Methods of locating lost or stolen iPhones has been a hot topic lately, but most of the options are only available for jailbroken devices or MobileMe subscribers. Device Locator is available in the App Store for $2.99, and offers a competitive array of features. It is available only for devices with multitasking and a GPS, which include the 3GS and iPhone 4.
Due to programming wizardry, the app has the ability to track your device without having to be manually opened or in the multitasking bar; once you set it up, you don’t have to worry about it again.
The app uses a website to locate your device and change the tracking mode remotely. It can even be set to use a custom server alongside the the default one, and forward the data to a specific URL. The website is fairly basic at the moment, but the developer is actively making changes, and plans to move it to the reliable Google Apps Engine.
There are two different modes it can use: Normal and Emergency. Normal works by pinging a server with the location every time your iPhone connects to a new cell network, giving you a general idea of where your iPhone is. This mode is ideal for ‘keeping track’ of your ex-girlfriend, or making sure your children really are just going to the movies. It estimates the location using cell towers, which is usually accurate up to a few hundred meters. This mode doesn’t affect the battery life, because it taps into existing services.
Emergency mode turns on the devices GPS, and reports the location every minute. Obviously, this will drain your battery quickly, but will be extremely accurate.
The developer plans to to add in more features, like a full tracking map and the ability to record the length of time the phone was in each location. If you don’t like the idea of paying $99 for MobileMe, and don’t want to (or can’t) jailbreak your iPhone, give Device Locator a spin.