In theory, any mobile app or service that helps keep your family safe is a good thing. When that service impacts their privacy and potentially leads to misunderstandings, the picture isn’t quite so rosy. Like with any service like this, care has to be taken to be fully aware of the limitations.
Sprint Family Locator and apps like it can play a valuable role in family life and help children roam more free than they otherwise would and allow parents the freedom to relax a little while their kids are out at play. It isn’t a magic panacea that fixes everything though. You do have to consider its weaknesses to get the best out of it.
Sprint Family Locator
The Sprint Family Locator is a feature offered by the network that can pinpoint the location of any phone on a family cell plan. The idea is that parents can quickly find out where the kids or vulnerable family members are in case something happens. You can program it to alert you of the phone’s location at specific times and to text the person with the phone. Presumably to tell them to get home.
The idea is a good one and has resonated well with concerned parents. The Sprint Family Locator differs from other locator apps in that it is driven from within the network. It uses the Sprint network and the phone’s GPS to calculate the position of the handset. That overcomes one of the main downsides of such tracking apps. The need to install something onto the phone that can be found or uninstalled.
The Sprint Family Locator is a $5.99 a month addon to your cell plan and can track any Sprint phone within your family plan. The app is available for iOS and Android and requires the phone to have GPS.
The positives of Sprint Family Locator
There are a lot of good things about how the Sprint Family Locator has been put together.
It doesn’t need an app to work – The Sprint Family Locator works from within the Sprint network using towers and GPS. You don’t need to install an app or anything on the phone itself.
It can track up to five phones within a single family plan – Have multiple children? No problem. You can give them all a phone on the same plan and you can track each of them independently.
Easy to read maps – The results are displayed clearly on a map within a simple dashboard. You can access the map on any web-enabled device including your own phone. It shows street names and location data to make locating a phone very easy.
The service is password protected – You need a login and password to be able to access the tracking map which offers a semblance of security. Keep the login safe and you will be the only one tracking your family.
The negatives of Sprint Family Locator
The Sprint Family Locator isn’t all good though and it does have some downsides.
Works only on Sprint phones – This makes perfect sense but if some of your kids have different cell plans, you won’t be able to track them using Sprint Family Locator.
GPS isn’t always accurate – This is an important one. GPS is only accurate to within sixteen feet in perfect conditions. Position, location and conditions can all affect the accuracy of it. It is not impossible for phone GPS to be very inaccurate within cities because of buildings.
Sprint notifies the phone user that they are being tracked – If you’re trying to track your family without them knowing, this isn’t the service for you. By law, Sprint has to notify the phone user that they are being tracked. They do that monthly with an SMS message to each tracked handset.
Anyone with the login can track your family – The service could be used completely benignly for parents to track children. It could also be used by jealous partners, for spying on partners, for stalking or anything. The login restricts access but we all know such information can be phished or hacked. Once out in the world, your family could be being watched by anyone.
Should you use Sprint Family Locator?
I think the Sprint Family Locator is a good idea if parents are open and honest about using it. If the kids know the parents will only check it if they think the children are in difficulty and won’t abuse that power, it should be okay.
Users also need to bear in mind the inherent inaccuracy of the current generation GPS. I’ll leave you with a quote from the Sprint Family Locator user forum.
‘How accurate is the family locator? My husband and I use it. I’m embarrassed to say but he thinks, I’m trying to cheat and is always checking calls and locator. I work from home on the phone all day. But the family locator has located my phone 2 times about 3 miles from our home and it is showing the same area. Both of these days I’m been at work (at my home desk). The first time I had to ask my supervisor if she remembered what time I signed into my computer to prove to him I was at work during that time. This second time the time that it reported was during my 30 min lunch. There are multiple reasons why I could not and would not have left the home. But that doesn’t matter to him. Even his phone has been located 2 times in an area within a mile from work. But his reply is that his home is within a mile from his work. But my location is about 3miles away from where I should be.
I can’t describe the fight this locator has caused………. to the talk of divorced. (sic)’
As you can see, if you use Sprint Family Locator, you have to be fully aware of its limitations. While that post on the forum is more about trust that GPS accuracy, the point remains. Be aware that GPS can be quite inaccurate and don’t base decisions based on this data alone. If you live in a built up area or the conditions are less than ideal, it may be more inaccurate than you think!