It's 9:00 pm on a Sunday night, do you know where your kids are? If they have an iPhone on AT&T and you subscribe to the FamilyMap service, you do! I'm going to tell you it's painfully easy to find your lost loved ones, and you aren't going to believe me. Nope, you won't. I'm going to tell you anyway and i'm going to tell you it's easy. Really, it's open the App click on a button find out in less than a minute easy. That's the AT&T Family Map app. I've been using this iPhone app for sometime, and before that I was using the service on my computer - which while easy, isn't as easy as the iPhone app. Basically AT&T knows where every phone on the network is at any given moment of the day. The cell towers have to know where it is so that they can send a call to the phone. Service makes use of the data it already knows and basically allows you to see the phone's location on a map. You can choose either to see a street map, satellite view or a hybrid map. The fix isn't perfect, but it will give you a very good idea of where your lost loved one is hiding.
It gets better though! The service allows you to check on a location anytime, but saves you time as well by checking on location at pre-fixed times of the day. Let's say that your kids start school at 9:00 am every day. You can have the service check at 9:15 each morning to see where the phone is located. It will tell you if the phone is near the pre-fixed location and if not it will tell you an approximate location. Typically good for less than 2 miles, often times much less than that.
You can enter various points of interest as well, like the babysitter or your kids job. If they are near one of those locations the service will tell you. It's really that easy and that amazing. There is also a history tab that allows you to look at where the kids were each time the system or you ran a check. Anytime the system runs a check it can send a text message to you with the location of the phone, this includes the automated checks. That means you can be in that important meeting with your brand new client and at 9:05 you will get a text message telling you that your kid is safely tucked away at school.
I've given my kids a bit of a fright by sending them a text message with their approximate location. I always envision them looking at the car window up at the sky, wondering if dad has hacked into the CIA keyhole satellite system. Dad only wishes he could do that - wait, no I don't. I would never hack into any government system. Never! (CIA done reading, good)
The application itself is free, but the service isn't free. For $10/month you can have up to 2 phones tracked. For $15/month you can have up to 5 phones tracked. That means that you can track the entire family, even your spouse. It's not about trust, it's about safety. Remember that line, you will need it.
There are a few drawbacks. If the network doesn't know where the phone is, then it can't report on it's whereabouts. The process is rather passive, so even if the phone can make a call the service may not be able to locate it. This seems to happen when the phone is deep in a building, but can also happen if there is no signal in the area of the phone. Also, the service to "see the phones" is tied to one person's AT&T login. That isn't to say you can't share the information with your spouse, it just means that your AT&T login is what your spouse needs to use to log into the service.
All-in-all the application is a breeze to use and the service is extremely useful. Check it out, just log into your AT&T wireless account.
For those of you overseas or in Canada, I don't know if you have a similar service or not; but as far as I know there isn't another application like this one. IF there is, please let me know.