When we think about apps that use location data, navigation, taxi apps, or apps with venue reviews come to mind first. Not only Tinder leverages your location (thanks to the free feature allowing you to “travel” around the world during lockdown) but Airbnb, your favorite food delivery service, fitness apps, and even apps that manage your contacts and remind you to call someone when you get home.
So location data use cases extend far beyond data usage alone — some apps provide valuable recommendations (events suggestions, for instance), ads (don’t say they are always useless), or articles (Google picks up content based on your travel history).
Since our expertise with location-based apps covers a few industries mentioned above, we’ve gathered the main suggestions for the features, challenges, as well as price estimations in this guide.
Table of contentWhat Are Location-Based Apps?What Are the Essential Features of Every Location-Based Application?How to Create a Location-Based App: Tips for DevelopmentChallenges of Developing Location-Based AppsHow Much Does It Cost to Create a Location-Based App?Why Weelorum Is a Good Partner in Developing Your Location-Based Mobile AppFinal ThoughtsFAQ
What Are Location-Based Apps?
Location-based apps utilize cellular network data to determine the user’s location. This method relies on triangulation, where the app calculates the distance between the user’s device and nearby cell towers. The app can approximate the user’s location by analyzing the signal strength from multiple towers. While not as accurate as GPS, cellular network data can provide reasonably precise location information. Other technologies used include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, QR codes, etc.
Here are a few common types of location-based apps:
1. Navigation Apps
These handy apps that help to navigate in any location are used by nearly everyone with a smartphone and internet access. Navigation applications are interactive, real-time maps that track users’ locations and geographical details, guiding them to a required destination with voice assistance or map indicators.
Some excellent examples of navigation apps include:
- Google Maps. This app is definitely the benchmark for competitors. It has tons of locations, street-level photography, and built-in review functionality. There are accessibility features like adjusting text size for better visibility or a TalkBack screen reader on Android. You can also download a version for offline use. However, it doesn’t provide accurate data for some countries — bus stops in Malta were a weak spot just before the pandemic – just one example.
- Waze. Waze was also developed by Google. With over 150 million active users, it’s less popular than Google Maps (over 1 billion active users) but is definitely catching up. While Google Maps prioritizes the discovery of businesses and landmarks, Waze is focused primarily on getting you from point A to point B and finding the best direction with less traffic. The app is excellent for checking for traffic jams, police locations, and other types of useful info. Unlike Google Maps, which has one voice option per region, Waze offers you several voice options for different languages and the ability to add your own voice.
- MapQuest. Starting from 1996, MapQuest has been pioneering commercial web mapping services. It’s a free navigation app that employs the same old-fashioned turn-by-turn navigation. Live traffic updates, re-routing, and cheaper gas search options are available.
- Maps.Me. This free navigation and GPS app has offline maps, turn-by-turn directions, offline searching, traffic data, and worldwide support. It’s a close competitor to Google Maps and offers free, high-quality maps that you can download for the whole world or a specific region.
2. e-Commerce Apps
e-Commerce apps have brought the shopping experience to users’ fingertips, allowing them to explore, buy, and manage their orders effortlessly via their devices. Navigation technologies enable companies and shopping malls to know where their customers are so that they can provide them with the most relevant information, like the nearest store and ongoing sales there. Geolocation also allows users to track the status of their orders and receive notifications before heading to the store.
Here’s how it works: by granting the app permission to access their location, geolocation technologies use GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular network data to determine users’ whereabouts. The app can then curate tailored content based on one’s location.
One good example of e-commerce apps utilizing geolocation is Amazon. It uses geolocation to display localized product recommendations, highlights nearby pickup locations for order deliveries, and helps users find Amazon Lockers quickly. For instance, if a user is in Seattle, Amazon will display local deals for businesses located in Seattle.
3. Delivery Apps
Delivery apps rely on location data for customers, businesses, and delivery personnel. That’s how you find the nearest restaurant to pick up your food — and don’t have to wait hours for ordered pizza on a Friday night.
Delivery apps use the same technologies as navigation apps to deliver goods to their customers as fast as possible. For example, Uber Eats, a food delivery app, uses geolocation functionality to help users explore nearby restaurants, place orders, and track their delivery on a map.
Another example is Instacart, a grocery delivery app. Instacart intelligently employs geolocation to offer users grocery stores within their vicinity so that they can conveniently shop in their area.
4. Safety and Location-Tracking Apps
Safety apps are offered for kids, the elderly, and even pets, sharing their location with a trusted circle and asking for emergency aid. Some of these apps simply notify family members if a tracked person or animal (Pod Trackers, FitBark) went out of the allowed area. Others — provide an SOS button that will send the exact location if it’s used for an emergency.
An example of a safety and location-tracking app is Life360. It enables users to establish circles comprising their family members or close friends. Real-time location sharing helps family members to keep track of one another and offers support if necessary.
Another example is bSafe. Besides real-time location sharing, bSafe has incorporated an SOS button and a walk-along feature, so friends or family members can virtually accompany a user while walking home. While Life360 offers tracking for those within your circle, bSafe allows you to track contacts on your device.
5. Fitness Apps
Fitness apps became even more popular during COVID-19, gaining a 45% boost in users in 2020. They enable users to track their physical activity, set fitness goals, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Fitness apps can also suggest nearby fitness classes, gyms, or outdoor workout spots based on the user’s location. Users can participate in location-based challenges or compete with others in specific areas.
Running apps like Strava track your location and transform it into fitness data. For example, Strava can monitor outdoor activities, record routes, and provide detailed analytics on performance metrics, such as distance, speed, and elevation. It also allows users to explore and compete on popular segments in their area, fostering a sense of community and competition.
Runners and cyclists can use Strava’s route builder to create their routes, see how long it will take to complete, and whether it matches their workout goals.
Another example of fitness apps is Polar Flow. Paired with a wearable device, it allows users to accurately track their location using GPS for over 100 sports like swimming, climbing, and golf.
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What Are the Essential Features of Every Location-Based Application?
To deliver the best user experience, location-based apps have to incorporate certain features:
Map integration is a fundamental feature of location-based applications. It allows users to explore nearby locations easily and plan their routes. Users get help navigating unfamiliar areas with accurate directions and uncovering places worth exploring.
Location tracking provides users with real-time location determination, as well as the places they visit. It enables users to see the distance they have covered, or how much is left to go, share their location with other people, and receive alerts when others are nearby. This feature is also widely used for tracking orders.
Location-based filters let users see personalized search results based on their current location. Apps with this functionality can offer recommendations, search outcomes, and information directly relevant to the user’s geographical area. For example, if you travel to a new city and want to find a restaurant from the same chain, the app’s built-in filter will display only restaurants within walking distance of your location.
Voice Search and Navigation
Voice control plays a role in applications targeting users who are on the move. It offers the convenience of hands-free operation, enabling people to interact with the application using voice commands. This functionality is important from a safety standpoint as it allows individuals to use location-based apps while driving or engaging in tasks that demand their full attention.
Voice navigation is indispensable for drivers. It provides spoken directions and prompts, so they can navigate without visual distractions.
By integrating route options, traffic alerts, and notifications into the voice navigation functionality, drivers can make informed decisions on the go, choose the most suitable route, and stay updated with real-time traffic conditions.
One of the best features of a navigation app is its ability to display notifications about your location. This feature can alert users about events nearby or send a notification when they have reached a destination (or are approaching any other point along their route). For example, notifications can include an arrival time estimate, so users can plan their time more efficiently.
Location-based apps can provide suggestions, including nearby attractions, restaurants, events, or activities that align with the user’s interests. The location-based apps suggest a rest stop based on how much driving you have left to do and the time of day. It can also recommend a better route based on your location and route impediments like traffic jams nearby.
How to Create a Location-Based App: Tips for Development
Apart from integrating maps and basic location services, you need to consider other aspects of developing a location-based app, including research, design, feature prioritization, etc.
Conduct Market Research
Market research is a clear first step in the app development process. Start by conducting competitor research to find out the strong and weak points of your competitors. User research will give you valuable insights into how people use location-based apps and what they expect from them. Ask yourself, how do you plan to differentiate? Is the problem you’re solving big enough? It will help you understand how your app might stand out among those competitors you’ve found.
Create a Monetization Strategy
You need to devise a precise monetization strategy for your app, so it will generate enough revenue, if you’re not aiming for a non-profit app. As soon as you do research and identify your target audience, you should move to a monetization model, pricing, trial periods, payment systems, compliance with app stores guidelines and data storage/collection regulations.
Having thoroughly considered all these aspects, you will come up with a strategy that will keep you afloat while generating a steady stream of revenue. And feel free to ask for external help if you’re not a monetization pro – starting from books (like Business model generation) to hiring a marketing specialist or an agency.
Select Your Trusted Dev Partner
Before getting here, think about your criterias. What is important for you when working with someone? What is your experience with developers, if any? Based on that you can come up with your own checklist, where you can add more common recommendations. Evaluating their portfolio, client feedback, and technical capabilities should be there of course. Make sure location-based apps are among those development team worked on and talk a bit about challenges and specifics of those. You can also hire a few specialist fo different aspects of the app, but again, think about your criterias first and how important for you is to work with just one team all the time.
Plan Your UI/UX Design Concepts
User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design play a critical role in the success of any app. Aim for a visually appealing, intuitive design that facilitates seamless navigation and interaction. Ensure that app buttons are visible, fonts are easy to read, colors have sufficient contrast, and the user flow is logical and intuitive. Working with UI/UX specialists try to choose those who make their decisions based on data and research, not only personal opinion or experience.
Add Handy Features
When developing a location-based app, balancing functionality and simplicity is essential. Avoid overwhelming users with excessive, unnecessary features, particularly in the initial stages after the app’s release. Plan your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or a basic set of essential features wisely. Don’t neglect the testing stage; it will help you identify and get rid of bugs early on, ensuring users get a functional product that meets industry standards.
Gamification is an effective way to increase user engagement and retention in your location-based app. Add gamification functionalities that make the product more enjoyable and encourage users to return frequently (retention is one of the key metrics app owners should follow).
For example, implement a points and achievements system to reward users for completing specific tasks or reaching milestones. Integration of a leaderboard functionality can foster healthy competition among users, motivating them to participate actively in the app’s activities.
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Challenges of Developing Location-Based Apps
Creating location-based apps presents unique challenges, especially related to the privacy implications of using a user’s location data. To avoid alienating your audience, developers should tackle the following set of challenges:
Users want to know that their personal information is safe from prying eyes. They also expect your app not to leak any personal information or track them without their consent. The moment users realize that their privacy has been violated, they will abandon using your app or worst — fill a lawsuit for your breach.
Location precision challenges are a common issue in the development of location-based apps. With GPS, it’s possible to pinpoint your location within a few feet, but if you’re indoors or inside a building this becomes much more difficult. Wi-Fi and cellular networks are great solutions only when there is a connection to a network.
These issues make developing precise location-based apps challenging. They require engineers to account for these situations in their code and come up with solutions so that users don’t have accidental coordinates sent using their apps.
Privacy and Ethics
Ethical considerations involve ensuring that the app’s features and functionalities are designed to benefit users without compromising their well-being or infringing upon their rights. iOS is a closed-source operating system and with a much more stringent application approval process than Android.
To stay within legal limits, location-based apps have to avoid invasive or unethical use of location data, such as tracking individuals without consent or selling user data to third parties without explicit permission. Implement anonymization techniques to protect user identities when handling location data. Consider incorporating privacy-enhancing technologies, such as differential privacy, to balance delivering personalized experiences while preserving user privacy. Regularly review and update privacy practices to align with evolving privacy regulations and user expectations.
How Much Does It Cost to Create a Location-Based App?
The cost of creating a location-based app depends on the details of your project. Here are the factors that impact the end cost of a navigation app:
- The expertise of the developer team.
- The number of developers.
- The complexity of the project, including the number of features to be integrated.
- The type of the app (native, web, cross-platform).
- The urgency of your project.
- How extensive QA testing is.
- The cost of licenses for Application Programming Interface (API) to be integrated.
The factors above basically come down to how much time your project will take and how much you will pay for every hour spent. A rough estimate is about 2,000 hours of work to bring your project to the production stage, which is $60,000 to $80,000.
Why Weelorum Is a Good Partner in Developing Your Location-Based Mobile App
First of all, our portfolio has location-based apps from different industries and for several use cases: social, e-commerce, apps for travelers, and more. For all of them, we’ve implemented location accuracy mechanisms that prevent users from sending wrong coordinates to the app accidentally.
You should trust deeds, not words. Here are some of the apps mentioned:
Photo Copy. An application for photographers and travelers, where they can find the best photo spots on the map, connect with other photographers, and share their best works with the public.
Ghasla. An application for car washing services in Algeria. Submit a request from wherever you are, and enjoy your clean car in a while.
Vortex. An application for mobile car steam wash in the UAE, which you can use to book a service, pay online, and track steamers.
Contact us if you need help with location-based application development or any other project, regardless of complexity.
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Location-based applications have a lot to offer. People use them to map routes, track distance and orders, receive custom notifications, and navigate the world. They can also be a great way to improve your business.
Development of location-based apps comes with certain challenges that can make it quite a risky endeavor if you don’t plan them out carefully or never faced them in the past. However, if you do your research and use the tips in this article, you will create a location-based app that people will be keen to use!
Is it hard to develop a location-based app?
Developing a functional location-based app may be difficult for a developer since there are more factors to consider than coding and designing. But if you have a team of professionals with location-based apps development experience, they will know how to strategize the process effectively.
How do I build a location-based app that will succeed in the market?
Successful location-based apps take a lot of hard work to develop and mostly - synergy between the customer, development team and ideally - marketing team. Planning, conducting research, and implementing features are only the tip of the iceberg. So make sure you think about marketing budget, do proper market research and involve development team into the product creation so they feel more involved and help you with your choices along the way.
Aren't there new, more accurate location data-gathering options?
There are new methods of extracting location data like 5G technology, Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS), and ML algorithms. However, they are based on existing technologies like GPS, cellular networks, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.