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How to make a location-based app?

how to create a location-based app

Geolocation apps are firmly entrenched in the top 10 list of recent years, and today this trend still remains one of the leading. The geolocation expands the capabilities of mobile apps improving your interaction with a client. Moreover, the feature serves as a source of new ideas for developers and marketers. The high popularity of niche applications, such as Uber, confirms this fact.

If you’re planning to develop a mobile application with geolocation feature, this article is meant for you. We are ready to disassemble all the nuances of this difficult process and explain how to create a location-based app. Also, you’ll know what budget one should prepare. So, start reading!

  1. Why do we need location-based apps?
  2. Types of geolocation apps
  3. How to create a location-based app?
  4. Interesting and impressive location-based services
  5. The complexity of location-based application development
  6. How much does it cost to create geolocation applications?
  7. Stages of location-based application development

Why do we need location-based apps?

In the quest for trends, more and more geo-dependent mobile applications have been appearing on the market. Some of them cannot work without locating the user, while others are taking advantage of the geolocation feature in order to make their services more convenient. Navigators, guides, social networks with geotagged photos, fitness applications with the route tracking belong to so-called Location-Based Services. Geolocation is actively being introduced into the business app development. But is the game worth the candle? Let's figure it out.

First, we define the basic functions of geolocation:

  • Information function: providing the user with information about the nearest objects or objects of a certain location.
  • Social function: the ability to know the location of other users.
  • Communication function: the ability to register a place on the map (and it will be available to all users), to leave feedback about visiting a certain place or read reviews of others, to link your own content to a specific place on the map (for example, a photo or a text message).
  • Marketing function. Geolocation has become a tool for targeting incentive marketing campaigns and the basis for the development of new mechanisms of interaction with the consumer.

how to make a location-based app

Let's analyze the factors that influence the fact that location-based services are so greatly introduced into the consumer business and social communications. In general, we can distinguish two groups of interests:

Consumer interest:

  1. expansion of the boundaries of "sociality". Previously, an individual would demonstrate to others his identity through his page in a social network. However, this information was "static": frozen facts, imprinted moments of the past… The introduction of the location feature has become a logical and improved continuation of this trend - the user has gained "dynamism". Now he can tell more about his lifestyle, daily routine, social level.
  2. high involvement of users in the process of recommendations, assessments, ranking. Almost all successful social location-based services use to some extent the game factor when interacting with a customer so that he could help them generate the independent content. For example, users can create new geolocation marks to obtain an exclusive status or to score more points. This mechanism has a very powerful viral potential which now is far from being fully disclosed.
  3. commercial benefits. A typical customer also appreciates another great advantage of location apps, namely - a wonderful chance to get recommendations, tips, and hints from other people who have already used a particular point of service.  Thus, location-based app development expands its range of influence: instead of just informing what is going on around the user, these apps have become a discount hunting tool.

Business interest:

  1. synchronization between location-based apps and company systems. Given the statistics data, the geolocation technology expects to have a huge growth in the coming years. If the business wants to gain a competitive advantage, one needs to start working with the audience of location services and include this task in the marketing plan. The recent decision of Foursquare to charge a symbolic fee for verifying points of companies on the map proves that this geolocation tool brings profit to business units. Previously, verification was free of charge.
  2. location-based mobile advertising. This system automatically determines the location of a person by using GPS coordinates and takes advantage of this parameter to target advertisements. Geolocation advertising can be implemented as push notifications being sent by mobile applications. Let's say a person walks down the street and receives a message which tells him that there is a great close-out sale in the nearest store - it would be impressive, right?
  3. processing of user information. By registering in certain places, the user draws, in a manner of speaking, his own self-portrait. Based on this information, you can form a clear picture of each customer. In the future, this data will allow you to make individual offers to users. For example, you can provide your clients with discounts on business lunches - but don't offer these discounts to all customers, choose those who usually put marks in this location in the afternoon. This way you will achieve your goal at no extra cost!
  4. joint use of location-based services and augmented reality. Perhaps, this is the most impressive use of geolocation capabilities. The bottom line is that virtual elements are superimposed on real-world objects. For example, you can train a smartphone on your target, that is, on any city point, and the screen will display all the information about it.

If you haven’t decided yet whether you need to find out how to build a location-based app, we suggest you consider the main types of geolocation services we’re describing below.

Types of geolocation apps

Location-based apps can be conditionally divided into several groups:

#1. Geosocial applications

Users often attach geotags to photos and videos on social networks: the address of a restaurant, a nightclub, a gym or a resort. Communicating in messengers, we prefer to send our location in response to the question "Where are you?". It's much easier and faster than writing an address. And dating applications have gotten a new birth with the help of this technology that allows us to search for our pair nearby, in our location

#2. Maps and navigation

Perhaps this is the most obvious type of the location-based app development. The most popular services of this type are Google Maps and mobile programs that determine traffic jams.

how to create a location-based app

#3. On-demand services

Location detection is a very convenient option for a number of mobile apps. Now you can сall a taxi, order the delivery of flowers or food in just a few clicks, without waiting for the operator's reply. So information about how to make a location-based app will be of service to almost any business owner who wants to increase customer loyalty.

#4. Fitness trackers and healthcare applications

Fitness applications are at the height of their fame. Location-based services contribute to this popularity by helping to track jogging routes and overall sports progress on a regular basis. One can share his sports achievements in social networks by attaching statistics or a map with the route that has been passed.

#5. Augmented reality and games

The Pokemon Go game that had conquered the world in 2016 also uses a location feature. Based on GPS and Google maps, the application allows you to "catch Pokemon" throughout the city. Moreover, the service carries a social aspect and unites gamers into teams. Therefore, if you have to make an exciting mobile game, think about the question of how to create a location-based app, it'll be the right way to translate your idea into reality.

#6. Search for services, recommendations, discounts

Applications of this type include Yelp and Foursquare which give users the opportunity to compile ratings of different institutions and dining places after visiting them.

In addition, there are location-based apps such as P% P: developed by SBS Soft, it shows on the map goods and services at a discount (within a radius of 1 km from the user). The discount can be received at a distance of 500 meters from the establishment after the cashier has confirmed the request.

#7. Travel apps

Services for finding tickets and housing are still leading in the app market. No wonder! They can really become indispensable tools for planning travel and business trips. And if you are the owner of a travel agency, think about the location-based application development.

how to create a location-based app

#8. Applications for weather forecasting

This is another great idea for location app development. For example, Yahoo Weather uses location data to simplify the process of user interaction with the application, reducing the number of actions that must be performed.

#9. Location-based apps for Business

These services allow companies to track the location of employees, plan logistics of couriers and freight. For example, laundry service workers can use the geolocation application to build the most convenient route between customers. In addition, an offline business can quickly inform clients about loyalty programs and offer individual bonuses.

Do you have your business? Maybe you should create a geolocation app too!

#10. E-commerce

The geolocation feature in mobile applications such as eBay and Amazon significantly improves the quality of logistics and positively affects the user experience.

#11. The location apps for notification of dangerous situations

Unfortunately, the modern world is not as secure as we wish it to be. Natural disasters and terrorist attacks occur quite often. So it's a smart idea to create a geolocation service that collects data by analyzing news headlines on regional sites. Sending notifications of precarious situations nearby, it allows users to know about possible hazards on time.

how to make a location-based app

Apps for geolocation are not limited to taxi service or the search for the nearest coffee shop. Analyze all the users' routine activities that are associated with the location and try to come up with the idea of simplifying them through location-based services. You can use these technologies both in the external direction by increasing sales and loyalty, and on the internal vector by improving efficiency and cutting costs.

How to create a location-based app?

To create the app with geolocation, you need to take advantage of special location services and maps that can be added using the API.

There are several ways to determine the location. We will tell you about the most popular of them.

#1. GPS

In this case, the location is determined by satellite signals.

All mobile devices have a built-in GPS module. A tablet or phone with the activated geolocation feature is continuously receiving a signal from at least 3 satellites simultaneously. The time which the signal needs in order to reach the Earth multiplied by the speed gives the distance to the object (with corrections for inaccuracies).


  • The high speed of determining the location.
  • The high accuracy of GPS-receivers (if conditions are good). For example, you can determine the altitude above sea level, which is important for some location-based apps.


  • Reduced battery life. Despite the fact that the developers are working hard to reduce the power consumption of GPS, the device's charge is still depleted quickly.
  • Insufficient reliability. Any systems may fail, but GPS performance is particularly affected by the ability of the device to interact with satellites in orbit. So, in a tunnel or basement, it is almost impossible to determine the exact location.
  • Influence of atmospheric conditions and obstacles. Buildings, trees, and geomagnetic storms can cause signal deviations up to 80 meters.

Despite certain drawbacks of the GPS technology, we do not advise that you completely abandon it. In many cases, this method justifies itself and can be very effective for location-based mobile app development.

#2. Cell ID

If the GPS signal is not available, the location is determined using the cell towers. The smartphone “knows” which mobile tower it is connected to. The received coordinates of the mobile station allow determining the location of the smartphone and its owner.


  • The service works even when the GPS signal is not available.
  • This technique is great for large cities.


  • Low position accuracy. In some cases, inaccuracies can reach several hundred meters.

This method is also “right-to-life”. Consider its benefits when thinking about how to build a location-based app.

#3. A-GPS

Assisted GPS Service generates combined information obtained from the satellite and the server, and transmits this data via the Internet using Wi-Fi or cellular connection.


  • The high speed of determining the location.
  • Economical battery power consumption.
  • Increased sensitivity in "problem areas" (tunnels, depressions, dense forest).


  • Restrictions. Some A-GPS functions do not work outside the cellular coverage area.
  • Increased costs. At startup, the service consumes a small amount of traffic, and if the signal is lost, it requires a re-synchronization. This leads to additional costs, especially when roaming.

Of course, this A-GPS service has its own disadvantages, but in general, it is of interest for location-based application development.

#4. BLE

Another option for determining geolocation is the use of beacons with the help of the "Bluetooth low energy" technology. The beacons work on batteries and transmit a signal to the user's device through Bluetooth. For the iOS platform, the iBeacon API has been developed, for Android, one offers to use the Eddystone technology and the AltBeacon protocol.

This method of geolocation is suitable for closed rooms and location-based mobile apps that operate without the Internet.


  • Ease of use. BLE-beacons are easy to install indoors.
  • The high accuracy of locating a user.


  • It's costly. For some algorithms, a significant initial investment is required.
  • A lifetime of beacons. Periodically, the device will have to be updated, as will its batteries.
  • The small radius of action.

The BLE method is definitely worth considering if you have decided to create a geolocation service.

how to create a location-based app

#5. Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi works in two ways: using RSSI, determining the location from the database, or via Google Maps.


  • Ease of use. By connecting Wi-Fi, the user finds the active network and its location. While there is a connection, the system works.
  • The location is determined fairly quickly.


  • Covering a smaller area, compared to GPS.

This is a simple and effective method. It will come in handy if you want to build apps based on geolocation.

#6. Geofencing

Geofencing is a growing technology associated with geolocation. In mobile applications, it takes advantage of the user's position and determines the time at which a person enters the specified virtual perimeter. For example, when a customer approaches a designated point, a push notification is sent to his mobile phone offering him a coupon or discount. The radius of geophysical coverage is up to 500 meters.


  • Possibility to cover larger territories, in comparison with BLE-beacons.
  • A lot of business opportunities including remote monitoring of employees, loyalty programs for customers, push notification systems, etc.


  • Limited range (up to 500 meters).
  • High power consumption.

Now you know which systems to use if you want to find out how to create a location-based app. We guess it’s time to take a look at the market leaders!

Interesting and impressive location-based services

We suggest that you analyze how other applications are using the geolocation feature. Perhaps, these exciting examples will give you the idea of a great location-based app able to improve your user experience. After all, this aim should be your main priority.

#1. Scope

The Scope application allows you to see what is happening in different parts of the globe at this particular moment. It's very simple: users are forming a network of anonymous witnesses marked on the map. You choose, for example, a city in Japan, find a user there and send a request: "Show what's going on!". In response, you get a short video panorama.

#2. LastQuake

This is the official location-based application of the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC-CSEM). LastQuake has been developed by seismologists, it's aimed to alert the public and collect evidence in real time.

For earthquake detection, EMSC uses the latest techniques based on:

  • reports of earthquake witnesses;
  • the Internet and mobile technologies allowing to collect the information on the manifestations of the earthquake observed by witnesses.

LastQuak offers:

  • providing real-time information;
  • customizable notification levels (devastating earthquakes, earthquakes near you, etc.);
  • access to comments, photos, and videos made by witnesses;
  • information exchange through social networks;
  • the ability to send SMS to your family and friends if you are in an area that was affected by an earthquake;
  • recommendations on precautionary measures after an earthquake.

#3. Snapchat

This is a mobile messaging app with photos and videos attached. One of the main concepts of Snapchat is that images and messages are available for a short pre-set time.

In July 2014, a feature known as Geofilters has been added. It allows a user to take advantage of special graphics overlays available when he or she is in a certain geographical location (for example, at McDonald's). Snapchat users can also create and send their own Geofilters.

Agree, Snapchat has found a great way to use the geolocation feature to increase the engagement factor! We hope, it has given you some wonderful ideas on how to build a location-based app that will improve the user experience.

More information about this application and its fascinating features is waiting for you in this article.

#4. Trigger

This application also uses the geolocation feature.

Trigger automates the process of performing the simplest primary tasks. This amazing tool can turn off the sound in the phone or mute it, change the brightness of the display depending on the time of day, set the alarm and much more. For example, it is able to turn on your GPS-navigator as soon as you get into the car. At work, when the device finds and activates the Wi-Fi network, the sound will immediately go off or the vibration alert will be set. In the evening, when you want to read an e-book before going to bed, the phone or tablet will automatically switch to night mode. All you have to do is to pre-set markers or so-called triggers. Well, we admit: Trigger owners know how to make a location-based app and thereby improve interaction with the user!

#5. Foursquare Swarm

Swarm is the best way to track the places you used to visit. You will no longer have to ransack memory for forgotten things, trying to recall the name of a new cafe where you had been offered to taste delicious noodles. No matter if you are a local or tourist: Swarm will help you remember all the places you need.

Well, how do you like this idea of location-based mobile app development? Not bad, right?

how to make a location-based app

#6. WherezMoney

Application for financial management, budget control, cost management and cost geolocation. It allows you to trace where you have spent your money.

The complexity of location-based application development

The most important problem when creating location-based services is a security issue.

You need to pay attention to the following factors:

  • by law, all data on the movements of users that are being collected and processed must be depersonalized. But how to control this process? That's the real problem!
  • information is not just collected, but processed and analyzed. This reveals a variety of interesting patterns… The question is how to use this information? What is ethical and what is not?

By making personal information public, a user risks becoming an object of misconduct that affects his privacy. So, for example, in March of this year, Apple has blocked a mobile application named Girls Around Me which showed men the location of women nearby.

To avoid the so-called "stalking effect", location-based services will most likely evolve towards strictly closed groups of friends (for instance, take a look at the application "Find my friends" from Apple).

Undoubtedly, every company that collects any information about users will act as correctly as possible, since there is such a thing as reputational costs that can be very high.

The main point is to find experienced developers who know how to create a location-based app that will be really secure and protected from hacking.

How much does it cost to create geolocation applications?

The choice of technology needed will depend on the purpose of the mobile application and the basic requirements to it. Speed, accuracy, reliability, usability, range, and power consumption are the main characteristics that will help determine the best way to implement a geolocation feature.

But, in general, how can you save during the process of location-based mobile app development?

#1. Country

If you want to save in the mobile app development process, do not hire IT experts from the US or Western Europe: they work qualitatively but have high rates. Our option is developers from Ukraine (all the arguments in favor of this choice is detailed in our article).

  • USA ($ 100-150 and more). The cost of a simple application: from $10 000 - 20 000.
  • Great Britain (£ 100-180). The cost of a simple application: from $18 000 - 20 000.
  • Western Europe (80 -150 €). The cost of a simple application: from $18 000 -19 000.
  • Eastern Europe ($ 20-70). The cost of a simple application: from $5 000 - 8 000.
  • Ukraine (about 30-50 $). The cost of a simple application: from $ 5,000 and more.
  • India ($ 10-30). The cost of a simple application: from $ 5,000. The price is rather low, but the code quality is quite depressing

#2. Application Functionality

Given that you can create a geolocation application for different purposes and services (taxi, restaurant business, etc.), it's impossible to name a certain price. However, we can say how long it will take to build apps of varying complexity. With this information, it's easy to calculate the approximate budget that you need.

  • Simple applications - about 250-400 hours of work.
  • Applications of medium complexity - about 500-700 hours of work.
  • Complex apps - more than 700 hours.

how to create a location-based app

Stages of location-based application development

The location-based application development consists of the following stages:

  1. Market exploration and analysis of the competitors. You can perform these actions yourself and contact the company with a ready solution and a formed request. Otherwise, if you are not sure of your abilities, you can ask a professional agency to help you in this matter.
  2. Prototyping. At this stage, the project is being visualized and its logical structure is being made up. As a result, you get an idea of what your application will look like and which screens it will include.
  3. Application design. UX/UI design is a special sphere that requires experts to sense a style. App design should be clean, understandable, intuitive.
  4. Coding process. This is a key app development stage. It is desirable that the company should have iOS, Android, and web developers - if you want to create a geolocation app that will work on all platforms.
  5. Testing. Never neglect this stage! Otherwise, you risk getting an application that will fail at the most inopportune moment. As a result, frustrated users will delete the program they've already installed, and you will need to make a lot of effort to persuade them to change their minds and download it again.
  6. Release. This is an important stage that completes the location-based mobile app development process. Of course, you still have a lot of work to do, but the main thing has already been done.

We hope you've seen how important it is to enable the geolocation feature in your application. It improves the interaction with customers and allows delivering them information in the right place and at the right time.

We are ready to help you translate your idea into reality. Our experts know how to create a location-based app, and they are able to apply this knowledge in practice. Our numerous successful projects are evidence of this.

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