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App Development
6 minutes read

How to Create a Location-Based App

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
6 minutes read

If you want to create unique experiences for your customers and users, you’re likely wondering how to create a location-based app. Location-based services have been a popular part of modern mobile app development because they allow businesses to interact with their users in new and exciting ways. 

You might be wondering why you should include location-based services in your product design. Additionally, you might be thinking that your business can’t benefit from a location-based app. The truth is almost any app can provide a better User Experience with the aid of geolocation features. 

We’ll explain why you should strongly consider creating a location-based app. Plus, we will explore the most popular tools that can be used to create a location-based app.

Why Should You Create a Location-Based App? 

You might think that location-based mobile apps are only map apps, weather apps, or services like Uber. However, you would be wrong. The truth is most modern mobile apps include location-based services. If you are an iPhone user, you have likely seen this message many times, “Allow [Name of App] to access your location while using the app?”. 

Next time you are using an app on your phone, check the status bar at the top of your screen to see if your location is being used. You will likely be surprised to learn how many apps rely on location-based services to deliver high-quality services and experiences. Let’s take a look at a few examples of apps that use geolocation features, even though it would seem unnecessary for the app’s function. 

Chase and other banking apps use location-based data. What benefit could a banking app like Chase get from including location-based app features? Several, however, the primary way Chase can use location-based data is to show users where the nearest ATMs and Chase branches are. Additionally, the app can use a user's location to provide more robust security and flag suspicious activity, especially if it originates from a weird location. 

Other common location-based apps are social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. Once again, you might wonder why an app like Facebook or Snapchat would need access to your location data. These apps use location data to help connect you with users, events, and content that is unique to your local area. Social networking is all about connecting people, and location-based apps can effectively match people who live in the same areas, go to the same places, and know some of the same people. 

Several mobile games, especially those that utilize Augmented Reality features like Pokemon Go, also use location-based services to create immersive experiences for users based on their real-world location. In the example of Pokemon Go, users can find unique Pokemon in their local area and compete with other local users. 

The few location-based app examples above are just a few of the ways location data can be used by more than just map and weather apps. There are a lot of opportunities to use location-based apps to boost user acquisition and strengthen user retention in every industry. For example, imagine being able to send your eCommerce customers in-store coupons directly to their phone when they visit your physical retail location. This can be done thanks to features like geofencing.

What Tools Can You Use to Build a Location-Based App?

Now that you can see the value of building a location-based app, you’re likely wondering what tools you need to use to build it. The easiest way to create a location-based app is to use an API. APIs significantly simplify the app development process. Developers can use APIs to add features such as location services to their apps without having to build their own solutions. 

The top APIs used in geolocation app development are:

  • Google Maps 
  • Mapbox 
  • TomTom

Google Maps 

Google Maps is the most popular geolocation API. In reality, Google Maps is a large collection of different SDKs and APIs. Recently, Google packaged its popular geolocation APIs and SDKs into three different packages:

  • Maps
  • Routes 
  • Places

Each package contains multiple APIs that help create apps with different geolocation features. Maps is all about Google Maps, and it allows developers to add various types of interactive and static maps to their applications or websites. Maps also enable developers to include real-world street views too.

Routes is a collection of APIs that take Maps to the next level. With this collection of APIs, developers can add features that allow users to get directions between two points on the map, see real-time traffic conditions, and by using the Google Distance Matrix API, even calculate accurate travel times based on the route and traffic conditions. 

The Places collection of APIs gives businesses a chance to add location-based services to their products that allow users to search for local businesses and places of interest on the map. Users can see real-world images of the places near them, call them, or even connect with them online through their website. 

When you put all three of these distinct packages together, you get one comprehensive Google Map solution that gives users a wide range of functionality. Your app might not require all of these packages in order to provide the location-based services your business needs. 

Mapbox 

Mapbox is another popular API used by developers. This tool is used by companies like Facebook, Shopify, and CNN, to name a few. It doesn’t have as many features and packages as Google Maps, but it includes map, navigation, and geocoding APIs. Plus, Mapbox also has a developer studio that allows designers and developers to create unique designs and manage the geolocation data they collect. 

TomTom

TomTom is another popular tool used to build location-based apps. Like Mapbox, TomTom does not have as many features and tools as Google Maps, but it is a popular choice for developers. TomTom is the location-based services tool of choice for several illustrious companies, such as Microsoft, Trivago, and Michelin. TomTom includes APIs for maps, routing, traffic, and map search. 

Final Thoughts

Google Maps is the dominant, most robust location-based service offering on the market, but there are other workable options as well. If you are trying to build a world-class location-based app, reach out to an app development partner

A partner will use their technical expertise and industry experience to help you create a geolocation app that meets your needs. If you need to know how to create a location-based app, find a partner that will take the time to understand your unique business needs. 

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