Do you want to make sure you know where your children are at all times? Or maybe you want to check up on your wife or husband, who's been acting suspiciously lately?
Tracking their cell phone is a good way to find out their location – or, at least, the location of their phone, which it can probably be assumed is nearby.
Cell phone trackers can find the location of a cell phone through GPS software or through tracking the signals of the phone, positioning them between radio towers of the phone's network.
GPS software is typically provided by the phone's service provider, and it can offer the actual coordinates of the phone's location.
Mobile positioning – using the radio signals – offers an approximation of location. This method of tracking is a little more complicated, and it requires measuring the strength of the phone signal and antenna patterns to determine how close the phone is to one of the network towers. Location may be determined as close as a few hundred feet in some instances.
There are four types of cell phone trackers:
Network-based trackers use the infrastructure of the service provider's network to determine location.
Handset-based trackers require the installation of software on the phone. Tracking is determining through signal strength.
SIM-based trackers use the SIM cards or units in a phone to get raw radio measurements including cellular ID and signal strength. The SIM card can offer different information than the handset provides.
Hybrid trackers use a combination of network-based and handset-based technologies. For example, assisted GPS uses GPS location technology with network information to determine location.
There are a wide variety of cell-phone trackers on the market from different service providers. Some provide the service for free, with limited features and no guarantees for accuracy. Others may cost up to $50-$100 (or more), depending on the features offered. More advanced technology can offer information about much more activity taking place on the phone (such as calls and messages sent), which will cost more.
Always be sure to check the reputation of any cell-phone tracker before you purchase it. You are authorizing a third party to monitor what could be sensitive data. You don't want that data to fall into the wrong hands!