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Find My Friends shows location unavailable during phone calls
By Jesse Hollington | 04.23.13

Q: I have the Find My Friends app on my iPhone only, as do the other people I use this app with. Our phones find our locations accurately almost all of the time. We have noticed, however, that our locations become ‘unavailable’ during telephone calls. Are there any apps which we may have running on our phones which could also make our locations unavailable as we have experienced this a few times.
For example, one of my friends and I were speaking in Skype (on our desktop computers) and their location was unavailable even though “Hide from Followers” was switched off. They were at home which is already a labelled and recognised address by my iPhone. Thank you.

- Donna

A: The first thing to keep in mind is that Find My Friends relies on your iPhone’s cellular data connection, so if the person you’re trying to locate doesn’t have an active data connection, their location will appear as unavailable.

Unlike other location tracking apps such as Google Latitude, the Find My Friends app doesn’t actually update your location automatically as you move around; your location is only reported when somebody who you are sharing with specifically requests it. This means that if you don’t have a data connection on your iPhone when such a request is actually made, your location will generally appear as unavailable, even if you had a data connection only a few seconds prior to the request coming in. Note that your friends’ Find My Friends apps will cache your location for up to 2 hours since they last asked for it, so if they’ve checked recently, they will see the results of their last request, with an appropriate timestamp, rather than simply “not available” but the same basic logic applies—they don’t get your current location unless you have a data connection when they actually request it.

If you’re using a Verizon or Sprint phone, this means that Find My Friends will not work when you’re actually on a phone call unless you also have a Wi-Fi connection, as the iPhone does not support simultaneous voice and data on these networks.

This issue definitely does not have anything to do with any other apps installed on your iPhone; one of the advantages of iOS is that Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to interfere in any way that would cause Find My Friends or any other location-based app to fail. In fact, you can even use a GPS navigation app or another tracking app like Google Latitude alongside Find My Friends simultaneously and they’ll all play nice together, as they’re essentially all just hooking into the standard location services in iOS.

However, even with a Wi-Fi connection, or on cellular networks that do support simultaneous voice and data, Find My Friends can still sometimes fail to report a location simply due to network communication problems. Again, the iPhone must be online with an active and reachable data connection when the actual location request is made, so even if it’s out of coverage for a few seconds, that can cause the request to fail and the remote iPhone to show your location as unavailable. If you’re using a Wi-Fi network, this can also be affected by firewalls used in some businesses and schools, and even on home Wi-Fi networks, it’s possible for router settings or network congestion to impact this. For example, if the Skype problem happens regularly, it’s likely that the way your router is handling the Skype call is interfering with the traffic necessary for Find My Friends to work. In these cases, you can determine if the Wi-Fi network may be the problem simply by switching Wi-Fi OFF on both iPhones and seeing if Find My Friends is then able to report your location properly.

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