Google has an app which is effectively the equivalent of Find My Friends on an iPhone or iPad that allows you to track the location of family members and friends. The idea behind Trusted Contacts is that someone knows where you are in case anything goes wrong, and it could be a very important way to stay safe. The app is free to use and we’ll show you how to get set up.
How to track an Android phone's location
You might already know about the android.com/find website, but that really only works to track down your own devices signed into your Google account. It's actually really handy as you can make a device play a tune so you can find it in your home.
Trusted Contacts, on the other hand, is a way for families or close friends to request and share their location with each other. Once you grant a contact permission they can see if you’ve recently used your phone, moved location, as well as how much how much battery power the phone has left.
It's ideal for parents to keep track of where their child is, especially if they've just got their first phone and started going to school on their own.
Trusted Contacts can also be very useful if a contact - or you - have gone somewhere unfamiliar, where there wouldn’t be people around to help if you got into difficulties. However, do note that it works using mobile data, so it won't be any use out in the wilds where there is poor or no 3G or 4G signal.
The key feature is that Trusted Contacts allows you to request someone's location. The app, by default, gives them five minutes to approve or deny the request, but if they don't respond at all, it will automatically provide the location to the requester. You can change this delay to "immediately respond" or a longer timeout, and the user always retains control over who can track them and who can’t.
How to set up Google Trusted Contacts
Download the app from the Google Play Store. After launching it for the first time you’ll see a series of pretty animated screens that take you through the various feature of the app.
This is a tracking app and will need your location to be able to work properly, so grant this permission when prompted. Google states that the data is kept private in the app and shows your current location along with a map of your recent activities.
As the name suggests, you’ll need to select which people you trust with your location. To do this allow the app access to your Contacts, then choose the ones you want by tapping on the Add button on the right side of the screen. The people you choose don’t have to have Trusted Contacts installed on their phones, or even a Google account, although they will need one if they want to request your location.
With the contacts selected you’re good to go. Now your friends will receive an email letting them know that they are able to access your location and status either through a browser interface or the free Trusted Contacts app.
How to find a phone's location using Google Trusted Contacts
Once you’ve got your list of trusted friends up and running you can start using the app. The Home page shows a list of the friends you have added, beneath which will either be a status or a message letting you know that they haven’t added you back yet.
If friends request your location in the Trusted Contacts app and you approve the request they will see several possible status updates, each with different meanings.
Active recently - the phone has been used or moved within the last 30 minutes
Activity in the last hour - similar to above but for an hour
Low battery, battery dead, or Offline - again, pretty self-explanatory.
If you want to let people know where you are then just tap the orange circle in the top right corner that has a location icon inside. This opens up a new window with two choices: Share with selected contacts or Send alert. The first simply lets people know where you are and allows them to see your location history for the next 24 hours, or until you turn off the Sharing option.
Each trusted contact you select receives an email letting them know you’ve shared your location, and they can access the information either by tapping the View Updates in the app, or by viewing the same information via the browser link included in the email.
The second is an urgent message that tells people you need immediate help. It doesn’t waste time asking who to choose, instead it just sends the alert to all trusted contacts on your list. Those with the app installed will hear their alarm tone begin to play and see your location. Friends choosing the browser option will receive an email telling them you need assistance and providing a link to your location.
If you’re worried about someone and want to see where they are then go to the Home screen, tap on a contact, and select the ‘Ask for XXX’s location’.
The app will then ask the other person to confirm they want to share it with you. If they don’t respond within five minutes you’ll automatically receive the map details of their location. You can do the same thing via the web if you open the original email you received from the person and press the Request location button.
Trusted Contacts is a simple app. It doesn’t come loaded with features or options, but that’s one of the best things about it. You just find the information you want quickly so that you know when to stop worrying or start helping. Download it today, and get your friends to do the same. You never know when something like this could be just what you need.
For more on tracking down your own Android devices, read how to locate a lost Android or lost iPhone.