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GPS, Cell Phone Tower & WIFI Location Tracking

google location history reporting

Cell Phone Location Tracking doesn't always work and there is no rhyme or reason as to why.  In my example, it is being used in a foreign country, with outstanding cellular penetration, but phones set to "obtain location by WIFI/Cell Tower" for power savings, rather than using "most accurate" GPS locations as well as the above.

On September 11, 2015, my kids went to visit family in another city about 2-3 hours from their residence.  I was trying to view the location of where they were by tracking the Lenovo phone.  The Lenovo, as you might remember, is equipped (is that the correct word to use?  "equipped") with Flexispy, Cerberus, and Google History Location Reporting turned on.

The Lenovo also has a data plan and had plenty of usage (MBs) available.  Data setting on her phone was ON, because she was communicating with me by VIBER throughout the day and afternoon (and there is no WIFI at home).  Her Data Balance in MBs:

Smart Big Bytes Available

First, I want to make sure she didn't deactivate location history.  Inside the Google Location History Panel, you will see a box when you first log on confirming whether it is on or now.

google location history reporting

Second, I look to see what Google is showing in the panel as her locations.  I know they got on a bus around 5pm (1700) because they text me to let me know they had made it safely to the bus station and were on their way. (Caveat: as I re-read my post, I feel I should add other facts: there was an adult with them, they weren't doing this traveling alone.)

google reporting is wrong

No entry on Google Location History since 10:09am, when she was still at home.  Again, she had data/internet connection all day.  And at the time while I am checking, she is on the bus.  The buses all have mobile WIFI available for passengers — so even without data, she should be connected with the bus wifi.  But there is no connection to Google, and obviously no update of the location.

I logged into her account on Cerberus to see if Cerberus had any better information.  Cerberus somehow uses Google Servers for its service, and if other Google services aren't working, you can be sure that Cerberus won't be working either — however, since I was going to write this article, I logged in to make a screen capture.

Cerberus Cannot Connect to your device - control panel

The sentence that every Cerberus user hates to read was displayed ("Problem connecting with your device").  And because of that, I could not click "Start Tracking" to find out where she was.

But look at the top of the Cerberus screen.  I noticed that she had "been seen" by Cerberus at 7:49pm, an the IP address where she had logged in from was being reported.  So, for the sake of this post, "pretend" I didn't know where she was going.  The IP address MIGHT give me a new geographic location indicating that she was in a different city.

I copy and pasted the IP address into Google.

Trace the IP to find out what city

The Google search shows that the ip belongs to a cable/dsl service in Olongapo, Philippines.  If I didn't already know she was going to visit family in Olongapo, this would have provided me with the first shred of information to determine where she was.

The only item I haven't looked at yet was Flexispy.  I logged into the control panel and clicked on the locations tab to see what locations were logged onto the tracking map.

flexispy location tracking

I have decided not to attach the tracking maps because it provides more details than I think are relevant to this post.  Instead, I am posting the ONLY two updates to Flexispy's tracking and reporting.

I am assuming that because she didn't leave the house all day, no locations were reported by FlexiSpy — but that is still a guess as I can't determine why there were no updates.

The first update occurred at 1809 (6:09pm).  This would have been shortly after she left the house and was on her way to the bus station.  The location reported was very near the house, and must have been an open WiFi that she crossed the path of.

As I wrote previously, she made it to the bus, and had data to send Viber messages to me.  The bus also had WIFI but no location information was updated again until much later.

The next Flexispy update occurred at 2204 (10:04pm).  She would have been at her destination for almost 3 hours.

She arrived before 7pm, and there is WIFI at the location she was going.  There are also a half-dozen WIFIs on the way to her destination where she could get connection (most should be saved in her phone already).  Google Location History did not have a new entry until 2200 (10:00pm) at night, while Flexispy didn't have an entry until 2204 (10:04pm), even though she had been at the destination, and connected to the WIFI for FOUR hours!

It is interesting to me that both Google Location History and FlexiSpy received updated locations within a few minutes of each other.

I received a message by Viber from one of the girls, and since her Viber location was set to on, I was able to see she had made it to her destination — In fact, her location was shown with an accuracy of 20 meters.  Viber (location service) is good for confirming what you are getting from other sources.

Is it possible that I would have different data to present if the phone was set to provide GPS as well as Wifi/Mobile Cell?  It is very possible, but I have no way of experimenting with that setting change.

Cerberus is installed as a system app, and according to Cerberus, if it gets a connection, it will turn GPS on to obtain a more accurate location.

I logged into Cerberus this morning and was able to get a connection.  Cerberus was reporting the location to be within a very small circle (50-100 feet?), so it had the best location information.  I checked Cerberus for the other girl's phone and the location was exactly the same.

Each time this morning I logged into Cerberus, it connected to the device.  I don't understand it (but I wish I did!).  WiFi connections give a much better "successful connection" ratio than data, from my experience.

Earlier I used the IP address from the last time seen to determine the location of the phone.  You can also use the "get device info" command from within Cerberus to display the NAME of the WiFi that the phone is connected to as well as name of the nearby WiFis.  That can also help to identify the area where she is because of the nearby WiFis.

cerberus device info

Flexispy was reporting the location about 1km north of the location Cerberus was reporting.  I must assume it was basing the location on the cell tower and not the fixed WiFi data.  Regardless, if you are trying to keep up with the trips your kids are on, this will work.  If you need to see exactly which house they are at, you will need to make sure the location services are set to use GPS, Mobile Cell Tower and WiFi for the most accurate location data.

A little about TheTruthSpy (installed on the Samsung S4):

I logged into TheTruthSpy on the other girl's phone and TTS was reporting the location accurately within 20 meters!

TheTruthSpy vs Flexispy on location reporting

The location being reported was accurate and was exactly the same as Cerberus.  In this test, TheTruthSpy beat Flexispy when reporting the accuracy of a location HANDS DOWN!  Also, flexispy does not report the accuracy of its location reporting like TheTruthSpy.

thetruthspy first location report

TheTruthSpy had begun reporting locations every 30 minutes as soon as my daughter crossed an open Wifi!  Then when she boarded the bus and connected to the Bus Wifi, TheTruthSpy continued to update her location data every 30 minutes.

Granted the accuracy was very bad, but this was a moving mobile WiFi point, installed on a bus,

thetruthspy inaccurate reporting

Regardless of the inaccuracy, TheTruthSpy continued to update every 30 minutes.  As soon as she connected to the destination WiFi, her location was reporting accurate within 20 meters.

So why was The Truth Spy reporting more accurate location data than FlexiSpy when Flexispy beats TTS in hands-on testing.  The only explanation I can give is that my testing is not a scientifically controlled test.  I am not using the spy apps in the same brand and model of phones, and so I don't know how much the phone models affect the test results.

For example, the FlexiSpy results could be because the phone is a Lenovo, which has given other spy apps problems.  If FlexiSpy was installed in a Samsung S4 like my other daughter, I could give them more "scientifically" accurate tests.

However, just to show how scary this can become, I logged into Cerberus and checked the old Elephone model phone that my kids still have but don't use much.  On the date it last connected to Cerberus, the kids were with me.

Imagine my surprise when Cerberus said that on that date, the phone was in Japan!

gps reporting wrong location

I had a good laugh, because I am POSITIVE that neither I, nor my kids, nor their phones, were in Japan on that date!




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