The Best App for Live Location Tracking

By Alexander Mereïn-Velkor

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Simple and well-known Google Maps, installed on each Android and most iPhones, can be used for location tracking, and do this function quite well. While you can find many options for accomplishing this task, Google Maps is the best one, as it is easy, accessible, and free. 

Why the Google Maps app is the best for live tracking

Let’s be quick and consider several reasons:

  1. Google map is free. you pay nothing before using it, and it is pre-installed on each Android phone.
  2. It’s extremely simple and easy to use. You need no installations, and in the case of the iPhone, the installation will be easy.
  3. It is widespread. To track somebody’s location, you need a two-side connection: the app must be installed both on your and target phones. To track someone via Google Maps, the target should have Google Map installed – and it will almost certainly be installed.
  4. It is voluntary. You can track only those who have permitted you to do that, and someone can track you when you will permit it. While it can be a disadvantage if you want to spy on someone without them knowing, in most cases, it will actually be better.

(quick addition: actually, you’ll be able to spy on someone without them knowing, but it is not typical for Google Maps)

What Google Maps Can Do

It is mostly used for navigation and finding necessary places, but you can also use it for tracking. You can see the location of everyone who is on your contact list and is willing to share the location with you. 

However, it is a mutual deal: you should share your own location at least once to be authorized to ask for location sharing.

Share Your Location

To share your location, you need the main menu. Tap on your avatar in the upright corner of your Google Maps interface. Here, find the Location sharing point. You’ll see a list of your contacts. Select those with whom you want to share location and tap Share.

You can choose how long you want to share the location: from 1 hour to 1 day. If you want to stop sharing earlier, select this contact again and tap Stop.

Here you can see a full animation of the location sharing process.

When you share your location with someone, Google Maps will periodically notify you about your location’s updates.

Track Someone

While Google Maps allows location sharing, you can also request the location for yourself.

img for location sharing live
This is how Google Maps tracking works. Taken from the turtler article.

After you’ve shared the location with someone at least once, you are permitted to ask for tracking. Select the contact and tap Request. After that, they’ll obtain your request. They can either ignore it, accept it, or block you, after which you won’t be able to send them requests. If they enabled location sharing with you, you’ll see their location on the map.

If you want to know how you can spy on someone without them knowing, please check our other article about Google Maps usage. 

Here, we’ll show the similarities and differences of Google Maps with other apps

Similarities between Google Maps and Other Tracking Apps

Location tracking apps are usually either mapping apps, parental control apps, or spyware. They all are similar when talking about the location tracking function. As you see, they all use a similar map interface for their tracking functions. It is the map, based on GPS technology, where you can find locations of various places, and your target on it. They are basically the same in all maps: location coordinates, place labels, roads, and streets are shown schematically. Also, they all show targets as contacts’ photos or avatars on this map.

google mapGoogle Maps, Life360, Apple’s Find MyFrom the left: Google Maps, Life360, Apple’s Find My. All of them are described below

From the left: Google Maps, Life360, Apple’s Find My. All of them are described below

Differences between Google Maps and Other Tracking Apps

Google Maps is designed as a mapping tool initially and, thus, it is better suited for navigation, place searching, and tracking of yourself than tracking of someone else. It is the best tracker as it is widespread and very easy to use, but what if you want more than a mere location tracker?

Other apps often have distinct interfaces and additional features. For example, Find My allows notifications, and Life 360, in addition to them, allows direct communication via apps, “Panic Button”, and more. Let’s read more about them.

Alternative live tracking apps to Google Maps

In general, you can see the Google Maps app as the location tracking tool for everyday use, while those alternatives are designed for particular cases.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook saves the location of your post and photos by default if you haven’t disabled it in your privacysettings. It is the option that allows you to see your friends’ locations based on their posts.

This is how live location sharing works, taken from the article on vox.com.

You can also share your location with anyone via messages, and request the location as well. If the one makes their location visible, you can see them using the Nearby Friends feature, which enables tracking of them. To find it, open Settings in your Facebook app, select More Options, and then Nearby Friends.

Here, you’ll see the Facebook in-build map with locations of all your nearby friends who have their location sharing enabled.

Find My Friends/Find My

This app is a perfect solution for iPhone/iPad users. Being initially developed as Find My Friends, it was rebranded as Find My in the more recent iOS versions. 

It is designed to connect friends who use iOS devices, and the Find My app enables more robust tracking options. In addition to iOS, it is available for macOS, another Apple operating system for PCs.

Find My is a general app for tracking the phone. You can set it up to find your device by sending the last location to your Apple ID. Here, we’ll browse the app’s possibilities to track your friend’s locations.

Those options will allow you to locate your device in case of emergency

Similar to Google Maps, you can either share your location with your contact or request a location. To share a location, tap the People tab, choose the contact, and select Send My Current Location.

Find My shows the current locations of your contacts with shared locations, and allows you to show your own location to them.

You can also create notifications. To this, tap on Notify Me and select when the app must notify you, and with whose contacts.

Find My may notify you when your target performs some chosen action.

Life360

This app is designed for families and aimed to connect their members. It enables creating the Circle, which is available only for family members. Those who are logged in may use the app for tracking each other.

Similar to Google Maps and Find My, tracking is voluntary in this app: you should be authorized in the circle to see those you’re tracking. In addition, they will be able to see you as well.

This app includes several options typical for parental control apps. It includes a special geofencing option, enabling marking the zone as safe or unsafe and being notified when the target enters it. Everyone in the Circle can make those marks by selecting the desired location and specifying how large the zone should be.

Special places can be marked, too: for example, the home, school, and office. To do it, click on the place on the map and tap Save.

The interface of Life360: location marking and notifications

The app allows communicating within its interface. The chat is available for all family members, and it makes it easier to be constantly in touch, in combination with the map location and other information about each other.

The emergency button is the tool to send the notification to all family members.

As you can see, it also allows you to send (or receive!) an emergency message in case of trouble. If you have children, it will be extremely helpful to know that they can reach you at any moment.

Thus, Life360 is a perfect alternative if you need extended functions, in addition to simple map tracking. It is free, but the number of place alerts is limited for a free version. A full one costs $4.99/month.

Parental Control and Spy Apps

hey are quite different. Being usually installed without the consent of the phone’s owner, invisible from the target phone without special tools for spyware detection, they provide big possibilities. They have various features, which are usually not limited by location tracking.

You install them on the target device, taking it by yourself, and usually, even don’t tell anything to the owner. After that, the app hides and starts to track anything on the device. Depending on the app, it tracks location, messages, other apps, the device’s memory, and activity. 

Apps designed for parental control are used to remotely control the device and what’s going on it. In addition to tracking, they allow blocking the device or one particular app, regulating which websites are OK to visit and which should be blocked, and watching for the app list.

Thus, spy apps are more robust, allowing you to see more information while remaining unnoticed, which is impossible when you use Google Maps or its analogs.

Let’s see their pros and cons in general.

Spying apps: their pros and cons
  • A large number of facilities for various tasks.
  • Quick installation and hiding on a target phone.
  • You need no permission to use them, only access to the target phone.
  • More comfortable for tracking, as they are specifically designed for it.
  • They are usually costly.
  • You can break the law by intruding into someone’s privacy.
  • needs to get them right before the usage: they are not so intuitive and easy as Google Maps, Find My, or Life 360.

You can do this by reading our articles: the comparison of them with Google Maps, and reviews of Spyic, uMobix, and mSpy.

Recommendations

To summarize the matter of the article, the Google Maps as a location tracking tool, let’s see how it can be used:

  • Being in touch with friends.
  • Creating a closed circle for your family.
  • Cooperation with colleagues.
  • Tracking of something, for example, a parcel.
  • Tracking of your own device.

You’d better use alternatives in cases:

  • You need a more robust app for a certain purpose, for example, parental control.
  • You want more location features, such as geofencing and notifications, and are ready to pay for them.
  • location is needed to be tracked for a long time.
  • You want to spy on someone without them knowing: spying apps hide themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have something in your mind? Let’s clarify.

Q. Is location tracking free?

A.  It depends on the application; in general, the more features for spying are available, the costlier the app is. Mapping tools, including Google Maps and Find My, are free. Tracking apps, which allows you to spy on anyone, are mostly paid.

Q. How to perform the parental control with Google Maps?

A. Firstly, you need to build trustful relationships with your kids, and then share your locations with each other on a regular basis.

Q. Does Google Maps have any notifications for location tracking?

A. It only notifies you about your location changes when you share it. There are no other location-sharing notifications.

Alexander Mereïn-Velkor
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