How can I track a cellphone

Locating mobile phones: iPhone and Android - this is how it works quickly and free of charge

Via GPS. GSM and Co.

Do you want to locate your cell phone for free? We explain how you can find your iPhone or Android device quickly and easily.

If you want to locate your cell phone, you can use many services and location apps for Android or iOS. Most smartphones already have a corresponding free location service on board in order to be able to see the location of the cell phone. This is important if you lost your phone or if it was stolen from you.

Before the cell phone can be located, however, the location function must be activated. The cell phone can then be located, blocked or deleted via a website. Most operating systems use the internal GPS tracker and GSM functions.

Use the integrated location function of iOS, Android and Windows 10

You can find tutorials on the subject of cell phone location and location of other mobile devices for numerous operating systems below. We explain how you activate and use the location function in the most important operating systems on the market.

Manufacturer-specific location services: Samsung Find My Mobile and the Apple "Where is" network

In addition to these solutions at the operating system level, there are also manufacturer-specific solutions. With Find My Mobil, Samsung offers its own service for finding a lost smartphone. This is definitely worth using, among other things, it also enables the cell phone to be located - even when it is offline.

The counterpart on the Apple iPhone is the "Where is" network, which optionally supplements the location of the iPhone via the iCloud with an offline search. The "Where is" app enables other things on the iPhone, such as sharing the location with friends or finding objects using the Apple AirTags and other object trackers.

Tip: Mobile phone location can also be used abroad with all of the services presented and therefore also works if you want to locate your mobile phone while on vacation. It is worth taking a look at our article on travel preparation.

Third-party mobile phone tracking apps

As mentioned at the beginning, there are also third-party apps that allow you to locate the cell phone - provided that you installed them before you lost your smartphone. You can find the corresponding apps in our download archive. The following tutorials explain how cell phone location works with apps popular with our readers:

Lookout: This is how you protect your smartphone

With the Lookout app you can protect your iOS and Android device from digital threats. You can also locate, lock or delete your cell phone via the app. We'll show you how it works.

Locate the cell phone via the provider

For a long time it was also possible to locate a lost cell phone via the provider. The location was done using the SIM card. It was determined at which radio mast it had last dialed into the network. However, this location method is comparatively imprecise. Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and O2 have therefore discontinued their corresponding services - for example, the O2 Handy Finder was last taken offline in 2019.

Locate cell phone using location service

There are, however, fee-based location services on the network that enable location using the SIM card. An example of this are the Handy-Ortung.org and TrackYourKid services. For legal reasons, however, they require the cell phone to be registered in advance - they are therefore not suitable for locating a cell phone if it has already been lost.

The services are more intended to keep an eye on your own children. However, there are now other solutions for this - such as children's smartwatches.

Locate cell phone with smartwatch

If you have just misplaced your cell phone, for example in the holiday apartment, and you use a smartwatch or a fitness tracker, you can also try to locate the cell phone using them. Many wearables have a feature called "Find My Device".

This causes the cell phone to emit a tone so that you can find it again. To do this, however, there must be a Bluetooth connection and the cell phone must be in the immediate vicinity. Conversely, wearables can also be located in the same way.

Can you locate a cell phone via WhatsApp?

Many users often ask themselves the question: Can a cell phone be located via WhatsApp? This is theoretically possible by dividing the location. These features are primarily used to make friends in a busy place and not to locate a lost device.

In addition to WhatstApp, other apps offer the option of sharing your location with contacts.

WhatsApp: This is how you share your location

If you're on the road and a friend wants to know where you are, you can send a live location. In our instructions we will show you which functions the location on WhatsApp has in store for you.

Google Maps: This is how you share your location

If you're out and about and want to share your location with a friend, you can do so now with Google Maps. In this guide, we'll show you how location sharing works on iOS and Android.

Facebook: Friends nearby function available

With the "Friends nearby" function, you can now see where your FB friends are currently on your Android and iOS smartphones. Your location can even be transmitted to within a few meters.

Locating cell phones - the technical background

From a technical point of view, anyone who wants to locate their cell phone has different ways of determining the cell phone's location. These offer advantages and disadvantages. In the following, we will explain the different location methods to you and discuss the advantages and problems of each.

The solutions mentioned above often rely on a combination of the various techniques to enable your cell phone to be located at any time.

Locate cell phone: Cell phone cannot be located - what now?

Losing your cell phone can be expensive if strangers call or surf the Internet at your expense. In our guide "Lost your cell phone - what can you do?" We tell you what you should do to limit the damage. We have also put together the most important blocking numbers from providers as well as the costs for a new SIM card in the following table.

Important blocking phone numbers of the provider and their costs for a new SIM card

ProviderPhone numbercosts
Deutsche Telekom0800 33 0220230 euro
Vodafone0800 172 121210 Euro
O20176 88 85 52 2235 euros
base0163 16 31 14 05 euros
1&10721 960023 euros
Smartmobil06181-708304415-30 euros
Hello Mobile06181-708304415-30 euros
Discotel06181-708304415-30 euros
Maxxim06181-708304415-30 euros
Simply06181-708304415-30 euros
McSIM06181-708304415-30 euros
Phonex06181-708304415-30 euros
Important blocking phone numbers of the provider and their costs for a new SIM card

Locating a cell phone without consent: the legal framework

Anyone who wants to locate their own cell phone usually has no legal problem. It gets more complicated if you want to locate someone else's cell phone - for example the smartphone of your partner or family members. External devices can usually only be found with the consent of the owner. But there are exceptions to how the cell phone can be located without consent. You can read which ones are here:

Locate cell phone: Prevent cell phone location

If you want to hide your cell phone location, you should follow our tips and tricks to prevent your cell phone from being located. In doing so, you gradually switch off functions that can be used to localize the device.