FAQ: How to troubleshoot mobile phone presence issues

I don’t know if this has been covered already or if it has been all put in one place. But, as an IT Director, I feel the need to build an FAQ! :smile:

Does your phone know where it is? This is how you test to find out!
So, you have a fancy smart phone in your pocket/purse. Does that piece of metal and plastic truly know where it is? Are your locks and lights not coming on when you get home? Is your house going into away mode when you are still home? Here is a quick test to see if your phone can read a map!

Set a Reminder for when you arrive at home (obviously make sure your phone knows where you live!). If you have issues with SmartThings thinking you are leaving home but you are still there, set a reminder for when you leave as well.

Did it work?
If you get home and your reminder does not fire or your leaving reminder fires but you are still on the couch, then you can’t complain to SmartThings support! :slight_smile: You first need to get your phone working with an accurate location.

No dice? WiFi is your friend…
So, the little test didn’t work, eh? Is WiFi activated on your phone? If not, time to turn on that WiFi. Yep, that note that some phones say “Location is more accurate with WiFi turned on” is true. So, just do it!

Now, once you have that done, repeat the tests above. If your reminder fired but SmartThings still doesn’t know you are home or you are still on the couch, you can now contact support with the knowledge that your phone actually does know where it is…after you do one more thing. Open up Maps on your phone and see if the phone says you are home.

I would recommend trying this a few times to be sure that it is still not your phone. Once successful test does not a solution make!

So, what did I miss?


Here’s adding to Brian’s list… Ignore the second phone if it does not apply to you…

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Is there not a way that ST can create a rule that says: if your phone is connected to your home Wifi then do not allow it to leave the house?


Yeah that would be great. In fact I’ve seen similar systems just use the connected WiFi as the indicator of presence - it would be nice to be able to choose the method.


I noticed that a phone on Wifi is seen as present. If it leaves the wifi, but does not have any mobile data, it never seems to be seen as having left.
My son’s phone has no mobile data, so ST never seems to see him as leaving or arriving.

Does he need mobile data, or is there a way to have ST detect that he’s now missing from Wifi?
If so, I guess that will also be triggered if he turns his phone off at home?

So, if you have something like an iPod touch or a device that only has WiFi, when it loses signal, it can’t tell anything where it is. So, “the cloud” only has the last position of the device. A SmartPhone with the app works differently than one of the Presence sensor fobs. With them, when they no longer are seen via their active ping back to the Hub, the Hub assumes they leave. With the app, it is similar to the fobs. The phones tell the Hub where they are. However, the Hub makes no assumptions because it is not a constant ping back saying “this is where I am”. The phones only update their position when it changes. Without an active connection to update the location, it can’t tell the Hub

At the moment, there is no active check from the Hub for devices on the network.

As for your son’s phone, you could look into something like FreedomPop. Or, use a presence sensor fob. Or tack him onto your cell phone plan.


Great, thanks Brian. Looks like it’ll have to be a mobile data plan for him.

I can mention today I found the wifi connection in this manner:

Was in Target, which connects me to their wifi since the cell signal in there can be weak. When I went from LTE to wifi, nothing triggered at home.

The moment I got outside Target, and went from Wifi to LTE, my garage doors notified me they were opening. My geofence is end of street, maybe 150 yards; this Target is 2 or 2.5 miles from my house. At other Targets or locations further away the same thing does not happen.

So clearly the transition from Wifi to LTE only has an issue there, and seemingly with some extended radius. This issue specifically got worse with the recent iOS updates.

Hope that piece of detail helps anyone monitoring this for improving this part of the system.

Brian, I would like to direct this to you because you really seen to understand this ST thing. I have had mine for 4 days. I got the hub up and going with one sensor. (I will start small and build!) I have an Android phone with their App. In the Dashboard, the hub shows me as a Things and in the Home & Family. It correctly shows me as present or not. Now, I had my wife join my account. She has an iPhone 6 and is using their App. She can see the Dashboard and the status of me and our one sensor. However, the Hub does not recognize her phone and, despite my many attempts, it does not show her status (present or not). It is supposed to based on the GPS in her phone. Yes, she has WiFi turned on. What am I doing wrong?

@whcrist Did you do this part? And I hope she is logged in with her own account and not yours.

1.Add from Things -> Presence Sensors -> Mobile Phone.

2.Go to Home & Family. Click on the gear. Auto import existing presence devices. Select the second person. Set up push and text notifications.

3.Get out of the geofence and check if presence is correct and notifications sent.

When I try that, it says it says Mobile presence already exists. I will have my wife follow these directions on her phone and see if it works. Thanks for your help!!

Struggling with this too. A couple of days after I set everything up for me and my wife (iPhone5S, 5C) the presence was working and all of the notifications were firing up correctly. After 3 or 4 days my wife’s presence is not recognized anymore. She is always showing up as “At Home”. Re-checked everything multiple times, tried to re-add, but it looks like it’s not possible to remove the users from the account. I have the option to Remove but get the error message if I try. New iOS update doesn’t have anything to do with it, she didn’t update yet when the problem started.

I’m puzzled, since it was actually working in the beginning.

Update: just read linked “Presense issues” topic, looks like my problem might be related, cause it started happening about 4-5 days ago

What is going on with my system now is a little different. My wife is having no problem at all with her iPhone 6. I, however, am having problems with my Android. I can be sitting on my couch and, according to my SmartThings hub, I leave and come back, and leave and come back. I uninstalled my phone from the presence then reinstalled. I experience the same issue. I uninstalled my phone again and so far I have not reinstalled. I am letting the system just not follow me right now.

I am also having the same issue with my Android phone. For the past week every 1-3 min ST will say I left and came back. No matter whether I’m at home, work, or anyplace else. My wifes iPhone 5s is having no issues what so ever. I got to the point where I just removed the my phone from ST.

If the iphone is switching to mobile lte data from wifi, then it is possible that at 2 miles from home the gps’s accuracy is showing it as wide enough to include your home. The app is looking to send you location, and since the area of ambiguity is wide enough to include your home when it sends the location… it thinks you are at home. Just my thoughts on the matter.

I’ve been using ST more than a month.
Until now, I never get my mobile phone status is leaving home, even tough I’ve been miles away from my home.
It seems, my Smartthings app on my android is not reporting location of my mobile phone. I already enable GPS, GPS also locked for 3 meter accurate. I using it for my navigation, there’s no problem with my android location service.
But still, ST app status tell that I am at home.

How do to fix this ?

If anyone knows the answer to this, it would be good. For some reason, Androids don’t work well with SmartThings.

I hope Smartthings support at this community can help us to have explanation about this issue

So, it is not necessarily ST, which I found out the hard way over the past few days. As per my troubleshooting instructions, I have a Reminder setup to notify me when I arrive at home. For the past few days, it has gone off when I was miles from home. The other day, I saw my wife’s phone trigger when she was a few miles from home as well. Both of these instances were OUTSIDE of ST. Remember, ST relies on the phone itself to tell it when the geofence has been breeched.

So, I’m chalking this up to a few possibilities:

  • Phone reboots. Seriously, we all need to do these more. Smartphones today are more sophisticated than computers from just a few years ago. You notice your laptop doing funky things when you don’t reboot…same with your smartphone. So, reboot it.

  • Changes at the carrier level. Since my wife and I both had similar issues when we were in roughly the same area, I believe it was tower related. I’m wondering if something was changed at the carrier level that alerts my phone where the tower is located.

Remember, most phones do not have their GPS on all the time. They generally triangulate via cell towers and then hone the location down with GPS to speed it up, but GPS is generally not running all the time…more of an “on demand” thing. That triangulation that is happening all the time via cell towers is why your cell phone can determine your position via GPS way faster than the GPS mounted on your dashboard.

Again, the first stage to troubleshoot is to eliminate your phone from the equation. That is easily done by creating that reminder for “when you arrive home” and see when it goes off. I think you might be surprised by what you find.

Now, I’m off to reboot my iPhone!