Trying to cyberstalk my wife’s phone, Google Location Sharing proved kind of useless

Me and my wife share our location using Google Location Sharing. This aids quite often in knowing that someone got the kids, prevents the “how long till you’re home?” text, and occasionally allows us to determine that her phone has somehow descended into the crevasses of her car seats. Most of the time this is spectacularly nothing interesting, and we can turn it off at any time.

TL;DR – when I needed it, it didn’t work and tracking down why took quite a bit.

Google location sharing can be useful for a lot of things, in this case we've got an ETA from there to here.

Last month my wife left her phone in an Uber with a friend of hers after a concert. Just an accident (friend grabbed the phone and but that’s when I noticed that I could call the phone, I could tell that the phone was transmitting and receiving data. I could not, however, locate the phone using the Google Maps location sharing. The last location it showed was in my front yard from a few minutes prior. I called her friend and asked and sure enough she was in the Uber and the phone was with her, on, and showing that I had called and texted. It had data, signal, etc.

It’d checked in when the Uber pulled up, and that was the last that Google Location sharing reported for a very long time.

I could not get it to locate on Location sharing. It showed as offline. Huh, thought I… I’d seen this occasionally where it would say offline, but this time was kind of annoying. It showed online about an hour and a half later and gave me a block-level area it could be in… I mean at this point we knew it was at friend’s house and we were returning it the next day but yeah.

So I started noticing over the next week and more and more her phone just said offline. I tell her I’m setting up a notification when she hits the kid’s school parking lot. That day I get the notification she’s there and then never again. More and more I notice that updates tend to be when she’s gone to a strange or new area.

It appears when she used Google Maps, or connected to a Wi-Fi it was quite often checking in. Not on the road much however.

The fixes (for me) to get Google Location Sharing working right

Change location permissions on Google Maps from “while using the app” to “available at all times” and go… no change… because it was already that. If yours isn’t, go ahead and change that but I think Location Sharing is forcing that to default despite how many sites say to do that. I checked a couple of my phones (old phones go to kids,) and all defaulted to useful settings.

Did a bunch of things I found from years of people running across the same issue I’m going to skip because nothing worked (or seemed like it would past Android 9)

I found that power saving mode had evidently been turned on weeks ago (probably at the concert,) and never turned off. Power saving mode limits background updates, and evidently disables location sharing effectively. Kim had turned on power savings to go to a concert, lost her phone after said concert, and there’s no remote-turn-this-off routine.

If power saving mode didn’t fix it for you there’s also limiting background data to check.

The results

After turning off power saving mode we now get somewhat reasonable results. Updates are within a couple of minutes, geo notification works again. All seems right with the app. I have no worries that I need to leave to pick up kids if Kim’s getting them and stuck in traffic.

That there’s no notification on the phone that power saving and background data is restricted is a real problem though… at least in our mutually agreed upon phone stalking situation. 99.997% of the time I would not care, but lost or stolen phone there needs to be a way to force a wakeup by someone you’re sharing location with. Police don’t have equipment to loan if your phone’s stolen as we learned on Kim’s birthday a few years back.

High level of precision access is needed for what I use location sharing 90% of the time (figuring out if her phone is in the car or was brought in and a kid moved it.) Unfortunately I get general area most of the time.

Basically Google Location Sharing needs a little work, or it’s designed to deter actual control freak stalkers… I mean really, I just want to know within a foot of where I need to be looking for her lost phone… that ringtone doesn’t carry.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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