A cell phone tracking app is a piece of software that can be loaded onto a mobile phone. Tracking apps allow the location of a phone to be followed remotely from a computer or a smartphone. This type of software is often used to monitor the location of employees, children, or spouses. A cell phone tracking app can also be used to locate a phone that has been lost or stolen.
There are two general ways that tracking apps are able to determine the location of a phone. The first method analyzes the signals of nearby cell phone towers. By identifying different towers and determining the signal strength from each point, tracking apps can calculate the rough geographic location of the handset. This method is not extremely accurate, but can generally pinpoint the location of a cell phone to within about 0.6 miles (about 1 km).
The second location method used by tracking apps relies on global positioning systems (GPS). Many modern phones have small GPS chips that are able to receive location signals from satellites. A cell phone tracking app is able to use these GPS signals to determine the handset's location. This method is usually very accurate, and can identify the geographic location of a phone with an accuracy of around 49 feet (about 15 m).
Advanced phone tracking apps combine both the cell tower and GPS methods. This enables the application to use accurate satellite signals when they are available, and to revert to cell tower triangulation if a GPS reading is not available. Locations such as urban cities can sometimes cause GPS interference, while several cell towers are often available for analysis.
Phone tracking applications relay the position of the handset to a remote location. Many apps have the ability to send a location via text message. Alternately, a cell phone tracking app may report the position using e-mail or a multimedia message (MMS). Some phone tracking apps notify the user when these messages are sent, while others perform this step privately.
A remote location receiving phone location messages can display this information in several ways. The position of a cell phone is often marked on a map, and shown on a computer or smartphone screen. Software used to view tracking app data can often display routes and stops that are used frequently by the cell phone owner. It can also provide notification if a cell phone enters or exits a pre-defined geographic zone.