What is Cell Phone GPS Tracking?

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  • Written By: Tiffany Garden
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 15 January 2020
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Many smartphones, such as the BlackBerry® and iPhone®, have integrated cell phone Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking systems that provide independent GPS tracking through the phone instead of through a dedicated GPS unit. GPS uses a network of satellites to determine the location and time of the GPS cell phone. The data can only be sent when there are four or more satellites within line of sight of the unit, and was established in 1973 by the United States (US) Department of Defense (DOD).

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has required cell phones to have cell phone GPS tracking capabilities since 2005. Accuracy is required to be within 110 yards (about 100 m) for emergency purposes, and is called E911. This does not mean, however, that all cell phones have GPS tracking. The GPS feature is typically only activated in phones in the case of an emergency, although smartphones have started to include GPS features and applications.

Motorola® was the first cell phone company to include GPS tracking on its cell phones in the US. The initial application of the cell phone GPS tracking feature was to track employee locations. Other companies soon followed suit. Numerous cell phones offer GPS tracking in modern times. Some target specific demographics, such as children, while other networks allow a person to see the locations of friends and family. These cell phone GPS tracking services are often referred to as location-based services (LBS), as well.


The uses for cell phone GPS tracking cover business and home life. A delivery company can use cell phone GPS tracking in order to know where all its delivery trucks are. This allows the business to ensure that all employees are where they should be during working hours, and the company can also let customers know the location of a truck that is due to deliver to their house. Parents can use cell phone GPS tracking to keep track of their children, whether it's a younger child staying over a friend's house, or teenagers that have started driving.


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