written by: Austin•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 10/26/2011
Your iPhone pretty much always knows your location, but have you ever thought it would be awfully useful for your friends to be able to chime in on that information as well? Apple has finally seen that with the release of "Find My Friends" for iPhone. Here's what it is.
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Tracking Your Phone
Phone tracking has been around for quite a while whether you want to believe it or not. Police and government agencies have used it to track down criminals and killers, and often times it could be used to locate you if you called 911 but were unable to give out your current location. Needless to say, the uses of such a feature are quite obvious in certain professions -- but what about personal and private usage? Is there really any reason for someone like you or me to know where our friends are and vice versa at any time we desire? Well, one company certainly thought so, and like all true revolutions, innovations, and new technologies in the smartphone industry, that one company is Apple.
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The iPhone 4S and You
The conference that brought us all news of the brilliant iPhone 4S came and went pretty quickly. We learned about everything from a phone that talks to you now, to one that's simply faster and easier to use, letting you download things with more speed and precision than before -- which means you spend less time on your phone and more time enjoying yourself. This is all great to hear, but there is one feature that a lot of people overlooked after the stunning revelations about Siri. That feature is called "Find My Friends", and it's more than just your regular social networking tool...
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Find My Friends - A Basic Overview
The idea behind 'Find My Friends' is a simple one, but one that seems so remarkably obvious as a smartphone companion that you'd be surprised companies didn't include it for widespread implementation before. Essentially, the application displays a map for you, and you can see all of your friends' locations placed upon that map via little markers with their picture. Pretty neat, eh? There are a few catches though:
- You can only see friends who have given you permission to request their location. No sneaking a peek at where your ex-partner is hanging out at without them knowing!
- You don't see all of your friends displayed at once -- you have to request their locations first, and then they will show up on the map within a few seconds.
- If your friends don't have the app installed, you won't be able to see their locations.
Other than that, it's pretty much exactly what you'd think, and at the end of the day, it's definitely better that you can't sneak looks at the locations of people who don't want you seeing their private information. After all, would you want someone being able to track your every movement without your permission? I would think not!
If you're still confused about why this might be useful, consider the following scenarios -- if you're a parent, your kid is late coming home and you're worried he might be somewhere he shouldn't, or that he's stuck somewhere and not sure what to do, your anxiety is now allayed by Apple. Simply turn on 'Find My Friends', select your kid, and in seconds you'll know his or her exact location. If you don't have kids, imagine that you're trying to make plans with someone on a place to meet up, but you're not sure where halfway between the two of you is. Problem solved again! Just check 'Find My Friends' and you can locate the perfect meeting place that won't inconvenience either of you too much.
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Cost, Downloads, and Where You Can Get It
The great thing about 'Find My Friends' isn't the slew of features, the slick layout, or the brilliant idea. No, the best thing about this new app is that it's completely free, and can be downloaded by anyone with an iPhone 3G or newer. Oh, and you can also get it if you have an iPod Touch or iPad -- Apple certainly hasn't left those customers in the dark!
For parents or guardians worried about their kids using it to do naughty things, or perhaps if you're worried that someone is watching you without your permission, don't fret. There are a slew of parental and privacy controls that make it incredibly easy to add people to your "allowed" list, remove them, set who can see your location and when they can see it, as well as setting whether your kids can access the app without a password. Between this, Siri, and iMessage, Apple has pretty much thought of everything your smartphone could possibly need in this age of feeling more and more connected to our friends and loved ones.
There are a couple of things you should keep track of with this app, however. Firstly, you can't download it unless you're running iOS 5, the latest and greatest in Apple portable operating systems. This should be a no brainer, but the second requirement is that you must have a functioning iCloud account. These are easy to make right on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, but it's best to get it out-of-the-way prior to installing 'Find My Friends' so you're not left confused at the end of the day when the app doesn't run.
Other than that, everything is pretty straightforward! Happy downloading, happy tracking, and above all, happy using the brand new iOS 5.