Android apps that help you get around


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Android apps that help you get around

An Android phone showing a map location pin

What's coming up?

In this activity you'll learn about apps that use your device's location services feature, including how to control which apps can access your location, and in what situations these apps are safe to use.

You'll also learn what to do if you'd prefer your location wasn't used by any apps at all.

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How your phone knows your location

An Android phone can work out its location, with an accuracy of five metres or so. This sensitive information is kept secure by your phone's operating software and is part of a feature called Location.

A graphic of the earth showing various map locations around the globe
The Use location setting switch that controls if apps can use this feature

How to turn the Location feature on and off

You can control which apps can use Location, and even turn off the feature entirely. You can find Location in the Settings app, although you may need to scroll the main Settings screen to see it.

On the Location screen, tap the switch next to Use location to turn it off. This is the easiest way to get peace of mind that no app can track your location at all.

How to tell which apps can access your location

The Location settings page has a list of which apps on your Android phone can access your location. You'll see apps that recently used your location in the middle of the screen.

Tap App location permissions to see which apps are allowed to use some or all of the location data your phone can provide.

The Location Settings panel showing apps that are allowed to use the phone's location
The Locatio Permission panel showing the Don't allow option has been selected

Control how and when apps access your location

You can choose when an app is allowed to access your location. On the Location permission screen, tap an app in the list to set its permissions. These appear on the next screen.

If you choose Don't allow, the app will be blocked from accessing your location, and some features of the app may also stop working.

An icon of a padlock

eSafety tip

If you are worried that an app might keep tabs on your location in the background, you can set its access to Allow only while using the app. This means the app will be blocked from accessing your location as soon as you load another app or return to the Home screen.

The Google Maps app

One of the most useful location-aware apps is Google Maps. It works like a street directory, except instead of having to work out which page you are on, Google Maps centres the map on your current location, and updates the map as your location changes. If you type an address in to the Search bar, the map will change to show that address.

The Google Maps app icon
An Android phone showing a zoomed in look at a map

Using the Google Maps app to get around

Google Maps can give you directions, either between two or more addresses, or from a current location to an address.

You'll see the route drawn on the map, as well as the distance and how long it will take to get there based on your mode of transport.

Search using the Google Maps app

If you don't know the street address of where you want to go, you can also search for business names, or categories like Thai restaurant or Service NSW office.

Google Maps will show some results and when you choose the one you want, the map will centre on the street address, and you can use this to get directions.

An Android phone using Google Maps to find nearby services
The walking, driving, and using public transport icons for Google Maps

How to choose different kinds of directions

By default, Google Maps gives directions for driving. But you can tell Maps that you're walking, or using public transport, and it will change the route accordingly.

It will also change the estimated travel time, and depending on where you are, may also show information about when buses, trains, and ferry services depart, as well as which platform or pier to go to.

How location services can find a lost phone

If you misplace your device, you can use the Google Find My Device app to see the phone's last known location.

Find My Device is both a service and an app on your device, and it works with an Android phone or tablet.

The Find My Device app icon
The Find My Device, Google Cloud and map pin icons

How Find My Device works on your phone

Find My Device works with Google cloud services to keep tabs on your device's location. If the device goes missing, you can check its last known location using the Find My Device app on any Android device.

If you don't own another Android device, you can use your computer's web browser to access the web app version of Find My Device.

An icon of a padlock

eSafety tip

You can find out more about how to set up and use the various features of the Find My Device app in the Android phone: Cloud location services and Android phone: Cloud backup and photo sharing courses.

Other apps that use Location

While Google Maps and Find My Device make use of your Android phone's exact location, other apps just need to know which suburb or city you're in.

Weather apps can use your location to get current conditions and forecasts from the weather reporting station that's the best fit for your exact address, rather than your wider suburb or town.

A weather app icon of a sun
Icons for alerts, messages and map pins

Other apps that use Location (cont'd)

Traffic apps can use your location to notify you of delays nearby. There are also apps that track bushfires and other potentially dangerous situations such as storms or flood. As well as showing incidents and hazards on a map, these apps will send notifications, and use your location to warn you if you need to evacuate.

A zoomed in look at a Google Maps app being used on an Android phone

Well done!

This is the end of the Android apps that help you get around activity. You've learned about how some of your phone's apps use Location to help you get around and find a missing device.

If you're a registered user, you can now complete a short quiz to test your learning. If you're not registered, this is now the end of the Apps that come with your Android phone course.