Real-Time Phone GPS Tracking with InstaMapper

Have you ever taken a trip to see friends or family and during the trip you’re called several times being asked, “Hey, where are you at? Are you close?” Or maybe you’re taking a solo trip and you would like people to know your last recorded location in the event the unthinkable happens. The potential uses for real-time phone GPS tracking is plentiful but the solutions, unfortunately, aren’t.

With InstaMapper you can track a GPS enabled device, such as iPhone, Android or BlackBerry in real-time, integrated with Google Maps, for Free. Then share or embed your device tracking map and information with friends, family or maybe even your boss to keep everyone updated on your location.

In this how-to I’ll show you how to setup InstaMapper and even embed your tracking map in a custom page.


As I already mentioned in the intro., there are quite a few reasons why you might want to track a GPS enabled device like the iPhone. I’m sure many of you already have great ideas coming to mind! However, a real-world scenario many of us encounter are road-trips. You might be going on vacation, visiting friends or family, traveling on business or some other reason.

Whatever the reason for the road-trip, whether you’re traveling solo or with others, it’s not a bad idea to let others know where you are. Accidents do happen and you’ll be safer by enabling others to keep tabs on you, just in case.

I’ll be taking a thirteen hour road-trip to visit family, picking up my sister half way through the trip. My family is excited to see me so they’ll want to know where I’m at during the trip. My sister will also want to know how close I am so she can be ready once I arrive. So, I installed InstaMapper’s iPhone app and created a custom page on my personal website with my device’s GPS tracking map embedded.

iPhone GPS Tracking

iPhone GPS Tracking

I’ve sent the link to my family so they’ll be able to view my progress without the need to call. The embedded map doesn’t provide real-time tracking so viewers will have to refresh the page. InstaMapper provides a real-time tracking map on a dedicated page for your device, viewable by those you send the link to.

InstaMapper Real-Time Tracking

InstaMapper Real-Time Tracking

There are several other sharing options as well such as Facebook integration and even API access.


First you’ll need to head over to and sign up. Sign up is free and only takes a few seconds.

InstaMapper Home

InstaMapper Home

Once logged in, you’ll need to setup your device to be used with InstaMapper. Visit InstaMapper’s supported phone page for instructions on installing your phone’s mobile app.

Supported Phones

Supported Phones

I’ll be using an iPhone so I’ve installed the InstaMapper iPhone app from the App Store. Once the app has been installed you’ll have to enter a 13-digit device key to tie your device to your online account. On the InstaMapper website, navigate to the Devices page and add your device.

Add Device

Add Device

Once added, you’ll be given your device’s 13-digit key which you’ll then enter in your device’s InstaMapper tracking app. Once you’ve configured your device’s tracking settings, click save to begin sending your GPS information. To see your live tracking map, navigate to the Live Tracking page in your InstaMapper account. You’ll should now see your device and its GPS information. You can also add more devices if you need to track more than one; a fantastic feature for employers!

Live Tracking

Live Tracking

The iPhone application must be open to continue transmitting GPS data. Apple prohibits applications from running in the background. If you’ve jailbroken your iPhone you can install an app that will allow you to run InstaMapper in the background, called Backgrounder.

Map Sharing & Embedding

Now that your device is setup its GPS data is being tracked, you’re ready to share your tracking map with others. Navigate to the Devices page in your InstaMapper account and click “sharing” for the device you would like to share location data and map tracking.

GPS Sharing

GPS Sharing

InstaMapper provides a link and dedicated page for desktop and mobile viewing, although the mobile viewing page is focused more on regular handheld viewing rather than iPhone or Android viewing. You can also embed a map with your current location on Facebook.

Location Sharing

Location Sharing

To embed a map on your own site(s), use the wizard they provide to customize your embedded map as desired. This is the option I chose as it offers the most flexibility for customization. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t offer real-time tracking like the map InstaMapper offers.

Custom Embed

Custom Embed

I’ve setup my custom embedded map on its own dedicated page and subdomain so my friends and family have quick and easy access. You can view a copy of the custom GPS map page here. You’ll need to replace my InstaMapper key with the one provided in your InstaMapper account.

I’ve added a couple extra options to my custom embedded map page to make up for the lack of real-time mapping and iPhone browser optimization. To the left of the map you’ll see an option to set the refresh interval of the map (doesn’t refresh the whole page), along with a link to view the real-time tracking map provided by InstaMapper.

Custom Embed Map

Custom Embed Map

I then added iPhone/iPod browser detection to redirect to an optimized map. I didn’t spend much time on it so it is only partially optimized for landscape viewing. I may further optimize this later and will update this article if I do.

InstaMapper requests that you do not use auto-refresh on embedded maps. Although I’ve included it in mine (using JavaScript), I intend only to use it temporarily (mainly for testing) and included several refresh interval options. Please respect InstaMapper’s request.


There are a few extra features InstaMapper offers, such as an API, device tracks and device data (shown below). It would be great to see some uses of InstaMapper’s API to create some neat GPS tracking web apps!

Device Data

Device Data


There’s tons of creative, useful and fun ways you can use InstaMapper so hopefully this how-to comes in handy for you! Please abide by InstaMapper’s terms of service and respect people’s privacy. You’ll also want to be sure your mobile device has an unlimited data plan as extended use of the app could incur large data charges otherwise.

I’d love to hear how you use InstaMapper or what you think, so please leave a comment below.

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  • ffff00

    The first image of Vegas scared me.
    I was like ‘wtf, this looks EXACTLY like when I use google maps.’

    Awesome post though.
    I’ve been wanting to search through the Android market for a decent GPS tracking app, but you’ve made it an easy choice.

  • santiao

    google latitude have the same functionality. visit on desktop PC, there is a link on the bottom “Do more with your Latitude location”. and the Public Location Badge could share your location, even it is not very real-time:)

    • Jarel Remick

      I actually tried Google Latitude before trying the solution in this post and it didn’t have the same flexibility I was looking for. It’s a great choice though and maybe one I’ll cover in another how-to.

  • DouglasMB

    Thanks!! This is one key I was missing in a project I am planning for next year. I wanted a way to put a map up with my location, I am going to be doing an 800 mile bicycle ride. This will be a solo even with limited support. So people that follow me will be able to see where I am. Now I just need to find a way to keep the phone charged… lol thanks a million…

  • Martin

    This will be a solo even with limited support

  • http://joelelias JOELELIAS


  • Nana Ernest

    Is very good to u use

  • Joel

    thus some great stuff, i am currently working on a GIS system for my company and as part of it we want to track our employees who goes to the field to work, we have purchase a Google Map API and my question is,
    with the GM API only can we track a gps enabled phone of our guys without them knowing or we will need additional API eg

  • Mario

    How can i do refresh interval options? Please send me javascript code:)

  • Anjan

    great stuff

  • Ben Camilleri

    I am looking to use Android phones to track our teams aircraft in the 2012 Reno Air Race from my laptop back on the ground. This looks like a good place to start and will investigate the user of the the API to build a web interface to track them.

    There are other ways to do this (SPOT GPS Tracking), but I want something Flexible so if someone comes up to be asking if their plane can also be tracked all they would need in an Android based phone.

  • james

    Would love to see the refresh code… Your link is dead…

  • Ingo

    your link to the custom code is dead. can you share again? thanks

  • nagi

    I have Installed the software evening it worked very nice but this sunny morning no signal has gone to settallite does sun rays affect the transmition ? onther thing is how to make a setup forthe software on the phone when h click the icon nothing happend , I need to put the gps tracker on automatic mode !

  • Valdines

    Agora que o instamapper foi desabilitado, qual programa podemos usar?
    Eu gostava muito de usar o instamapper mas agora não sei o que fazer.