How to Create a Location-Based App

Article by:
Elizabeth Boyarko
12 min
Location-based apps and those with built-in geolocation capabilities are one of the hottest trends in mobile development. In this article, we'll walk you through the process of geolocation app development, starting with the existing types of applications to the required technologies and possible pitfalls to avoid when building a product.

Mobile apps can't do without the features that cater to wide audiences and respond to expectations on a more targeted, local level. As users have got used to on-the-go functionality of Uber, Facebook, or AirBnB, they are eager to get the same experience on other apps.

In this respect, location-based apps and those with built-in geolocation capabilities are one of the hottest trends in mobile development and among the global business trends too. These apps can detect local objects, people, and businesses around a user and grant them the convenience of getting the required service, information, or even a date on Tinder.

This is good news for businesses as well. When you know how to create a location-based app with market relevance and quality, it is possible to launch efficient marketing campaigns and open new growth opportunities for your business.

If that corresponds to your current objectives but you don't know where to start the development process, you are in the right place. In this article, we will explore the essence of this type of software and dwell on the process behind location-based app development.

What Is a Location-Based App?

A location-based app is a type of software that relies on advanced technologies to transmit targeted messages based on a user's geolocation. It involves not only GPS signals, accessible IP addresses, or other satellite solutions but also a combination of several tools to obtain more accurate data. For example, if a user is touring Normandy, a location-based app could offer the user specific tourist attractions, like the Utah Beach Museum, or recommend nearby cafes like Café Gondrée.

Business owners can enhance their service offering by implementing geolocation technology in numerous ways. Let's check out the most prominent types of industries that are powered by location-based software to provide you some tech business ideas in this sector.

Most Popular Types of Geolocation Apps

What kinds of location-based applications are there? Let's take a look at the main types.

Types of Geolocation Apps
  • Navigation and mapping apps
    Services like Google Maps or Waze need no introduction since they've become a natural way to spot the exact whereabouts of a user. They provide real-time mapping, routing, and assisted navigation services as well as the ability to update information about traffic jams.
  • Fitness apps
    Location-based services are an integral part to include when making a fitness app since they allow users to access a ton of useful features. Apps like Runtastic or Strava can help with jogging route mapping, speed and calorie burn tracking, and even locating nearby fitness studios.
  • Social networking apps
    The success of location-based app development is partly due to the prevalence of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat in the modern Internet browsing habits. Geotags help a lot in this regard, marking a user's location and forwarding this information to interested parties.
  • Games and AR
    Surging popularity of mobile devices with built-in GPS capabilities and powerful processors has triggered demand for gaming apps that blend augmented reality and analog worlds. Currently, there are plenty of location-based applications outside of Pokemon Go, Zombies, Run, and Ingress.
  • On-demand services apps
    This type of app relies on a user's location to suggest the most convenient and closest service providers or local businesses. Be it a taxi-hailing platform like Uber or a food delivery service like Bolt Food, it takes a couple of clicks to get matched with the most relevant offering.
  • Travel apps
    Geolocation capabilities are a must for any modern app for travelers since they come in handy for various aspects. From new route planning, turn-by-turn navigation to booking restaurants and hotel rooms in a local area, travel apps provide end-to-end coverage of user needs. 

Why Do You Need Geolocation in Your App?

Now that you are familiar with what types of software we are talking about, let's turn to the value they bring to the table.

  1. To launch efficient marketing campaigns. A geolocation app can provide a wide variety of interaction points with potential customers. Location-enhanced marketing is growing by leaps and bounds and fueling the demand for advanced technologies in that sphere. The market size for that niche is expected to reach $133 Billion by 2026, as projected by
  2. To provide accurate information 24/7. Location-based mobile app development helps to raise awareness about upcoming events and provides real-time updates about nearby locations.
  3. To communicate with users and boost engagement. Businesses can encourage users to tag the places they've visited, leave reviews and submit the latest feedback on a map.  
  4. To capture the audiences where they are. When businesses are aware of the exact location of a targeted user, they can use one of the outreach methods and leave a memorable impression on potential customers.

Core Features of Geolocation Applications

You can include the essentials of geolocation display and detection in the first place to test a business idea. Next, you may come up with a more complex feature set that will be based on your main focus, objectives, OKRs and KPIs. In any event, the number of selected features and their complexity will influence the overall app creation cost.

Popular Geolocation App Features

You need to shortlist the key features that meet basic user's needs and expectations, for instance:

  1. Detection of device location
  2. A map view with zoom-in and zoom-out features
  3. Mapping with a offline mode view
  4. A finder of places of interest
  5. Routing and navigation
  6. Calculation of time of arrival and departure
  7. Voice search
  8. Rating and reviews
  9. Location-based notifications
  10. Location view history.

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Need a custom location-based app?

Let's cooperate! Drop us a line and we will get back to you quick as a wink.

Contact us

Which Technologies Power Location-Based Mobile App Development?

Before we move on to enlisting the right technologies to use for location-based app development, let's turn to its innerworkings.

First, it is necessary to factor in all the components of the process to make it work as intended. They include:

  • location-detecting apps;
  • maps;
  • and an end user's device with a mobile interface (iOS, Android, a fitness tracker, or an IoT device).

Plus, adding high-performing maps that can provide error-free user experience thanks to map clustering with React Native can be used to improve a map's performance under heavy load.

So, the main goal is to let all the parties communicate and ensure a seamless data flow among every touchpoint. For that reason, you must use separate ready-made location-based APIs for each device to connect it to one of the chosen maps, e.g.:

iOS devices:

Google Maps API, Core Location API, Apple Mapkit, Google Maps SDK

Android devices:

Google Location Services API, Android.location package, Google Distance Matrix API, etc.

Here's how the process looks like:

  1. A user with a GPS device receives radio signals from one of the satellites.
  2. A GPS chip identifies the exact user's location.
  3. Apps take into account the location point and assess the proximity of relevant objects.
  4. Last, one of the chosen in-app maps plugs in to generate the most optimal point-to-point route.

Apart from GPS, a smartphone's location can also be determined with the help of other tools. They can be further divided into two groups: outdoor and indoor.

Tools for Determining Outdoor and Indoor Locations

Outdoor technologies include:

  • Cell ID. A unique identifier received by the closest transceiver tower.
  • Assisted GPS. This technology embraces Cell ID and GPS signals so that the location-aware app knows where to search for satellites.
  • Wi-Fi location. You can also use local signals from Wi-Fi access points to pinpoint a user location.

As for indoor technologies, they allow for tracking user devices inside a building. Here's a quick overview of the most used ones:

  • BLE technologies represented by Apple's iBeacon and Google's Eddystone. They send unique identifiers to a specialized application and trigger certain actions depending on the context. Browse our iBeacon case study for more insights.
  • Another way to trigger a pre-programmed action indoors is to utilize geo-fencing. When visitors enter a certain area, they receive notifications or ads based on their device permissions.

How to Make a Location-Based App in 6 Steps

Having explored the technical arsenal required to implement a location-based development process, we are ready to cover the steps to create an application. If you wonder how to create a location-based app, continue reading the article for a quick rundown.

Create a Location-Based App in 6 Steps

Step 1. Conduct Thorough Market Research

The first thing to do is to come up with a viable business idea that takes into account the many faces of the research process. You should know your potential customers and their problems, this kind of information is usually analyzed during the project discovery phase.

Are you going to resolve them with your location-based app? Hence, you need proof of concept (POC). Another critical issue is to ensure that you can provide a unique benefit that will give an edge over the competition.

Step 2. Define the Pool of Core Features

Now, you can move on to determining the main functionality that will power the application-to-be. Think of the top must-have things that are vital for your app as you work on your product roadmap and feature prioritization.

It is necessary not to overcharge the first version of your geolocation app with extensive functionality, but rather focus on the core functionality as you build an MVP. With it, you will have the opportunity to validate your business idea and figure out the things that don't work for your particular business as you try to find product-market fit.

Step 3. Design the App and Interface Elements

When it comes to building custom mobile applications, simple, easy-to-use, and intuitive interfaces remain one of the top priorities. In this respect, location-based apps are no exception. You should strive to develop an intuitive navigation system and integrate a unique vision into your first prototypes.

Step 4. Select the Technology That Responds to Your Needs

Once you've approved the design and core functionality of your location-based application, it is necessary to define the tech stack that will help to implement the solution. You can rely on traditional GPS technology or go with cellular networks or beacons to detect user location. Moreover, consider the mobile platform that you are going to use and the necessity to implement it as a web version as various types of apps may have their own peculiarities in this respect.

Step 5. Initiate a Software Development Process

At this stage, you need to engage mobile and web developers to complete separate parts of the application. To make this process manageable and transparent, we recommend splitting the coding process into small chunks: two-week sprints.

During each sprint, developers deliver one of the functionalities, while QA engineers handle the QA processes and ensure that it works as intended. Such a software development approach allows for achieving better results more effectively, that's why Upsilon uses the sprint-based pricing model too.

Step 6. Release the App on Production Servers

Last, make the app available on Android or iOS and let users interact with your awesome location-based solution.

Challenges in Building a Geolocation App and How to Solve Them

You can't afford risking your reputation and market position if something goes wrong. That's why, we recommend assessing the potential issues that are associated with location-based app development. Let's have a quick overview of the most widespread roadblocks and explore the ways to overcome them.

Why Is Building a Location-Based App Hard?

Compliance Concerns

Data-intensive apps using location-based capabilities need to comply with industry-specific stringent local regulations. Failure to comply may result in heavy fines and damaged reputation, which can have negative effects in the long-term.

Here's what you can do to comply with legal requirements, like GDPR:

  • keep the quantity of the collected data to a minimum;
  • utilize it only for intended purpose;
  • erase the data frequently.

Data Safety Concerns

Users need to be sure that their personal data is not tracked by scammers. No one wants to deal with compromised apps without secure authorization or unencrypted accounts.

So, how to ensure data safety and avoid being blocked from the App Store or Google Play?

  • implement official security guidelines;
  • ensure two-factor authentication;
  • update security patches in all third-party tools;
  • leverage the best practices of data encryption.

Inaccuracy in Geolocation Readings

Lack of data precision on your geolocation app can turn away potential users once and for all. Instead of calculating the fastest way to Starbucks, it can distort a route and make drivers lose valuable time. And if that is not a crucial feature for apps like Tinder, navigation apps need to have a certain level of accuracy and precision. To avoid this challenge, you need to figure out the accuracy rate for the developed application.

Permission-Based Character of App Functioning

As users need to allow a location-based app to track their location, businesses need to obtain their permission in the first place. Although many users are aware of the value of GPS tracking, some of them may be put away by transparency issues. Here's what you can do to avoid them:

  • ask for geolocation permission in a relevant context;
  • stay transparent and clear about the value of users' permission;
  • work with objections in a straightforward way.

Have a geolocation app idea?

We are here to consult you on the options and how to get most of them.

Let's talk!

Have a geolocation app idea?

We are here to consult you on the options and how to get most of them.

Let's talk!

Final Thoughts

In this piece, we aimed to explore why modern businesses can use geo-based apps to increase their revenues and outperform their industry competitors. We went through the most relevant information related to geolocation app development from technical and business perspectives.

Location-based apps and services enjoy a high demand from ordinary consumers and business users alike. There are limitless possibilities to launch a successful software product. Don't hesitate to talk to our experts to find even more about our mobile application development services and the growth opportunities for your startup!

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