Legal Cell Phone Tracking - AT&T FamilyMap Review

Family in pajamas enjoying breakfast with parents texting
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The Bottom Line

Emergency personnel and police have long had the ability to track the approximate location of a cell phone by using the phone companies' technology to triangulate positions relative to cell phone towers. This location capability has been increased significantly in recent years as more phones come equipped with GPS chips to more precisely position the user. Access to location has been very limited beyond emergency responders, due to legal and privacy concerns. This is changing with the introduction of services such as AT&T FamilyMap. We rate and review the service.


  • Easily and accurately track phones within your billing group.
  • Receive a text when your child reaches sports practice or home, for example.
  • Can locate a lost or stolen phone (if the phone is turned on).


  • $9.99 per month for two billing group members, $14.99 per month for five.
  • Understand privacy rules and notifications before using.


  • For AT&T Wireless customers only.
  • $9.99 per month for two billing group members, $14.99 per month for five.
  • Works with all mobile phones, not just A-GPS equipped phones. The service is more accurate with GPS phones, however.
  • Access via any Web browser or Web-enabled smartphone.
  • Send text messages through the service (your plan's text message rates apply)


AT&T's FamilyMap service provides you with a powerful capability for tracking the location of a cell phone that is part of your billing group. You may also set up zones and schedules (school, home, work, sitter's house, etc.) and automatic notification via text or e-mail when the tracked phone enters or leaves the zone. You can tune the schedules for specific days of the week and time combinations. You establish as many zones as you wish (just enter the addresses) and tune notifications with a simple point-and-click calendar/timing menu. I found the setup process to be easy and intuitive.

AT&T FamilyMap is set up and managed via a Web browser. However - a big plus - you may also do location lookups from a Web-enabled smartphone. The interface worked great on my iPhone.

When you log into FamilyMap, you are presented with a familiar top-view, zoomable Web map, including road, aerial, and a "birds-eye" view that provides a wide-angle aerial perspective. Impressive. Once logged in, you simply click on the "locate" button, and FamilyMap takes about two minutes to locate the phone. Accuracy depends on variables such as tower locations, strength of signal, and whether the phone has A-GPS. FamilyMap never failed to position our test phone (which had a GPS chip). The service presents a precise position on the map (represented by an icon) with a disclaimer about possible variance (40 yards to .9 miles in our tests). I found the service to be quite accurate, generally within 40 yards or less.

Read the legal and privacy restrictions before you sign up. The service is best for keeping an eye on younger family members or simply for the convenience of an automatic notification when those in your billing group reach practice, school, work. When the service is initially started, it texts tracked numbers to inform them they are tracked via FamilyMap.