How to Use Google Maps to Trace a Cell Phone

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How to Use Google Maps to Trace a Cell Phone
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Google Maps offers precision location tracking for your cellphone. The phone trace is easy when connected to the mapping service. You can even track while using Google Maps offline. Tracking another device, however, is not simple and requires permission and sharing from the other party involved.


Reasons for Tracking Your Phone

Tracking your location is useful in numerous situations. In many cases, you can navigate based on the current GPS tracking while using Google Maps. It will lead you directly to the desired location through accurate and current positioning.


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In a town or city, the map tracks your location, whether you navigate to destinations on foot, bike or in a vehicle. While entering a specific destination and choosing the directions option is useful, you can explore by checking your location and zooming in to see the businesses that are in your area.


Street View is the default in Google Maps, but you can also look at the satellite and terrain views. Satellite views are useful in urban, rural and remote areas for viewing specific structures, streets and features in the landscape. You can zoom right in on your location for an aerial view.


The terrain view is great for tracking your position while hiking, biking and doing any outdoor activities. You can view the elevation and judge the incline, look at water features and perform other actions. Tracking your location against the terrain is useful for recreation and personal reasons, but it also helps for professions such as surveying and other land-based jobs.


Tracking With Service

The easiest and most effective way to find a cellphone's location is with a good GPS signal. The GPS function on Google Maps works offline, but the map does not update. Using the service online pulls all business data and provides a clear street, satellite or terrain view.


To run a phone trace through Google Maps, open the map. In most cases, it will show your current location. If you had a map open previously, however, it might default to the old map. To update your location, look at the bottom right corner. A compass-shaped symbol is positioned just above the Go symbol used for directions.


If the symbol is black, your location is not being tracked. If the button is blue, you are on the current location. Press the button to trace your location. It will pull the map of your current location and show a blue dot on your exact location. You can zoom in to the location or pull out to see a bigger view of the area.


Tracking Your Phone Offline

Your GPS provides accurate location information while offline. The map, however, does not show accurate street data and information. You can save specific maps for offline use, making them available to work with your GPS when you do not have service.


To save an offline map, open Google Maps and type in the location you want to save. Use a central town or city in the area you want to navigate offline. When the map shows the city, look at the lower information bar and tap the bar to expand it.

A new menu appears with several options. Select the Download option to open a map with your central location. You can zoom in or out at this point to define the area. Zoom out to a fairly large region and save the map for offline use.


The offline map saves to your phone and takes up a fair amount of space. Google warns you in advance about the exact file size. If you zoom out to a large area, the file is much larger than a map focused on a single neighborhood. The map saves in a temporary file that is automatically deleted within a year because Google updates its maps regularly.

You can always download the map again with the updates after it automatically deletes. Otherwise, use Google Maps normally, and it will function on the offline maps while using your GPS location information. You can still see your position relative to street names, businesses and other landmarks.

Tracing a Lost Phone

You can trace your lost phone using the Find My Phone app and Google Maps. You must have the app installed on your phone before it is lost, however. Log in to Google on your computer and pull up Google Maps.

Click on the menu, tap Your Timeline, and type in the date for tracking. Choose the current date to pull the most recent location of your phone. You can also trace from the last date you had the phone and view the phone's movements in the timeline, which shows the routes the phone traveled during this period.

The phone needs to remain turned on for the tracking feature to work. Without an active battery, it cannot transmit the GPS signal.

Trace a Different Phone

You can trace another phone using Google Maps with the owner's permission. Tracing a phone location without permission is an invasion of privacy, and it can land you in trouble. Do not ever trace or steal location data from a phone you do not own or have a right to access.

Tracing a different phone with Google Maps is often used for parental monitoring as a coordinated effort between two or more people. A scavenger hunt, for example, may provide an opportunity for tracing locations. You can always share a static point by dropping a pin. This works like a location check-in without allowing full access to GPS tracking.

To track a different phone, use Google's real-time location sharing. This is voluntary, and the sharing party must have a Google account to participate. It works on Android and iOS devices and computers.

Click on your menu followed by Location Sharing. Choose Add People to choose the person or people who will have access to your real-time location. If the person is not saved in your contacts, add their information to create and store the contact. Select Share and choose the time frame for the sharing. The maximum time is limited to 72 hours, so you do not need to cancel or worry about leaving the sharing active after your task is complete.

If the other person does not have a Google account, generate a link to copy, paste and share with your contact. You still have the ability to set a time limit. The receiving party clicks on the link to open Google Maps and view your location. They can continue tracking your location until the time limit expires.

The ability to control who sees your location and for how long the sharing lasts makes real-time location sharing a nice feature. If you give up log-in info for an app like Find My Phone, the other party can have access at any time.