How to Create a Location-Based App: Detailed Process & GPS Technology Explained
The location-based services market is predicted to reach over $112.07 billion by 2030 with a 28% (CAGR) annual growth rate. These days, the question of ‘’how to build a GPS app’’ makes vast sense for entrepreneurs. Location-based apps will likely be a high necessity due to the increased popularity of on-demand economy services and fleet management, especially during the worldwide lockdown.
To support this trend, just imagine the astounding fact that 74% of smartphone users in the USA turn to their mobile devices to find location-based information.
If you are interested in developing geolocation software, but are not sure how to make a location based app, this guide will encourage and explain this process, namely:
- Market insights and predictions for geolocation app development
- Benefits that a geolocation app can provide
- Top types of geolocation apps and 12 use cases [IKEA, Tinder, Uber +]
- Definition and explanation of geolocation technologies [GPS, Cell ID, WiFi, iBeacons+ ]
- Step-by-step process of how to build a GPS app successfully
- Legal regulations and tips for creating secure location based apps
It is time to dive deeper into the location-based apps development that has a shot at becoming a useful and popular solution.
Market Insights of Services that Use Geolocation
To begin, let’s start with a question - why are people using location-based apps?
The answers vary.
When asked, 65% responded that it was for weather services, based on a Statista survey. Other categories of using geolocation functions included networking (38%), news (16%), and photo and video services (18%).
It is no wonder that using GPS data gives developers a leg up on crafting a personalized user experience in any niche or business sphere.
This is why geolocation technologies are so popular among marketers. According to Statista, 67% of US marketing specialists use GPS data for targeting purposes, while 52% of marketers also do this to personalize customer experiences.
Broad possibilities for targeted ads and personalization have boosted the market of location based apps. These apps track users’ locations and show relevant content based on that data on their mobile devices. These may be weather apps that offer forecasts based on a user’s location, restaurant apps, shopping apps, etc.
Benefits of Developing Location-Based Applications
So, what is the geolocation function used for?
Basically, there are lots of advantages that location-based apps have to offer; from information collection and analysis, to the creation of new user experiences.
Once developed, location-based software can advance one or a few of the following aspects:
- Source of information
A GPS-enabled app informs users about their location, nearby objects, or the best route to a destination.
For example, the Fastmall app offers an interactive map integration for shoppers within stores, restrooms, restaurants, and parking spaces. The location service even helps users find a baby stroller with just a few taps.
- Social interaction component
GPS apps show the locations for interactions among friends, family members, and other users.
This can also be used to help narrow down groups of social media users, like veterans, who seek jobs or want to find fellow veterans based on their location. A service like Hire a Hero is a great example of this functionality.
GPS location apps let users pin a location on a map or leave feedback about an establishment and share it with others. They also enable the geotagging of photos and videos.
If you are thinking about how to make a GPS app that lets users find interesting places, don’t skip this communication element. Hotel and rental apps like Booking.com and Airbnb make a use of GPS technology to let clients communicate their experiences.
- Insights from the market
Geolocation technologies allow for the collection of information about users’ locations and, therefore, the ability to create user-centered ads.
Happy Hour promotion at Starbucks is a great illustration of this technology. Starbucks sends personalized notifications about the time when a 50% discount comes into force in the nearest store. This encourages users to make purchases through the app.
- Sync of company systems for businesses
GPS enables automatic money write-off when a person enters or leaves a location. This helps businesses think about developing location based apps that will make their services more user-oriented.
- Next-level experience with augmented reality
Pokémon Go proved that GPS development is a great fit for augmented reality and apps that are based on this technology.
We hope this part of “how to build a GPS app” has sparkled some ideas for your future location-based mobile app. In the next section of our guide, we share some use cases.
The location-based app development process will run smoothly once you hire a developer to make an app with relevant expertise in creating these applications.
Our custom software development company has vast experience in developing apps that utilize geolocation technologies. Check out the Yummi app, which allows its users to store and share their best eating experiences, discover different meals, and log food images so that they never forget the fine cuisine they've tasted.
Interested in creating a location-based application?
MLSDev knows how to create a location-based app and bring it to the market quickly. Our team has already developed a few applications that use geolocation technologies – mentioned AR app - ReVistor, the dating app - Sqyle, on-demand delivery app - GoPuff, etc.
How to Create Location Based Apps: 12 Use Cases to Know
For a newbie, creating apps that use GPS technology can be grueling.
If you know the uses of location based services it will be easier to focus on a set of features.
This part of our “how to make a GPS app” guide shows you how the successful implementation of geolocation technologies may boost a business in 12 different business niches.
1. Retail [IKEA]
Sixty-two% of UK retailers geolocate their app users, according to Statista. GPS mobile solutions can enhance the customer experience in brick-and-mortar shops.
IKEA is one of the best examples of how to create a location-based app for retail. The app uses GPS tracking to show the nearby stores and pick-up locations.
Some retail chains go even further with geo location tracking and provide indoor navigation, which is based on a technology called iBeacon.
We will examine iBeacon technology later on in the article.
2. E-Commerce Apps [eBay]
The e-commerce industry also takes advantage of location-based service apps. In general, they provide users with the location of the closest shipping centers and delivery offices.
As well, based on the info about location and time spent at a particular spot, businesses receive valuable insight into user preferences. This allows them to improve services by sending useful info on special offers, products in stock, or promotions. eBay offers an example of how to build a GPS app of this type.
3. On-Demand Services [Uber]
On-demand services are driving the adoption of GPS technology. The examples are numerous. One of the top on demand delivery apps - Uber, inspired many business owners to explore how to make a GPS app similar to the world-famous ride-share service.
Uber uses a geolocation tracker to determine the location of a user in order to find the nearest available taxi, track cars, show their location, and to estimate how much time it will take a taxi to get to the pick-up point.
Interested in the development of an application like Uber?
Take a look at the article How to Make an App Like Uber: Complete Guide and learn the best practices of taxi app development.
4. HoReCa [Foursquare]
The hotel, restaurant, and café industry also widely embraces the use of location-based applications. The most prominent example is Foursquare, which belongs to this group.
At the start of its development, Foursquare helped users find a nearby location based on their interest. In 2014, the company launched another app called Swarm, which was designed for sharing locations with friends. These two are clear examples of geolocation services for the HoReCa industry.
5. Automotive & Transportation [Moovit]
If you are working in the transportation industry and wondering how to build a GPS app that will streamline operations, look at Moovit. This is a geo-tracking app that notifies passengers about delays in public transportation.
In the automotive industry, these applications can also be used in logistics to track and manage a fleet efficiently. There are many mobile apps that give a great idea of location-based services for the automotive industry.
6. Maps & Navigation [Google Maps]
When thinking about how to make a GPS app, this type of mobile solution is the first to come to mind. Everyone knows Google Maps as one of the most popular apps in this category.
Other GPS map-making apps include MapQuest, Waze, and Bing Maps. MapQuest is often praised for its accuracy and simple menu. These are the must-have features that not every app can boast about.
According to the latest report, 41% of US drivers lost about 15 minutes due to errors in location apps. This equals up to 2.5 billion USD yearly.
So, before you start working on your app, find developers that are sure about how to build a GPS app accurately.
7. Travel & Booking [Airbnb]
Airbnb has changed the travel and booking industry once and for all. The popularity of the app has encouraged other businesses to look into the question of how to make a geolocation app of this type and take a piece of this very lucrative pie.
This type of location based mobile app was created to help users plan vacations, find apartments to stay in during the holidays or while on a business trip, and to cut travel expenses.
8. Fitness [Nike+]
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused big waves in the market of fitness apps that use GPS technologies the most. Things here are growing progressively better and, if you are not sure how to build a fitness app with GPS, it’s time to clear things up.
GPS tracking functionality helps track running and cycling, map routes, track speeds, and can even add a touch of social media by allowing users to share progress within a community.
If you are thinking about how to make a GPS app with fitness features, take a look at Nike+. This is an excellent example of a geo-tracking solution used for fitness purposes.
9. Location Based Social Media Apps & Geolocation Dating Apps [Instagram; Tinder]
How to build an app like Clubhouse or similar product for social networking?
Geo-social applications are a very popular category. The vast majority of social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram, offer a geotagging feature that allows users to share photos and videos based on location. Other users can sort content by locations and view only the most relevant ones.
Geolocation dating apps are another type of application that rely heavily on this technology, with Tinder being the most vivid example. If you are interested in the development of an app with dating features, our team knows how to build location based apps of this type.
Interested in the development of a geolocation dating app?
Take a look at the best practices in the article How to Create a Dating App: Tips, Features, Process, and Cost.
10. IoT [Paw Scout]
The Internet of Things consists of a variety of devices, including wearables, fitness trackers, jewelry, and even trackers for pets.
By putting a special tag on a pet’s collar, owners can track the movements of the animal, their activity, sleeping patterns, and even get health-related advice or notifications when a lost pet is nearby.
Paw Scout gives an idea of how to create a GPS tracker for pets and what features should be included.
11. Weather Apps [Yahoo Weather]
These apps also take advantage of GPS tracking and show relevant weather forecasts based on a given location.
Yahoo Weather belongs to the group of apps with the geolocation features. These apps can also help save lives by sending alerts about approaching hurricanes or wildfires.
12. Games & AR [Pokémon Go]
We can safely say that Pokémon Go is the most famous name among location-based GPS games.
After its launch, the development of geolocation games became a very popular topic. Very often, these games use geo location tracking to enhance an AR or VR experience.
By providing relevant content based on a user’s location, they can immerse users in a world of adventures. Pokémon Go utilizes geolocation to the maximum and provides the most vivid example of how to build location based services that will be able to stand out from the crowd.
GPS applications can belong to any category of apps and offer useful features that help in different life circumstances.
Here is a table summarizing the top categories and types of geolocation apps:
|IKEA, Walmart||Retail||Locates users and offers relevant content|
|eBay, Amazon, AliExpress||E-Commerce||Determines users’ locations and offers the best solutions for delivery and logistics|
|Uber, UberEats, Zomato||On-demand services||Locates users, tracks the position of taxis, and estimates the time needed to get to destination or pick-up point|
|Foursquare, Yelp||HoReCa||Locates users and offers advice on the places of their interest; allows for location sharing with friends|
|Moovit, Citymapper, Transit||Public transportation||Tracks users’ locations, allows them to add destinations, make routes, and provides information on time of departure and arrival of public transportation|
|Google Maps, Waze, Glymps, Map Box||Maps & navigation||Tracks location, plans routes, shows traffic jams, and so on|
|Airbnb, Expedia, Trip Advisor, Booking||Travel & booking||Suggests the nearest apartments based on a set location|
|Tinder, OkCupid||Dating||Unites couples based on user location|
|My Fitness Pal, Nike Running Club||Fitness||Builds routes, allows to track activity and build recommendation, as well as compare and share achievements|
|Pokémon Go, The Witcher||AR games||Provides relevant gaming content based on users’ locations|
|Facebook, WhatsApp||Social media||Tags locations a user visited, offers recommendations based on a user’s preferences|
|Google Photos, Explorest||Photo location finder||Read user location details from pictures to build map views, routs, etc.|
|Paw Scout, Whistle, Tile Pro||IoT||Bluetooth-enabled tag alerts users when a lost pet is nearby and tracks activity of pets|
|Yahoo Weather, Weather by Apple||Weather||Provides relevant forecast based on user locations|
How to Build a GPS App, Technically
Before we move forward to the technical aspects of developing location based apps, let’s start with the basic concept.
How do location-based apps work?
Location-based applications establish a connection with satellites with the help of a mobile device’s operating system. The application gets information about the current mobile device location from the OS. By collecting and processing data in real time, it determines the pattern of a moving object or person.
Actually, there are a few technologies that can help you enable your future application to track location.
How to Create a Location-Based App with Outdoor Technologies
There are a few ways available to determine outdoor geolocation with the help of different geolocation technologies. If you want to know how to make a GPS app, you should know about each solution that can be applied.
Modern smartphones are equipped with a chip that enables users to get access to the Global Positioning System (GPS). This allows devices to determine a current location with an accuracy of about 60 feet. To perform this task, GPS needs to get data from at least three satellites. This type of geo location tracking is the most widely used today due to the availability of GPS support on devices.
Due to the wide popularity and accuracy, GPS becomes a main topic when we discuss how to create a location-based app with our clients.
- Cell ID
Cell ID is another technology, which is a less popular approach due to weak coverage outside of big cities.
Cell ID determines location with the help of cell towers. The technology compares the towers to which a device is connected to the database of all stations in the area. The accuracy is lower than that of GPS signal.
- Assisted GPS (A-GPS)
This technology combines two of the above – GPS and Cell ID, which allows it to provide a higher level of accuracy as compared to just Cell ID or solely GPS. If you are looking into the matter of how to build a GPS app with laser-sharp accuracy, consider A-GPS.
As compared to Cell ID, Wi-Fi covers smaller areas, which allows the technology to be more precise. There are two ways in which Wi-Fi can be used to determine location.
The RSSI approach (received signal strength indication) locates a user with the help of Wi-Fi points. As a device moves away from this point, the signal becomes weaker. If you want to know how to start building location based apps for an urban area, this feature may be helpful.
Another approach to location tracking with Wi-Fi is based on the use of frequently visited places and identifies a user’s position with an accuracy of 2 meters.
Each of these features bears the variation of location-based technology. Your future app will include either of these, or a combination of several ones.
Further, you’ll find some information on how to build a GPS app for indoor use.
How to Build a GPS App with Indoor Technologies
The indoor location market is on the rise and its size is estimated to grow at CAGR of 22.4% till 2027 and generate approximately $20 billion. This is why it might be a good idea to learn how to integrate these geolocation features into mobile apps and bring them to the market as soon as possible.
This technology is built on GPS, which is used to determine how close a user is to a particular point. Geofencing is often used in the advertising sphere to provide users with relevant ads and offers.
However, possible use cases are much broader, and geofencing is a solution for providing a more personalized experience inside a shop.
Relevant Example: Amazon Go is the most vivid example of how this technology can be used in real life. The launch of the innovative retail store made many companies wonder how to create a location- based app that could enhance the shopping experience.
Geofencing uses three types of triggers:
- Static triggers work when a user comes to a particular place
- Dynamic triggers track location and send push notifications based on the changes in environment, for example if a parking space is freed up as a user passes by
- Combined triggers use both of the above triggers
There are a few examples on the market that provide a clear understanding of how to create a location-based app of this type.
- iBeacon and Eddystone
iBeacon and Eddystone were built by Apple and Google accordingly. These two types of technologies rely on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals.
They can send triggers to a device only when a person is within their reach.
iBeacon and Eddystone are characterized by a high level of accuracy. If you want to know how to create a location-based app for accurate indoor navigation, these two technologies would be a worthy addition to the core functionality.
AR functionality for location-based apps is an extra addition that can help you set an application apart from competitors.
Relevant Example: A great example of this kind of unique app is ReVistor, which was built by the MLSDev team. This app allows users to experience historical events by showing relevant AR content when users visit the locations of the most well-known battles of the American Civil War.
Do you have a great idea for a GPS service, but little knowledge of how to build a location-based app?
Contact MLSDev for an expert opinion and advice! Our team will provide you with a free consultation from tech side and make a costless estimate of a potential project’s cost and timeframe.
How to Create a GPS Navigation App for Android OS
The following tables showcase the possible technologies to use and explanations of their application.
|GPS Service for Android App||Description|
|Google Maps API||returns info on location based on information from cell towers and wifi nodes|
|Google Places API||returns info about interesting locales|
|Google Geolocation API||processes signals from cell-towers and wifi nodes to detect the phone’s position|
|Google Maps Directions API||searches direction for different transport means|
|Google Distance Matrix API||calculates travel distance and time|
|Google Maps Android SDK||adds Google Maps to your app|
If you are interested in receiving the answer to the question of how to create a location-based app for iOS OS, check out possible tech stacks in the table below.
|GPS Service for iOS App||Description|
|Google Maps SDK for iOS||gives access to Google Maps web services for iOS|
|Apple Maps Kit||allows you to connect your app with satellite data, remember places of interest, etc.|
|Core Location API||finds the location of your in relation to an iBeacon device|
|Google Maps API||returns information on location based on signals from wifi nodes and cell towers|
Google solutions are popular as they combine great design with ease of implementation. However, there are also a plethora of alternative technologies, which include TripAdvisor API, Yelp API, and Facebook Places.
Mostly, the choice is purely stylistic. Though, there are also some differences in geolocation features. Each different technology offers its own perks in functionality. Here are a couple of examples:
- MapBox, as an alternative to Google Maps, offers profound customization and augmented reality features
- Tripadvisor API provides info on local business. The same goes for Facebook Places
- Foursquare API allows for the collection of user ratings and building recommendations
In fact, every technology adds something to functionality. When seeking an answer to the question of how to app technically, there are plenty of successful examples to follow.
The above information provides a better understanding of location-based app development, and which of the available technologies would be best to enhance the user experience.
How to Create a Location-Based App Securely
In this stage of our query on “how to create a location-based app,” we’ll talk about security concerns.
29% of Americans over 50 are very cautious about granting geolocation permission to an app.
In Europe, violating security rules may be a fatal failure. When a company ignores this critical step, it risks being blocked from marketplaces or even receiving a penalty of €20 million due to a GDPR breach.
Let’s learn how to make a GPS app in a secure way.
You can circumvent security issues by providing full transparency about how you collect data, why you collect it, and what you do with it.
Here is a list of some crucial steps you have to pay attention to:
- Security is the priority
From the very beginning of the development process, you need to put security first. Follow the best practices of Android and iOS to make sure you do not break the main rules in geolocation app development.
- Assess third-party components
Libraries and frameworks streamline the development process. At the same time, many of them lack all the necessary security precautions and the task of understanding all the components and their vulnerabilities then falls on you.
- Encrypted communication
When data is transmitted, it can be intercepted or altered by attackers which puts the privacy of users at risk. If you develop a GPS coordinate app for Android, use the Network Security Configuration feature.
During iOS location-based app development, it is recommended that you conform to the App Transport Security feature.
- Multi-factor authentication
This point will help to mitigate the risk of sensitive location data landing in the hands of attackers who hack the accounts of your app.
Users should be able to opt into, or out of, any geolocation tracking feature, and receive a corresponding notification that explains why they need to grant permission regarding their geodata.
Following the best practices in app security at the stage when you are just beginning to consider how to create a location-based app will avoid issues in the future.
How to Make a GPS App, Step-by-Step
In the beginning of your query you had questions about the types of GPS apps, how to make a GPS app technically, and how much this would cost. Now you are almost ready to start building your own location based mobile app.
What is left is a brief recap of the info above, cut down to five main steps:
Step 1. Conduct market research
In the beginning, we recommend studying the market and finding opportunities for app development. Then, check out competitive services and come up with ideas for how to create a location-based app that will be even better. The Business Model Canvas model can be a useful tool to create your strategy.
Step 2. Find a capable software development team
You need to find a team that will mastermind your project to make it competitive and successful. The recipe for finding a team is simple: check tech stack, portfolio, and references from former clients. Then, look for the best price and quality ratio for mobile app development services.
When seeking the perfect balance between price and quality for geolocation app development, it makes a lot of sense to outsource your project to Eastern Europe, and mainly to Ukraine. Here’s why:
- Ukraine has a long tradition of technology and science outsourcing, therefore it is rated 11th of the top outsourcing destinations by Hackerrank.
- It is home to 245 IT companies and 150K technology developers.
- Due to tax subvention, the average hourly rate here is lower compared to North America and Western Europe and is USD 40/h.
With a wide range of specialists and moderate prices, here, you are likely to find an outsourcing vendor that best fits your needs.
Do you have a project and require professional assistance with its development?
Check out the article regarding Offshore & Nearshore Software Development: Practical Guide to Choose Your Best IT Vendor. It will provide you with some insight into the process of choosing the best app development vendor.
Step 3. Work on the tech side
Make sure your team has extensive knowledge on how to build a GPS app. Work out the tech side of the project, decide on the functionality, and choose the most suitable location-tracking technology and tech stack. Create a UX and UI of the geolocation software. Implement all of the geolocation features and other functionality you have chosen for the app.
Step 4. Make the app secure
During this step, your app will be challenged for privacy and security compliance. Work on data safety, and consult with privacy and data protection lawyers that know how to make a GPS app securely. Also don't forget that your data can be lost for unplanned deletion of files and folders, in such cases, many companies use such services as Cleverfiles - free data recovery software.
Step 5. Launch your app
This step concludes your project. After you challenge your geolocation app with testing, you may release it. Although, this doesn’t mean you are done. Successful geolocation apps are supported by ongoing development.
We hope this 5-step outline on how to make a GPS app will help you structure the information, make a plan of action, and cross the threshold into implementing your idea in reality.
The complete guide to location-based app development is presented in the infographic below.
How Much Does it Cost to Create a Location-Based App?
How do you turn any of location-based apps into a profitable business and receive a great ROI? The answer to this starts with calculating your initial investment.
To begin, the cost to develop location based services is influenced by a number of factors:
- Complexity and number of features
- Tech stack and the number of platforms you target
- Software development vendor you choose to work with
- Hourly rate of GPS app developers
- Design complexity
It is worth mentioning that it is important to decide on which platforms to target. Your app may operate on Android OS, iOS, or both. It may also have a Web version or be represented as a PWA (Progressive Web App).
In essence, every project includes the following custom software development services:
- UX/UI design
- Quality assurance & testing
- Project management
- Business analysis
- Development (iOS, Android, Web front-end, Web back-end)
The price will depend on the time your team will spend on every step and their hourly rate. In this regard, it makes sense to look for an outsource development team in Eastern Europe. Firstly, here you find a plethora of specialists that know how to create a location-based app. Secondly, hourly rates in Eastern European countries are wallet-friendly. In Ukraine, for example, due to taxation subvention, the average rate of a software developer is 40 USD per hour.
|Basic version (minimum feature set, 1 platform)||Full product (more features and design of a larger complexity, 1 platform)||Large app (complex app design, development, and support, 2+ platforms)|
|Time||~3-6 months||~4-9 months||9+ months (ongoing)|
Now, let's be more specific. If you are wondering how to create a GPS navigation app for Android, the price will start at $60,000 for its basic version. There is a similar price range for iOS or Web apps. A full-fledged product consisting of more complex app features will cost around $150,000+ with a timeline of 4 to 9 months.
Do you want to know what budget is required to build location based apps?
Take a look at the article App Development Cost: Understand Your Budget to Build Powerful Apps. You will learn how to calculate the cost of your future application and which factors influence this figure.
How to Create a Location-Based App: Final Thoughts
By now, you have gone through the uses of geolocation technologies, learned 12 business niches to apply them, discovered how to make a GPS app securely, and learned the technical aspects as well.
We have made the following shortlist to give you some location based apps ideas that could potentially gain popularity. Some of the comparatively vacant niches include:
- Location-based social networking apps
- Location-based discount apps
- Messaging apps based on geolocation
- Location finder apps by photo
- IoT applications
The development process will run smoothly once you hire an experienced team that will be laser-focused on creating location based apps of high quality.
MLSDev knows how to start geolocation services and launch them to the market quickly. Our team has already developed a few applications that utilize geolocation technologies. Among these projects are – the dating app Sqyle, AR app ReVistor, and on-demand delivery app GoPuff, and more.
Want to know how to make a GPS app that will utilize innovative technologies?
We will provide you with the best practices in geolocation app development.