Chapter excerpt: Location Sharing for Explorers – techniques

Location sharing is one of the most important benefits of iPhone use for our Explorers. I previously posted an excerpt about the ethics of location sharing, this is about methods.

We use Apple location sharing to track the locations of our Explore’s phones. It’s enabled one to ride his bicycle across a large metropolitan area and another to travel by bus to and from school. We rely on it.

There are two ways to track the location of an Explorer’s phone — and, indirectly, to track an Explorer’s location 1. I’ll review the two options and why to use one or another, then I’ll say something about privacy and independence.

The simplest way to track an Explorer’s iPhone is to use Apple’s “Find iPhone” service. You can use it on an iPhone or use the iCloud web version of Find iPhone.  Either way a Guide will need to know the Explorer’s iCloud credentials, but most Guides will have these so they can manage an Explorer’s iCloud data 2. The iCloud web method is the easy to use; just login to the Explorer’s account and click on Find iPhone. You’ll see a map with the iPhone’s location.

The other way to track an Explorer’s iPhone is to use “Find Friends”. If you have setup Family Sharing 3 on your iPhone there’s a shortcut to share locations with other members of the Family, but typically a Guide would use an Explorer’s iPhone to setup Find Friends. (The Find Friends web app can show Friends, but it cannot add them.) Launch Find on the Explorer’s iPhone then tap Add Friends, enter your Guide email address, and specify “indefinitely”. The Guide’s iPhone will receive an invitation to likewise share the Guide’s location with the Explorer, your choice won’t affect the Explorer’s location sharing.

Once location sharing is setup a Guide can launch Find on their personal iPhone and see the Explorer’s location (and the Guide’s location as well as anyone else who has shared their location). A Guide can also ask to be notified when your Explorer leaves or arrives at a location and can ask for directions to reach an Explorer’s location.

An Explorer can turn off location sharing in Find unless you enable a Restriction setting that blocks changes. An Explorer can’t disable Find iPhone location sharing unless they know their iCloud credentials. Putting an iPhone in Airplane mode with WiFi off, or turning off the iPhone 4, will always prevent location sharing.

Location sharing isn’t perfect. In our experience it works better if an Explorer is using a high quality mobile carrier with good signal strength. The Find Friends location alerts (“geofencing”) don’t always work for unclear reasons. Despite these limits location sharing has been a huge benefit to our Explorers; for our family it justifies iPhone use all by itself.

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1 It’s easy to forget the aren’t the same thing — we track the location of the Explorer’s iPhone, not the location of the Explorer.

2 As discussed in earlier chapters most Explorers do not need to know their iCloud passwords.

3 See User Guide or

4 One of our Explorer is very protective of his iPhone power reserve. He turns off his iPhone when he’s not using it. This was a problem for his bike rides, so leaving the iPhone powered on became a prerequisite for independent riding.

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