Find a lost iPhone: Putting tracking apps to the test

How well do iPhone tracking apps--Find My iPhone, GadgetTrak, and iHound--really work? We find out.

By Liane Cassavoy, PC World |  Security, iPhone, iPhone apps

Once you sign in, the site instantly takes you to a map that displays the location of your iPhone. As with all the apps and services tested here, Find My iPhone uses a mix of GPS, Wi-Fi data, and cell tower data to locate the phone. The use of all of these services is helpful when you need to locate a missing phone and a GPS signal can't be established--for example, inside a building. You do have to have Location Services enabled on your iPhone to use all three services. When it comes to battery life I did not notice an appreciable battery drain durring my testing.

In most of my tests, Find My iPhone's accuracy was impressive: I was able to use it to track my iPhone 4 to a specific parking space in a sizable lot outside of a Home Depot two towns away from my home. It also accurately placed my iPhone outside in a local park, inside a small neighborhood store, and traveling on various roads. It did stumble on one test, however: It identified my iPhone's location as being about half a block away from its specific location in a busy suburban neighborhood. With the location Find My iPhone supplied--which is displayed as blue dot on a map, not as an actual address--I was unable to locate the phone.

Thanks to its Apple origin, Find My iPhone boasts a feature that its rivals cannot: It allows you to remotely wipe the contents of your iPhone if you suspect that it has fallen into the wrong hands. Find My iPhone also allows you to remotely lock your phone so that an unwanted user can't access it, and it lets you display a customizable message on its screen or play a sound from it that could either deter a thief or help you locate it.

iHound Offers Multipronged Approach

SafetyWeb's iHound is available as an app both for the iPhone and for Android phones; once it's installed on your devices, all of them can be managed from the app's Web-based Security Dashboard, which is accessible from any device with a browser. The iPhone app is available for free as of this writing (for a limited time only), but it normally costs $3.99. The app comes with 3 months of free monitoring service. You can extend your subscription through an in-app purchase, with prices starting at $3.99 for 3 months.

The iHound Security Dashboard suffers a bit from an overcrowded interface; it's packed with information touting new features in the app, such as its new location-based alerts system (discussed later). You have to scroll down a bit to get to the tracking information, which is unfortunately displayed in a small window. You can, however, click to view the history of your last known locations, which are displayed in a bigger, pop-up window.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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