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A benefit of the advanced technology in today’s smartphones is that it has become much easier to track the location of those phones. Although cell phone tracking features are most commonly used to locate lost phones, you can also use them to:

• Keep an eye on your kids
• Monitor where employees with company phones go during work hours
• Gather evidence regarding if a significant other is cheating on you

There are several ways to track a cell phone with and without installing software. Here are the best:

  • Using the Phone’s Built-in Tracking Software

All the three major types of smartphones, which are the Android, the iPhone and the Windows Phone, have their own built-in tracking software. These are tied to the primary account that’s tied to the phone. For Androids, this will be a Google account. For iPhones, this will be an Apple iCloud account. For Windows Phones, this will be a Microsoft account.

Even though these are different types of phones, the process for tracking them using built-in software is similar among all of them. You will need to:

1. Log in to the account that’s tied to the phone.
2. Go to the Find My Phone section. This is easy to find.

The location of the phone will then be displayed on a map. Of course, to use this method, you will need the login credentials for the account that’s tied to the phone.

Installing Spy Software

If you can gain access to the phone, there are plenty of third-party apps you can install to track the phone and even provide more information on any activity that occurs on the phone, such as calls and messages. These apps run in the background but leave no trace of their activities for the user to notice, which means you can still track a cell phone location without them knowing.

Two of the more popular third-party tracking apps are:

• mSpy
• Family Tracker

Of the two, mSpy is certainly the more comprehensive option, as it logs almost all the activity on the phone. Family Tracker, on the other hand, is only a tracking software.

Tracking Phones on a Family Plan

If you’re the primary accountholder on a family plan, all four of the major carriers have services available to track the location of the other phones on your plan.

AT&T offer an app called AT&T FamilyMap. When you open the app, you can check the locations of all the phones on your family plan, along with their location history. You can also set this app up to notify you if one or more of the phones on your plan leave a certain area.

Sprint has an application suite available known as Guardian, and one of the apps in this suite is Sprint Family Locator. This app allows you to check the locations of phones on your plan from your phone or your computer. There’s also the option to get location updates periodically during the day.

Verizon also has an app called Family Locator. From your phone, you can check the location of other phones in your plan, and you can get location updates at automatic intervals throughout the day. Another feature with this app is hotspots that you set up. You’ll then get a notification when a person on your plan reaches or leaves those hotspot locations.

T-Mobile has an app called FamilyWhere. You can access it from your phone, computer or tablet. It allows you to check the locations of phones on your plan, see their location history for the previous seven days, schedule automatic location checks and receive notifications when one of the people on your plan visits a new place.

When Tracking Software Won’t Work

Although tracking software can be very effective, it isn’t foolproof, and there are a couple situations where it won’t work.

GPS obviously needs to be turned on for tracking software to locate a phone. If the user turned off GPS in their settings, you wouldn’t be able to track their location anymore. If the phone is turned off, that will also leave you unable to track it.

In these situations, the tracking software will display the last location is has for the phone.

Legal Concerns

It’s important to understand potential legal ramifications of tracking someone else’s cell phone. A cell phone is considered a type of computer in the eyes of the law, and accessing someone else’s computer without their permission is a crime. If the person gives you permission and you track a cell phone with them knowing, then you’re in the clear, but you’ll want to have proof of them giving you permission.

Now, if you own the phone and pay the bill for it, then you’re technically the owner, which gives you the legal right to track it as you please. This would apply if you have a family plan where you pay the bill and own all the phones or if you have employees and you issue them work phones that you pay for.

However, if you access a significant other’s phone without their permission and they pay the bill on it, then you’ve committed a crime.

The Best Way to Track a Cell Phone

Although these tracking methods work well, they all have their challenges. You either need access to the primary Google, iCloud or Microsoft account that’s tied to the phone, or you need access to the phone itself to install an app or you need to have the phone on your family plan.

These are the only options, though, as there isn’t a way to accurately track a cell phone by phone number alone. To figure out which option is right for you, consider which method will be easiest for your situation. If you have them on your family plan, that will likely be using your carrier’s family finder app. If you have access to the primary account tied to the phone, it will be simplest to track its location there. Otherwise, your best bet is installing a tracking app. Then if you want to go a bit deeper you can run a background report on someone and find out more about them and possibly uncover hidden profiles.