All about location services


Close lesson
You have completed 0%

All about location services

smartphone with location icon displaying

What's coming up?

In this activity you’ll learn how your phone knows its (and your) location, and how you can use this feature safely. You’ll also learn how to turn off this location feature, if you’re not comfortable with using it.

Start activity

What your smartphones knows about your location

Your smartphone has a mix of hardware and software that gives it the ability to work out its location and show this location on a map. It’s accurate to within about five metres. This feature is called simply Location on some smartphones, or Location Services on others. You can find it in your phone settings, on both Android phones and iPhone.

earth with location pins on it
the google maps app icon

What your phone does with location

When your phone works out its location, it can share this data with apps that request it. For example, Google Maps uses your phone’s location to show your position on a map and to give you directions to a destination.

a locked padlock

eSafety tip

For tablets that are Wi-Fi only and don’t also have mobile data via a SIM card, the location is only approximate, and the tablet can’t guide you to a destination like a smartphone can.

Location services are safe to use

If you are comfortable with your phone knowing its location, then this feature is safe to use. There are lots of privacy rules on how your location is shared with apps, and this information does not include your name or any other personal information.

a location pin a person and a locked padlock
Google maps requesting access to location services

Apps must ask for permission

An app on your phone cannot access the phone’s location unless it asks for permission. When you first use an app like Google Maps, a pop up will say that the app needs to know your location. You can accept or decline this permission request.

You can turn off location services altogether

To stop your phone from tracking its location, and to stop any apps from being able to access this information, you can turn off Location services. Look in your phone’s settings to find Location and near the top of the settings you’ll see a switch. Turn this off to stop your phone from tracking its location.

You can find out more about location settings on your iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet in the Using the cloud topic.

The location services settings
Allowing an app to use your location

Turning off location stops some apps from working

If you turn off Location Services altogether, some of your phone’s functions may not work, and apps that need your location won’t work properly. If you forget that Location Services is turned off, an app like Google Maps will remind you the next time you use it, and you can turn the feature back on if you want to.

Always be aware when an app knows your location

The safest way to use Location Services is to be aware when an app is accessing your phone’s location. Most apps make it obvious, such as mapping apps or apps that show things nearby (such as restaurants). Your web browser app can also ask for your location, such as when you are accessing a supermarket website to place an order.

The google maps, chrome and apple maps icons
Google on a smartphone

Most phones show when location is being accessed

Most smartphones show a special icon in the status bar, whenever an app is accessing your phone’s location. This icon differs depending on your model of phone, but in most instances, it looks something like a map pin or a compass.

Well done!

This is the end of the All about location services activity. You’ve learned how your phone (and some tablets) can work out their location, and how apps use this.

Up next, in the Using the Google Maps app activity, you’ll learn about some of the useful extra features of this app and how it can do more than just show you the way to a destination.

a location pin, a person and a locked padlock