Thursday, October 28, 2010

Smartphone Apps That Help You Track Your Trick-or-Treaters

Halloween hasn't seemed the same to me in years. Long gone seem to be the days of hundreds of kids running around the neighborhood gathering candy from their neighbors. These days it seems like everyone takes their kids to a party, local mall or a church event. Over the last five years I could probably count on both hands the number of children that have knocked on our door.

But I know in some areas parents still allow their kids the freedom to roam and visit their neighbors to gather that sweet stuff. For them tracking their kids is an all to important task. Well luckily most smartphones these days are equipped with the tools that will allow you to keep a close eye on their whereabouts.Here are just a few apps that will help you keep your trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween.

AT&T have a great option with the FamilyMap application. FamilyMap will quickly and easily report the location of any phone on AT&T's 3G network. Yes that is any phone on a contract account. You don't need an iPhone or Android based phone however the most accurate locations available are with A-GPS (Assisted GPS) phones. To use the application all you need to do is activate it on the phones you want to track. Then from your computer you can log in and view each phones location on a fairly detailed street level map. The best part is the first 30 days are FREE! So worried parents only wanting to track their kids over the Halloween weekend won't be out any money.

At the end of the free 30 days, you will automatically be subscribed and charged $9.99 per month thereafter to locate up to two family members or $14.99 per month thereafter to locate up to five family members so make sure you cancel the service unless you really want it.

Another great application is MobileMe which is available for the iPhone. MobileMe allows users to 'find their lost iPhone or iPad', essentially creating an easy way to pinpoint any phone attached to the account from a computer or another phone. The app is currently free to try with a free 60-day trial. An iPhone alternative is Life 360 free Family GPS Tracker, which also lists sex offenders in the area. The family tracker will run you either $3.99 or $5.99 and will pop up a message on the home screen of the phone telling your child that you are looking for him.

For you Android OS phone users there is a great app called "Trick or Tracker" which is available for free until November 2 -- then the price increases to $10. This app can send text messages at regular intervals to an Android OS based smartphone telling parents exactly where their child is on a route. Trick or Tracker also has a flashlight feature to help children travel more safely in dark areas.

The option I personally use to track my own phone, is Google Latitude. Google Latitude allows you to 'share' your location with your friends or family as a dot on a Google map. These maps can be viewed either on your smartphone or through the Google Latitude site on a laptop or PC. You can also get directions towards the location of shared friends, which is great for meeting up with others! Latitude is part of Google Maps for mobile on most phones however to all phones are supported. You can see supported phones in the Help Center for details.

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