Smartphones use GPS, cellular and Wi-Fi location services to pinpoint their whereabouts with considerable precision, offering users navigation capabilities and enriching certain device features and apps with location context. Understand how to take advantage of the different location service settings offered by iOS.
Location Services is a feature offered by Apple that allows products using iOS the ability to communicate device location with certain location-based applications. Applications are able to determine the location of your device through GPS, cellular or Wi-Fi networks.
Many applications and websites rely on location data in order to answer search queries. For example, a search for the nearest gas stations using the Maps app would scan all gas stations in your area using the Location Services function. Settings such as date and time zone are also automatically updated based on your Location Services function. Location Services is a function that has to be manually activated by the user in the Settings area. iPhone users can choose to forgo the Location Services function, however use of certain applications will be severally limited as a result.
Users are prompted to enable Location Services during the Setup Assistant process. Once set up, users can turn Location Services on or off by visiting Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Here you can customize which particular apps have access to Location Services and which do not.
A purple or gray arrow icon appears in the status bar when the Location Services function is active.
It is worth pointing out however, that in emergency situations response vehicles are still able to locate your device location regardless of whether or not the Location Services button has been activated.
As mentioned earlier, Location Services determines your phone’s location through the use of GPS, cellular, Wi-Fi or even Bluetooth. If a device cannot pick up a clear GPS signal, it relies on nearby cellular towers or Wi-Fi networks. All apps that display your location on the screen, such as Maps, indicate the device location with a trademark blue circle or dot.
When Location Services is able to clearly and precisely determine your exact location, a smaller more defined circle will appear on the screen map. If your location cannot be determined precisely a larger blue circle will surround the blue location dot. This indicates an approximate location…so the larger the blue circle the more approximate or less precise the location will be.
Location based apps such as Maps are beholden to the data services available in particular areas. Depending on the data services available in a particular area, location information has the possibility of being incomplete or inaccurate. Generally speaking larger urban areas have better location information.
Other services become available once Location Services is turned on, such as Popular Near Me, Frequent Locations, and Location Based iAds. Popular Near Me is a feature that intermittently sends information to Apple based on your location—such as what apps you’ve used in what locations—to improve their crowd-sourced database used for marketing relevant apps to users. Frequent Locations keeps track of locations you’ve been to in order to make certain apps more efficient, such traffic routing in the Maps app. The iPhone also personalizes marketing messaging with Location-Based iAds that send ads to users based on the locations they’ve visited.
When an application wants to request permission to use a device’s Location Services feature for the first time an on-screen warning pops up. Once the user taps OK this gives the app permission to use Location Services data until manually told otherwise in Settings.