded from iOS6 to iOS7, the settings are basically 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:

 

 

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photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How To Use Your iPhone To GPS Track Someone's Location

If you didn't configure the iPhone with iCloud/find my iPhone as described above, you won't be able to track it.

Seign (not verified)
Re: How To Use Your iPhone To GPS Track Someone's Location
So ho do I track someone else's iPhones location?
Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Use Your iPhone To GPS Track Someone's Location
someone gave me their old iphone but it has find my iphone app installed and icloud account. will they be able to track it if i sync the iphone into my laptop and my itune account?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How To Use Your iPhone To GPS Track Someone's Location

You can easily disable or change the iCloud account settings for Find My iPhone. You can also reset ("restore") the iPhone and start fresh by connecting it to iTunes on your computer (you will see the option in iTunes). Doing any of these things will prevent the phone from being tracked via the previous iCloud account.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Use Your iPhone To GPS Track Someone's Location
so my friend lost her iphone at a party last night. she has a find my iphone app in her computer and iphone. can we track it if the sim card is removed? and will the app and gps works if someone took the sim card out and reset it to factory setting?
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: How To Use Your iPhone To GPS Track Someone's Location

You say she has the Find My Iphone "app" installed - but in order to track the phone, Find My iPhone must be enabled in the iCloud settings (the app is used for tracking other phones) - so we'll assume that's what you mean.
In order for an iPhone to be tracked, Find My iPhone/iCloud must be enabled, the phone must be on, and connected to either the celluar/3G or a WiFi network.

If someone resets the phone to factory settings, the Find My iPhone settings will be 'wiped', leaving it untrackable by iCloud/Find My iPhone.

Anonymous Visitor (not verified)
Re: How To Use Your iPhone To GPS Track Someone's Location
but will we be able to track it if the sim card is removed?
Lynn S-S (not verified)
Want GPS coordinates for lost iphone
I lost my phone on a long hike while crawling through brambles (yes, it should have been in my backpack...). I can see the location on findmyiphone but want to know if I can get the coordinates or integrate it with google maps so that will show my location via my son's phone in relation to the lost phone.
photo of member named
Hubby
insert witty description here
I am a Grown Up Geek
Re: Want GPS coordinates for lost iphone

That is awesome that you were able to locate your iPhone!
Unfortunately there is no way (that I have been able to find) to automatically get the Find My iPhone map into Google maps or extract the coordinates. But it should not be too tough to get two browser windows side by side (one Google maps, the other Find My iPhone) and manually zoom in/out and align them, then get the coordinates from Google Maps.

Lynn S-S (not verified)
Re: Want GPS coordinates for lost iphone
Thanks for responding in such a timely manner, you just confirmed by research but wanted to make sure...we are off on another hike, through the brambles to recover the phone tomorrow morning! Thanks again.

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