How to Track My Phone With GPS on a Computer

by John Papiewski ; Updated October 02, 2017

A lost phone can be a major hassle, cutting you off from work, friends and family. But thanks to the power of GPS, it’s not the end of the world. The GPS technology built your phone lets you easily track it down online. Most phones today have this capability, from the simplest flip phone models to the latest smartphones.

High-Flying GPS Tech

Your phone receives location signals from the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), a network of satellites orbiting in space. However, in order for you to track your phone, it must be powered on and receiving GPS. If the phone is in a large metal building and GPS reception is poor, or if the battery is dead, tracking won’t work. Also, many tracking services require that you maintain a cloud account with the phone’s vendor. Basic services such as tracking are usually free for most smartphones, though others, such as data storage, come at a cost.

GPS Tracking for iPhone

Apple offers an app called “Find My iPhone” that tracks iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. To use it, you must first register the device with iCloud, Apple’s cloud-based storage service. In addition to tracking a lost phone, you can command it to play a sound, making the device easier to find under your couch cushions. You can also lock the phone, display messages or erase the phone’s memory.

Locating Your Android

To track an Android phone, you must first set up an account with the vendor, such as Samsung, HTC or Google. As mentioned above, the phone must be on and its GPS service enabled. Once set up, the account shows your Android device on a map. In addition to location services, you can remotely lock the phone, ring it or lock the screen.

Windows Phone Tracking

The process for tracking a Windows phone is much like the offerings for iPhone and Android models. You sign up for an account with Microsoft, then go to account.microsoft.com/devices. Select your phone from a list of your Windows Mobile devices, then view the map that appears displaying your phone’s location. As with services offered for other smartphones, Microsoft lets you ring, lock or erase your phone remotely, should you need to.

Find Your Flip Phone

Many major cellular carriers offer tracking services, for a small monthly fee, that cover basic phones. Sprint and Verizon each offer what they they call “Family Locator,” and AT&T has its own plan called “FamilyMap.” These services let you track the most basic phones they sell. For phones that don’t support apps, the accuracy of the tracking service is not as good as a smartphone’s. For example, using GPS, smartphones can pinpoint a location to within a 150 feet, whereas flip phone tracking is accurate to about 1,000 feet. However, this is good enough to tell if your phone is still in your house, or if you left it at the office. To use it, you log into your account on the cell provider’s website and sign up for the service. With the account set up, your phone shows up on a map on the website.

Warnings

  • close Where's My Droid requires Android version of 1.6 or later.
  • close iCloud Find requires iOS version 5.0 or later.

About the Author

Chicago native J.T. Barett has a Bachelor of Science in physics from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images