Dec 19, 2011

[OUTDATED] DIY $40/year GPS Tracking on the Cheap Tutorial


Update 1/8/12:
I just ordered a Motorola i576 iDEN ruggedized phone to test its Bluetooth DUN (Dial Up Networking) connection with my WiFi only HTC EVO 3D VOIP phone. The i576 will provide internet access to my EVO 3D over a bluetooth connection. Ideally, I will be able to track my routes, LoJack my bike, unlimited free text messaging, and have internet access available to my Android device.

Update 3/1/12:
The i576 is one awesome phone. I was able to get the i576 to provide internet to my Android phone. For those looking for a cheap LoJack or a GPS tracker, the i576 may work better with its extended battery and ruggedized design. Whichever phone you decide to choose, the following tutorial will work great.

This is my Dude, Where's My Bike Spot/LoJack set up using tazeat's Honda Forum post as a guide. It's cheap and useful for the road warrior.

With an old Motorola i425 Boost Mobile pay-as-you-go phone, I was able to track my routes via the web, share my route to loved ones, make/receive calls, and use the phone like a LoJack GPS tracker. There's also a way to get unlimited 20kbps free internet access including tethering to a laptop. Remember 56K, well this is 20K, so yeah. Absolutely no data plan needed and all for $10 every 3 months.

The bare minimum payment to keep the plan active is $10 every 3 months. There's no need to put more than the minimum, unless you want to use your phone to make/receive calls at a rate of 20 cents per minute.

Quick Summary:
Buy new phone kit with $5 credit included
Activate phone online
Install Instamapper App
Register an Instamapper Account
Connect extended power


Bill of Materials:
$40 iDEN Motorola Phone (i290, i335, i425...), with unactivated SIM card, and $5 credit
$2 mini USB transfer data cable
Optional $20 Portable USB battery pack (comes with 2 wire charger for the i425) OR $2 mini USB charger cable (usually made with 2 wires, no data pins)
Free App
Total Cost for 3 months: $44 or $64 w/battery pack

A new i425 phone, activation kit, and $5 credit (good for 3 months of tracking) go for $40 on eBay. From my experience, the best bang for your buck is to buy the phone kit new.

Update by user Moo Cow 6/9/12 (picking up a used phone may not be as hard as I thought. Check it out):
"Hey Tri, great write up!! just picked up an i576 from Mobile Karma and got a sim from a local boost store, everything went together without issue."

If you want to take the hard road like I did, then by all means, get a working used phone, get a SIM with the PIN (without the PIN, there will be a $10 activation fee on top of the credit you need to add), and working battery (the BK60, BK70, or the giant BK10 battery could possibly be used with a modded case), or else you'll need to revive your old dead battery. Then go through the process of resetting the phone's network connection and settings. Seriously, save yourself the hassle and get a new phone kit.

Follow Boost Mobile's instructions for activation. It may go something like this:
Log onto and click Activate
Enter in your SIM ID and IMEI
Select Pay as you Go (We do NOT need data)
Choose a phone number
If your phone came with a $5 credit, then you'll see the credit once you log into My Account. Look under Expiration Date, and you'll see it should have a expiration date 3 months from the day you activated.
When your phone activates, you'll see Boost display on the phone once the phone is turned on

Install Instamapper
Visit their website and go to step 4.

Register a Free Instamapper Account
Then browse to Devices:
Then add a device:
Give the Device a name
Click Add
Now grab your phone and open GPS Tracker
Copy the Key for the new device you just created into GPS Tracker's Settings menu

Configure Instamapper to run Always On
We can have Instamapper run automatically every time we turn the phone on. This will enable the App to constantly run in the background.
Go to your Apps menu
Type *158#
Enter passcode: 0000
Select OK
Select Full Time App
Scroll down to select GPS Tracker, and a green checkmark will display
Select Done

Extended Power
Battery life is limited depending on the frequency of "Send every (sec)" signal updates you want to send to Instamapper. The more updates you send, the more battery life you will use. To get extended battery life, you can purchase a portable USB battery pack which includes a charger for the i425 phone. The i425 phone can charge on any USB port as long as the cable is only 2 wires with no data pins.

Example Usage
For my setup, I have my i425 connected to a portable USB power pack. I can hide this set up in my Moto or Car to track my vehicles in case of theft. The online Instamapper updates will be accurate enough to locate my vehicle. Additional benefits from Instamapper include features similar to a Spot Location Device where we can share your maps with friends and family so they track our trip. Facebook or embedded maps are available too. Spot does have one unique feature with it's emergency button and satellite emergency communication, whereas the phone only has 911 capabilities and is limited to cell phone coverage areas.

Extra Modifications
Opera Browser
You can install Opera Browser 3 to get free internet on your phone. Again, no data plan is needed. From my understanding, the data usage is all on the iDEN network, so it is extremely slow, but still useful when in a bind.

Google Maps also work on the phone.

Tethering to Ubuntu/Linux
There are tutorials online to tether an iDEN phone to a laptop/computer to provide internet access to your PC. Newer phones may provide faster tethering speeds?

For Ubuntu/Linux users, you can do the following:

Install moto4lin from Synaptics Package Manager
Then from user J@F on
"Go to the terminal and type "sudo pppconfig"
  • your password 
  • create a connection
  • give it a name like boost or nextell, whatever service ur using. (remember this name)
  • arrow down to "use dynamic dns" then space bar, then enter.
  • press enter on PAP
  • for username and password press spacebar
  • im not sure about the best speed but I put 19200
  • press enter on tone
  • enter "S=2" 
I knew my port was /dev/ttyACM0 so I arrowed to no enter. yours should be something with ACM in it look in the /dev directory and look for something with ACM in the name also it changes to ttyACM0 and ttyACM1 with me so i made 1 with ACM0 and 1 with ACM1

  • arrow down to finished
  • enter
  • arrow down to quit
  • type "pon whatever_the_name_of_the_provider_you_gave_was"

your logged in. just don't keep the phone next to the monitor it will make lines show up on the screen type poff in the terminal when you want to hangup. oh and the i450 can have widen on it and thats 4x faster. hoped this helped"



  1. This is just what I've been looking for. Thanks for sharing. Now, if I understand it right, you still need to charge the phone and extended batter pack every so often right? It's not hard wired to your car at all? Just checking. I've seen some other tutorials that do that and so I wasn't sure about yours.

    How long does the battery on the thing last with the extended pack?

  2. I have not done extensive testing so I can't give you a firm answer, but from my experience the motorla phones need Motorola specific chargers. Yes, you need to charge the battery pack or hardwire the phone. If you decide to hardwire it, you'll need a Motorola 12v charger. As for the battery pack, you'll need a Motorola USB charge only cable. Sorry, I don't have battery life tests on the setup.

    I have an extra i425 phone you can have free, just cover shipping. Let me know!

  3. Hey there, if you have that phone available for free, i'll take it off your hands! Email is RentoVW at to contact me.

  4. Hey Tri, great write up!! just picked up an i576 from Mobile Karma and got a sim from a local boost store, everything went together without issue. any thoughts on the longevity of the iDEN network? i read somewhere they may be decommissioning as early as this time next year. do you have any diy gps contingency plans if iDEN does get shut down? thanks again for the tutorial!

  5. I'm very happy to hear the tutorial worked out for you! Yeah, I've heard of those rumors as well, but I'm not sure if Boost would shut it down because I wonder what would they do with all of their customers.

    We'll just have to wait and see. If they do shut it down, I would go with a Spot device for the added GPS emergency beacon feature. I like the idea of being in the middle of nowhere while having the capability of contacting emergency services. With the DIY gps, we're limited to cell phone coverage areas, which is great for mimicking a lojack device, but not so great if you're in the boonies. I still love using my i576 as a cheap lojack. $3.33 a month for lojack, gps tracking, and internet is unheard of!


  6. Hey Tri, it's funny how I was thinking about how in the world I could create vehicle tracker using a cell phone. Which is how I came across your site. So is there any other phones i can use to do this? I was going to look for a cheap pre-paid phone and purchase some type of data plan. I will def look into Instamapper..I was also lookin into Mologogo... Anyway, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Hey Tri,
    Thanks for the updated DIY. I was pleased when I read your confirmation that Data is indeed not needed. That was unclear to me, since InstaMapper's site mentioned Data as one of the required account features.

    If you have any other compatible iDen phones laying around, I'd gladly buy them from you. I need at least one more, but I'd buy two or three if I could. If possible, please email me. My GMail address is: 'romanista'.

  8. no more iden activation on boost as of july 10th 2012

  9. any updates on this

  10. that is cool write-up , here's a hack that someone else is working on
    not sure which will be more time consuming. GPS Hack Theft Proof