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How to Build a
Location-Based
 
App

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CHAPTER #1 What is a location-based app?

Smartphones became a necessity in the modern world, and the popularity of mobile apps grew. To become more competitive in this market, they started using GPS tracking, navigation, geofencing, and geolocation services APIs and maps. This way, location-based apps boost communication, make relevant offers, increase productivity, and find any object or place on Earth faster. They retrieve users’ location info and transfer it through Wi-Fi, cell tower data, and satellites. The more coordinate sources are available, the more precise the location is.

 

Development of location-based mobile apps involves using ready-made location services APIs, like Google Maps, Apple Maps, Pocket Earth, and others. These tools already contain the information you need to make your app work. They know most locations on the surface and offer relevant suggestions about directions and services. All you need is a team of experienced developers who will implement it into your app. The choice of API or map depends on what platform you need to target. Google Maps, though, is a universal solution, fitting Android, iOS, and Windows phones. 

The core value of location-based apps is that they make life much more convenient. Users don’t get lost in big cities and track their public transport. They find nearby drug stores and always know what route to take, avoiding traffic jams. With location-based apps, we become time-efficient and productive. However, it’s more than that.

 

We communicate

A significant share of communication happens in social media apps. They help to catch up with friends and get to know new people. Often, their algorithms analyze users’ information to show us better friendship recommendations, and the location is helpful in this way. It’s especially relevant in dating apps because they show you people who live in your city or district, thus, increasing a chance to meet.

Social media apps, like Instagram and Facebook, allow to tag locations in posts and stories. Besides communicative function, it also helps to boost businesses – an outcome many of us oversee. People often tag cafes, restaurants, stores, museums, and other locations, in a way, promoting other people to visit them, too. It creates indirect communication between consumers and brands.

 

We enjoy relevant content

As apps detect our location, they also make assumptions about the language we speak, the events we would be interested in, and places we would like to visit. Thus, your favorite E-Commerce app will not tell about discounts in their New York brick-and-mortar store if you live in Los Angeles. From suggesting cafes to advising services – you get information about the nearest locations that are worth exploring.

 

We travel and commute conveniently 

Today, we don’t play peekaboo with public transport because we can track it on our smartphones and be just in time to catch the bus or a train. Now, people don’t necessarily have mornings because of traffic jams. Location-based apps made it so much better to go through the day without being late or getting lost. As for travelers, it’s not scary anymore to appear in an unfamiliar city. Location-based apps will provide relevant advice about how to get to hotels, canteens, and airports. 

 

We automate daily tasks

Today even time management and planning apps have implemented location detection. It helps to keep all relevant information that influences productivity in one place. It also benefits our fitness life. From doing marathons to jogging in the park, location-based apps create an enormous opportunity to understand how many distances we’ve covered and where we can run next. 

CHAPTER #2 Types of location-based apps

E-Commerce stores

They often provide their customers with personalized offers in brick-and-mortar shops based on residence or location. Also, they have an opportunity to inform people about new store openings nearby. We at SapientPro developed such a product. 

 

Navigation and GPS tracking apps 

From taxi ordering to monitoring when buses arrive at your stop – these apps utilize location-based services the most. You also can detect traffic jams, accidents on the road, and choose the best routes with apps for drivers. We at SapientPro developed such a product. 

 

Social Media Networks

They allow you to tag location in posts and stories, share them with your friends, and find out where the most interesting events are situated. 

 

Dating apps

They utilize location-based services to match people who live nearby or at least in the same area. 

 

Delivery tracking apps

Postal services, E-Commerce stores, delivery services thrive with tracking services. Implemented into their main apps, they give users a sense of clarity. They always know where their parcel is, and that increases trust in the brand. We at SapientPro developed such a product. 

 

Travel apps

They contain the most necessary information that travelers require to feel safe in unknown countries. Maps are a necessity as well as immediate suggestions nearby hotels, drug stores, shops, hospitals, and stations. 

 

Health and fitness apps

Here, location-based services provide you with a real-time calculation of covered distance while you are doing sports. It is a necessary prerequisite for observing your performance. 

 

Event management apps

Every time there is some fest, presentation, celebration, or concert, event management apps notify people from nearby areas. We at SapientPro developed such a product. 

 

Games 

Some quest games require real-time updated maps for players to search for new tasks and missions. An example of such an app is PokemonGo that had a major hype in the 2010s.

CHAPTER #3 Key features of location-based apps

Map view 

The main signs of a good-quality map view are accurate depictions of real-time information – all hills, buildings, roads, and parks. It’s a nice practice to provide different map view types, like satellite and terrain. There also can be various map details like street view, traffic, and public transport – anything that will improve your app. 

 

User location detection + “places nearby” feature

The more GPS satellites provide your app with the coordinates, the more accurate the locations of users will be. That’s why it’s better to choose the most popular map APIs that have already arranged it. User location detection may also include detailed information about nearby places. For example, as I enter Google maps and view my current location, I also see all restaurants, banks, post offices, and stores within 300 meters of my home.

 

Route mapping + calculation of traveling time

As users choose a destination, it is necessary to show all possible routes, detecting the time it will take to cover each. For example, Google maps display several options and points to the most efficient, explaining why others are not (like “traffic +3 min”). 

 

Location-based notification

Some businesses notify their users about discounts, bonuses, and special offers when they are near the store or restaurant. It may encourage a person to make a purchase or order services. 

 

Location history

To save time and increase convenience, provide users with an easy-to-reach menu with recently visited and most popular locations. 

CHAPTER #4 Location-based app development cycle

The development of location-based apps depends on the type of product you want to create and the type of development service. E-Commerce, social media, navigation, and traveling applications have different technology stacks and the level of GPS tracking solutions engagement. Logically, we will need to dedicate more time to maps of fleet management systems than those in social media. In the first case, we talk about a complex system of routes, places, and tracking methods. In the second – it’s only one feature. 

 

The development cycle also depends on the type of service you are willing to order. If it’s custom development, we create your app from scratch, and this process may take much time. If you only need to redesign or implement several features, there will be fewer stages.  All in all, we will describe the custom development process. Nowadays, as brands strive to provide high-quality products and be unique, this is a popular choice. 

 

1. Defining requirements and choosing technology stack 

Requirements define the needs you want to satisfy by the app we are about to develop. Before designing, coding, and deploying, we want to understand why the users need this app and how they are going to use it. It will define functionality, looks, navigation, and business logic layer. All this, in return, will influence the choice of the technology stack. 

 

Let’s display the development stack for location-based apps on the example of our case – a GPS tracking company Mastrack. We used PHP framework Yii for lightweight app creation, My SQL database services for performance enhancement, Memcached system for memory-caching, and Amazon Web Services for cloud services. All of it was enough to build functionality for mobile apps and desktop websites with efficient real-time vehicles tracker, location history, reports, and logistics planning. The technology stack is unique to each separate project. It is necessary to consider such factors as scalability, complexity, functionality, and budget.

 

2. Creating UI and UX design

First, we need to know how your app will look from the user-side. Designers analyze all your requirements and preferences and create app prototypes. They define the color schemes, navigations, menu constituents, and how each feature will look and behave. After clients and designers reach an agreement, we give tech tasks to developers. 

 

3. Development & testing 

Usually, it is divided into the backend (server-side) and frontend (client-side) development. The first defines how the app acts, and the second – how the users see it. However, in mobile app development, the backend and frontend are usually not separate. Our coders use either native Android and iOS programming languages and tools or cross-platform frameworks like ReachNative. It largely influences the development process and price. Native development is more expensive, as you need to hire two teams. However, it will result in better performance and increased speed. Cross-platform development will save you costs, but there may be additional issues during the deployment. During the working process, some design concepts may change because programmers see what works in practice. For example, the feature may behave differently from what designers, business analytics, and project managers have planned initially. 

 

Development is an iterative process, meaning that the team creates some part of the app, tests it, analyzes the issues, and then develops again. All stages of development are repetitive, helping to improve existing functionality and find once missed issues. This system results in high-quality products. 

 

4. Production & gathering feedback

The development is over, and the client is satisfied with the outcome. Now, we are ready to show the app to the world. Later, the users will create opinions about the design, functionality, and performance of the product. You need to gather this information to understand if there is a place for improvement (and there always is because nothing is perfect). After a thorough analysis of reviews, we again come to development, providing your target audience with upgrades. The need to improve the app is natural, and it is a sign that your business grows. 

 

5. Upgrades 

Upgrades are not only about solving issues of the existing features. It’s about adding something new to attract and appeal to more users. In location-based services, it usually means improving the speed and accuracy of real-time location detection. You can add other view types or enlarge the suggestions base.

CHAPTER #5 What can go wrong with location-based apps?

Because features powered by location detection are relatively new, users don’t really trust it yet. The news about leaking information, memes about how Google watches us, conspiracy theories – all of it contributes to people being intimidated by the possibility of being tracked down. Also, location-based apps sometimes drain the battery.

However, there are solutions that minimize the disadvantages. First of all, it is necessary to explain to users that you don’t track them all the time (we hope you don’t). That’s why we encourage adding the feature of “allowing location detection only while using the app”. It is also necessary to make sure users can turn off GPS tracking when they need it. If you make sure your app highlights these possibilities, the trust of people will increase. Personalized settings show users they choose what information they give to you and get from you.

 

As for the battery drain, it depends on the GPS signal coverage. If there are not enough satellites within reach, the smartphone will use more resources to detect geolocation. This is what drains batteries. Here, personalized settings also come in handy. If users can turn off location detection, this issue will be solved.

 

If you need to know how the development process will look exactly for your project, be sure to write to us! We will schedule a call and answer all of your questions.

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