Can I Turn on the GPS on My Cell Phone via a Computer?
By Ashley Poland
Updated September 01, 2017
Unless you have anti-theft applications installed on your smartphone, you won't be able to turn on GPS remotely. Depending on which applications you choose to use, you may not be able to control GPS remotely – but many can also access your phone's location using the data connection. While GPS is a more accurate than data-based location services, a data-based location is accurate to a few meters.
GPS Versus iPhone Location
You don't necessarily need to have GPS turned on to locate your phone; some services (such as Lookout) can access your phone's location using the data connection. If your goal is to find your missing phone, your focus doesn't necessarily need to be on enabling GPS. Rather, you should look for an application that uses more than one method to find your misplaced phone. So long as your phone is turned on, most services should be able to find your phone.
Location services – a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi and data location – are turned on by default on the iPhone. The best tool for finding a lost iPhone is Apple's own tool: Find My iPhone, which works in conjunction with iCloud in iOS. However, you'll need to have activated it on your iPhone before it was lost. With Find My iPhone activated in iCloud, you can log in to iCloud and see your device on a map. If location services were turned off when the iPhone was lost, you will not be able to see a location. However, you can send a message to your phone and lock it remotely even without location services. Another alternative is the mobile security app, Lookout; it uses either GPS or your data location to find the iPhone. Neither tool offers a Web-based method to turn on location services.
Google offers a service called the Android Device Manager that contacts your device and loads its location on a map – if you already have GPS turned on. The Where's My Droid application for Android offers the option to turn on GPS via text message using a specific attention word. The default attention phrase to turn on is "WMD GPS". You can also use Where's My Droid with their Web-based Commander interface, but only if you've already enabled it on your phone. Other applications, such as Seek My Android or Lookout, can find your phone more accurately using GPS, but will also use your data connection to find your phone on their website (see Resources).
If Your Phone is Stolen
Avoid confronting someone who has stolen your phone, even if you know the current location. If your location app allows it, send a message requesting the phone be returned. File a police report for documentation. In many cases, the police aren't able to do anything about a stolen phone if you don't have any information. You should disconnect your wireless service, disconnect any social media connections that may be available on the phone (such as Facebook or Twitter) using the Web interfaces and change your passwords to protect personal information.
Ashley Poland has been writing since 2009. She has worked with local online businesses, supplying print and web content, and pursues an active interest in the computer, technology and gaming industries. In addition to content writing, Poland is also a fiction writer. She studied creative writing at Kansas State University.