How to find out the location of a mobile phone, using the means made available by Google itself?
With a little skill, you can track every move of another Android phone on Google, free of charge and without needing other applications to find the phone.
In an attempt to make peace with organizations that advocate for user privacy and transparency in collecting personal information, Google has released much of the data collected about users of its products, organized in a non-cryptic form that is easy to understand, leaving everyone the freedom to decide whether to allow further collection or not.
Theoretically, anyone can manually disable the relevant settings, to become semi-invisible on Google, but the relevant settings are not very easy to find or even familiar to the uninitiated user, so most are still “playing” by Google’s rules.
This means that in order to find out the location of a mobile phone, you only need the Google Account name and password used by the person you want to track. The default privacy settings made by Google, the GPS monitoring and location recording function are already active on your mobile phone.
All you need is a PC connected to the internet and the web browser. What interests you is the Location History feature, specifically the Google Maps Timeline page. The data displayed here is for the Google account that is logged in your web browser, so you must verify that you are logged into the correct account before proceeding. Depending on the security level configured, you may also need to confirm your account access by entering a received code in an SMS message or simply answering a Yes/No message, usually displayed on the person’s phone. Thus, accessing the data stored by Google is not quite within anyone’s reach; besides the login data, physical access to the mobile phone is required. But Google’s security mechanism is not completely foolproof, simply logging into a Gmail account belonging to that person automatically connects and the Google account to which it is associated, further opening access to their data.
Google’s stated goal for Location History is to gather together all locations visited over time by Google product users, not just Android phones, organizing everything chronologically and easily to be displayed directly on Google Maps. Google collects information from multiple sources at the same time so that Google can find the location of a mobile phone even without having the GPS receiver turned on. Google can determine if someone was walking or on the bus, but stopped somewhere along the way and for how long they were there.
If you use the camera, the better for those who follow you on Google, the photos are automatically added to the day’s history, marking the time and place where they were taken. If you respond to Google notifications in which you are asked to leave an impression about the restaurant or store you visited, the gesture will be automatically recorded in your history along with any pictures you chose to upload – again, marking the exact moment and the location where they were obtained.
From the Location Timeline page, choose the month and day you want to display in the calendar and zoom in on the map to the area that interests you. The route appears detailed on the map on the right, and each location on it appears in the detailed list on the left – in a complete form, with the length of time the mobile phone holder was there, transportation means, etc.
If they have been automatically synced to your Google Photos account, any photos taken on the route to your destination will appear in the Timeline and you can access them at the original resolution.
Finding out the location of a mobile phone – on Android
If, instead, you want to find out where your phone is, or the person whose Google account you just accessed, a short visit to the Find My Device page will show you how to find a mobile phone’s location.
- You will need to confirm your identity once again by typing in the Google Account password, then simply select the device model that interests you from the list. Your device’s physical location will be displayed on Google Maps. In the left panel, you can see the current battery charge level and the name of the connected Wi-Fi network.
- If your phone is nearby, then the Play Sound option will trigger the ringtone to help locate it quickly. The option works even if the phone has been set to silent mode.
- If instead you suspect the theft of the phone, then you can opt for remote locking using Secure Device. As a last resort, you can use the Erase Device option to order the deletion of personal data left in the phone memory, thus preventing access by foreign persons.
Find out the location of a mobile phone – on iOS
If the Find My Device feature has already been activated on your lost phone, you can use the Find My application to try to recover it.
Follow these steps to find out the location of your mobile phone :
- Log in to your web browser using the Apple ID set on your device, or use the Find My application already installed on another Apple device.
- From the iCloud.com website or from the mobile app interface you use the Find iPhone button. Select a device from the list displayed to view its location on a map. If your phone is nearby, you can activate the ringtone to try to locate it.
- If you cannot immediately find the lost phone you can use the Mark As Lost button to remotely lock the device and display a personalized message with its screen.
- In the meantime, you can try to locate the device on the map if it is working. Importantly, Apple Pay functionality is suspended after you put the device into Lost Mode, which is a security measure against unauthorized payments.
- As a last resort in case of theft, use the Erase Your Device option to remotely lock the lost iPhone and order the deletion of personal data left in its memory, thus preventing access by strangers.
Unfortunately, if Find My Device is not active on your lost iPhone, then you have no other options for finding the location of your mobile phone, just changing the Apple ID password as soon as possible to prevent access to the data stored in your iCloud account and hijacking services you are a subscribed to.