Vectior World Map with color geo location pins

Thanks to modern smartphones, it’s possible to know where your family members and friends are at all times. Apple, Google, and Microsoft all have their own solutions for sharing your pinpoint location in real time.

Sure, you probably don’t want to share your location with many people — maybe not even with anyone. But this can help answer questions like “has my spouse left work yet?” or help you meet your friends without constantly sending messages.

Find My Friends on iPhone

RELATED: Share Apps, Music, and Videos with Apple Family Sharing on iPhone / iPad

Apple’s solution for this is the Find My Friends app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Your family members may already be sharing their locations with you if they’re iPhone users.

When you set up iCloud Family Sharing, you’re asked whether you want to share your location with your other family members. To change this setting later, you can open the Settings app, tap the iCloud category, scroll down, and tap “Share My Location” near the bottom. You can choose whether you want to share your location from here.

With this set up, you can just launch the Find My Friends app and see the location of people who’ve agreed to share their location with you in real time. When you open the app, it’ll ping their iPhones and show you their current locations.

You don’t have to use Family Sharing, however. You can just install the Find My Friends app, tap the “Add” button, and invite other people to share their locations with you.

Find My Friends also offers location-based alerts that use geofencing. Tap “Notify Me” and you can get a location when the person leaves a location or arrives at one.

Google+ Location Sharing on Android and iPhone

RELATED: What Is "Geofencing"?

Google also has its own solution. Previously, Google offered Google Latitude, but that’s been discontinued. Instead, Google now offers location sharing built into Google+. This does mean you and the other people you want to share locations will all need Google+ accounts.

One big benefit of this solution is that it works across both Android phones and iPhones — perfect for an environment where not everyone has an iPhone.

To use it, install the Google+ app for Android or for iPhone. On Android, open the app, tap the menu button, select Settings, and select the account you want to use. On iPhone, open the menu, select Locations, tap the gear icon, and tap “Settings.” Tap “Location sharing” and enable it. Tap “Edit” next to “Pinpoint Location,” choose the people (or circles) you want to share your location with, and tap “Done.” You can also choose just to share your “City Location” — the city you’re in, but not precisely where you are — with a wider variety of people.

People who want to share their locations with you will all have to do this on their phones, and you’ll have to do it on yours to share your location with them.

Go to the Locations section in the Google+ app to see these locations.

Squad Watch on Windows Phone

Microsoft offers its own app for this, too. It was originally called “People Sense” during development but was released under the name “Squad Watch.”

The app works similarly to the solutions provided by Apple and Google. If you and your family and friends have Windows phones, you can all install the app, share your locations with each other, and view each other’s locations on a map.

However, it isn’t cross-platform, so this is a Windows Phone-only solution.

Of course, these aren’t the only apps you can use for this. Many, many other services offer apps you can install on your smartphone, and they’ll function similarly. Glympse is a particularly good one, offering apps for all major smartphone platforms, location-sharing with no sign-up, and the ability to share your location with someone and have that authorization automatically end after a period of time.

Whatever you do, don’t pay for carrier-branded apps like Verizon Family Locator ($9.99/month), AT&T FamilyMap ($9.99/month), Sprint Family Locator ($5/month), or T-Mobile FamilyWhere ($9.99/month). The above services are free and should give you every feature you’ll need.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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