GPS is great for retrieving lost or stolen devices, as well as navigating with Google Maps while driving.And it's especially nimble because GPS works even when disconnected from the internet.Just download your map ahead of time!
But what about using an Android phone as a GPS tracker?It's probably not the most reliable option, and it does have some minor drawbacks, but if you have no other way, it gets the job done.Let's take a look: how to turn your Android phone into a GPS tracker.
Tracking using native Android functionality
Most Android devices released in 2014 or later have a built-in feature called "Find My Device" (formerly "Find My Android").The service constantly transmits your device's location back to Google's servers, so Google knows where your phone is.You can then use Google's web interface to see where your device is at any given time.You need a Google account to use this feature.
How to Enable Find My Device on Android
1. Navigate to your device's settings.
2. Tap Password & Security.
3. Select Privacy.
4. Tap Find My Device.
5. Switch to this function on the next page.
The exact steps may vary on your phone, but for most Android devices, the steps should be relatively similar.If you're having trouble figuring out where Find My Device is on your device, you can open the Settings app and use the search bar at the top for an accessible experience.The great thing about Find My Device is that it's not just a tracker -- it lets you control your device from afar.
How to use Find My Device on Android
Once enabled, all you have to do is launch a web browser, navigate to "find my device "Dashboard, and log into your Google account (the one associated with your device).
Once you're logged in, select the device you want to locate (if you have more than one), and Find My Device will show its last known location, when it was last discovered, whether it's connected to the internet, and battery levels.
It's fairly accurate, especially if you live in an urban environment; in areas with low GPS visibility, it can be off by 20 meters.Also, inside buildings, GPS can be inaccurate.
Tracking using third-party Android apps
If you don't like Find My Device for some reason, you can always turn to one of the many third-party alternatives in the Google Play Store.The apps are easy to install, and you don't really need to do anything to use them other than create an account.
There are two we recommend: Life360 and Prey.Most tracking apps are marketed as anti-theft and anti-lost security apps for Android, and they're certainly useful for those purposes, but you can use them for direct tracking if you want.
1. Life360: Finding Family and Friends
If you want to monitor family members by using their devices, Life360 is an app of choice.And, you can also use the app to track your phone with GPS in case it gets lost.
It's even more helpful for parents because they can track where their kids are at home.The only downside is that the app doesn't offer Find My Device features like wiping or locking a lost device.
Download: Life360 (Free, subscription available)
In actual use, Prey is very similar to Find My Device.Its biggest advantage is that it works on multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and iPhone, so you can track all your devices from anywhere. Prey has been around for a while, and it gets extra points relative to the plethora of lesser-known tracking apps available on the Google Play Store.
Download: Prey (Free, in-app purchases)
Make your Android device available for tracking
Once your device is set up to be trackable, whether using Find My Device or a third-party app, there's only one thing left to do: connect the device to the person or thing you want to track.Obviously, this is easier said than done.
Wondering how to track a car with your phone?
The easiest and most effective option is to use a magnetic car mount.Most two-piece sets have a magnetic insert (which sits inside the device case) and a magnetic base (which attaches to what you want to mount).If it's a good model, the magnets should be strong enough to "snap" your phone to the base and hold it securely there.
Nothing beats a dedicated GPS tracker
While your Android device can be used as a tracker in a pinch, don't expect it to be a serious tracking device.There are three main drawbacks you should be aware of, and if any of these are problematic for you, then you should consider using a dedicated tracker:
Battery life: Your smartphone is always running a lot of software in the background, such as system-level services and third-party apps, all of which consume battery life.Dedicated GPS trackers only need to handle GPS tracking, extending battery life per charge.
Signal Quality: GPS trackers aren't perfect, but their signals are far superior to smartphone signals.So not only are dedicated GPS trackers more accurate, but they can continue to track even in areas where smartphones would normally be cut off.
Risks and Costs: Are you willing to lose your Android device?Suppose you mount it on the chassis of a car and it falls off in the middle of the highway?Dedicated GPS trackers are easier to install, stronger, and cheaper to replace if they are lost or damaged.
In other words, don't convert your Android phone into a GPS tracker unless you have no other option.
Your Android phone has many apps
Your Android phone is more powerful than you think.You can use it as a camera to take photos and videos, as a communication device to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues, and as a GPS tracker, among other uses.
Your phone can do a lot; the only requirement is knowing how to take advantage of its extensive functionality.Hopefully you can now use your device as a GPS tracker by following the instructions above.
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