How to Build a Geolocation App for IOS and Android?

Geolocation mobile app

In the following article we will try to figure out how to build an app with geolocation and review the reasons for it, the way it can be  realized, general things that should be considered in geolocation app development for startup and the risks involved in sharing location data to other people.

What is geolocation and what’s the purpose to use it in mobile applications

Geolocation is the technology implemented into modern mobile and PC applications that determine current location of the device on which this tech is launched. It tends to have wider usage in the developing of up-to-date applications for all common modern mobile operating systems like Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and others as it is a relatively new feature that provides users with functions which weren’t available in the recent past.

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are able to attach geolocation data to the user’s posts, with the consent, of the user so other people can see from what place this message was sent. But while Facebook and Twitter use geolocation as an additional feature, there are special geolocation mobile apps such as Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla or Brightkite that put this technology at centre stage.

These applications provide users with the possibility to check-in at restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs, theaters, offices or at any other place to share their current location with people they know or with whomever they allowed access to this information. They can also rate specific place(usually from 1 to 5) to recommend it or not to other users and gain recommendation themselves to decide on where they wanna go.

Geolocation in mobile applications

Features that lure people to use such applications

In order to keep users more interested, the application should give points for check-ins and build statistics to create a kind of competition between users. Later, you can gain some real bonuses from that just by pushing several buttons on your smartphone, for example – free drinks and discounts, because many companies around the world encourage checking in at their establishments as it can increase brand awareness and attract new customers. The most reliable recommendation is when people see the high rating which was given by others.

Among interesting ideas for developers, there is a possibility to make custom tours across the sights and other interesting places of the city. This feature is realized in the application called Gowalla. Also, it could make human interaction in mobile games and apps a lot easier – the number of things you can do is limited to your imagination, the size and type of your business and the possibilities the modern technology offers to you.

Nowadays, some retailers use location information to look after sales activities at their stores and ask customers for feedback to reveal some shortages in their businesses, evaluate demand for specific products in particular areas and to improve successfulness of their outlets.

Location information in mobile app

Hand Pointing at Map of Madrid

How it works and what features should be taken into account in geolocation app development

Basically, geolocation applications perform three functions:

  • Determine your current location
  • Share it with other people
  • Connect your whereabouts to the location of other objects around you

Every modern smartphone has Global Positioning System (GPS) chip installed. This chip receives the information about timing and location sent by the satellites and uses it to determine the location of the device. The phone needs to receive the data from at least 4 satellites to provide more or less accurate location (with accuracy close to 60 feet).

When GPS is unavailable for any reason, the phone’s Cell ID can help by comparing the user data with the station’s database, and it works well in big cities. Sometimes both methods are combined to improve the precision.

Wi-Fi technology can be used to determine the user’s position in almost the same way as Cell ID, but it’s worth taking into account because this tech is realized a lot more precisely due to the smaller areas of Wi-Fi coverage. RSSI (receive a signal strength indicator) allows increasing the accuracy up to 2 meters.

Then, Google Maps can be used to determine this location in a comprehensible way. There is a Google Maps API for iOS and Android, which allows various advanced features and offers good performance, which easily makes it the most important tool for geolocation.

Geofencing is used to determine the user’s distance from a particular point. There exist three types of geofencing: static, dynamic and combined. First one is related to user’s position near a specific point, such as a store or a movie theater.

The second one is determined by the user’s location in the changing data stream – e.g. notifications about available seats in the movie theater or new offers in the nearby store. The combined approach, however, is about the interactions with other users – such as check-ins with apps provided Facebook and other social networks.

In the following section of the article, there is presented a ready-made recipe for developing a typical geolocation mobile app.

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Geolocation app development

API’s compatibility with iOS and Android mobile operating systems

Every application cooperates with the mobile operating system by the use of APIs (Application Programming Interface). Typically, there are two APIs that are used to integrate geolocation in the mobile app, according to their functionality.

The first one is used to determine the location of a user or of a particular object if the user decides to enter its address or coordinates manually. As mentioned above, it is done by means of GPS, Wi-Fi or Cell ID.

The second API is used to find nearest hotels, cafes or restaurants around a certain location on the map of the application. In this case, the first API is not used, as it’s not necessary for providing this function.

For example, the user can point his phone in the air and gain information about planes that are flying around this area. The application will only locate coordinates of the device and connect to the server to gain information about certain flights.

iOS and macOS applications in the recent time have been developed by using the relatively new programming language called Swift which is compatible with the main Apple codebase that is written in Objective-C.

Geolocation is integrated into Android mobile applications by using Google Play Services API. You can use IntelliJ IDEA IDE or Android Studio IDE (Integrated development environment) to develop the application for Android and implement Google location service in it.

iOS and Android geolocation app

What risks and privacy concerns you should keep in mind if you are up to create a geolocation app

Understanding that not everyone likes to make their location public.

This makes it important to allow the users to keep their current location private or limit it and give access only to their trusted contacts, such as friends and family. When your location is shared with the general public when you’re using a location-based mobile app, you lose the control of this information, because now anyone sees you. The best practice, in this case, is to let the users customize these preferences before asking them to share their location.

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Respecting the user’s right to be informed.

You need to inform the user about what kind of data you’re collecting, how are you going to use it, and whether you are going to share it with third parties or not. The price of failure, in this case, is the user’s trust, and it’s essential to build it and keep it when it comes to the geolocation app development project.

Implementing additional security measures.

Sensitive information like this must be handled with extreme care. While these security measures mean additional work at extra cost, you’re making a safer experience for your audience.

So, as you can see, geolocation feature opens new horizons both for entrepreneurs and for startup developers, providing useful functions for mobile applications which are widely used by their owners. If you are interested in developing such applications, contact us to get more valuable information about geolocation app development. Hire us and we will live out your ideas in order to improve your business.