You can generally track a phone by IP address if you know it, but it's hard to track an IP address to an exact location without information from an internet service provider, which will generally be given only to law enforcement or with a court order. If your cellphone was stolen, you're likely best off working with the police and providing any IP address or other information you have to help trace its location. If you're just not sure where the phone is, you can use iPhone or Android geolocation tools to attempt locating the device.
How IP Addresses Work
An internet protocol, or IP address, is a numerical code used to route data across the internet to cellphones and computers, somewhat similar to how a phone number is used to place a call. IP addresses are generally assigned by internet services providers, whether those are home ISPs a phone might connect to via Wi-Fi or phone carriers themselves if a phone is using a data plan to get online.
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Computers and smart phones use what's called the Domain Name Service to translate human-readable addresses like www.example.com into IP addresses.
Mobile IP Address Tracker Options
Just as you can use a phone number to find out generally where someone is located and what phone company issued the number, you can often use an IP address to generally locate where a computer or phone is located.
Usually, though, public IP address lookup databases don't provide you with enough detail to actually find your phone. While you might be able to ascertain what city the phone is located in, you usually won't be able to get anything close to an actual street address. Keep in mind that IP address location mappings aren't perfect and can be thrown off if someone is using a virtual private network or otherwise routing data through multiple devices.
Getting a Phone's IP Address
If you don't have a phone in your possession, you may not be able to easily get its IP address at all.
One way to do so is to see if the phone is accessing any services where it may be logged in, such as email providers, media streaming services or something similar. If you log into these services, and a phone is also logged on with your account, you may be able to see IP addresses and approximate locations for the phone.
If you think someone is using your phone without your permission, you'll likely want to use features built into these services to log them out of your personal accounts before they can steal your personal information or run up a bill in your name. Consider contacting the police and your phone provider for help.
Phone Finding Services
Apple and Google provide tools to locate your iPhone or Android device if it goes missing. Apple calls it "Find My iPhone," while Google calls its tool "Find My Device."
Generally, you need to have opted in to this service within your phone's settings before you use it. Once the service is turned on, you can use the operating system maker's website or apps to locate your missing device.
If the device appears to be stolen, you'll likely want to contact the police.