How to create a location-based app: a step-by-step guide by Purrweb

Geolocation apps are everywhere and practically every platform now tracks where a user and their device are located. This information helps to deliver food and groceries to the exact address, order a taxi, and find the fastest route home or a date nearby. Also, thanks to GPS location, social media users can add geotags to posts and stories or search for what’s trending in the area.

Over the years we’ve developed multiple GPS based solutions for startups and decided to break down the main questions about the development process based on our experience. Discover how to create a location based app, what APIs to use, what the process looks like, and how much it costs. Jump in!

Reading time: 14 minutes

how to create a location based app
Table of contents

Key takeaways

    • Location apps are mobile or web solutions that utilize the location of the device to provide tailored services and recommendations for users. For that, an app can use GPS, mobile network data, and WiFi.
    • The value of the geolocation app market is predicted to skyrocket in the next few years, mirroring the demand for such solutions from users.
    • The final list of key features will depend on your niche, trends in the industry, and demand from your users. Some important elements to consider are map view, notifications, route planning, places nearby and saved locations.
    • Typically geolocation app development costs $45 075 and requires 1017 hours of work.

What is a location based app?

Let’s start with the definition. The term speaks for itself: a location-based app is a mobile or web solution that pings and utilizes the location of the device. For that, an app can use GPS, mobile network data, and WiFi. Usually, this data helps startups and big companies in providing better customer services and increasing user satisfaction.

how to create a location based app

Uber is a great example of a location based app

For example, food delivery services like UberEats or DoorDash are location based apps. When users want to order food, they prompt users to allow the app to determine the location automatically, instead of making them put it manually. For customers, it saves time and makes their interaction with the service smoother. Moreover, users can track where their order is and see how long until it arrives.

To create apps with location features, developers use third-party APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). The most common ones are Google Maps API and Apple Maps API.

Statistics about location based apps

With the fast development of technologies, more and more companies are adopting location services. Solely in the United States in 2022 this market was valued at almost $41 billion. By 2028 it is expected to grow by over 24% and reach $120 billion. Further research offers similar data and predicts the location-based market to skyrocket to $239 billion by 2029.

The largest segment of location tracking apps is dominated by outdoor navigation platforms and transport & logistics solutions.

Overall, the trend is upward, showing that the demand for location based apps will be increasing and more startups will integrate these features into their solutions. In order to not miss out on this potential, we recommend going with the trend and adding location based technology to your product.

How a location-based app benefits your business & customers

Before developing location based app, let’s see how it can benefit your startup idea. Here is what geolocation services can help with.

Perks of using geolocation technologies in your app 

Locate the user’s specific area to provide accurate and quick services. For example, help them find the closest store, match them with a person nearby or provide a rain forecast in weather apps.

Offer real-time promotions and recommendations. Thanks to the GPS signal, you can segment users into areas and offer them relevant deals. For example, you run an ad for your product during a basketball game and offer a discount to everyone who places an order from the arena. This way, you can give users a sweet deal and track where the leads come from.

Increase the turnaround time of orders. Instead of manually putting the address, users can ping it on the map and proceed to the next step. It saves time and makes the interaction more comfortable and satisfactory.

Monitor user activity. For instance, track their steps or other workouts and note how many miles they run. 

Give directions. Location based apps can also help users to go from one place to another. Think about navigation apps, like Waze that even show police cameras and live traffic jams, thanks to satellite connection.

Define the time zone and the country where users are. Maybe you don’t want your customers to get notifications at night, or perhaps you want to send relevant pushes to people in certain countries and regions. Geolocation technologies will help with that.

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5 key features of location-based apps

Let’s talk about key features your geolocation app needs. Of course, the final look will depend on your niche, trends in the industry, and demand from your users. 

We put together a short list of 5 universal features that would be important to consider during geolocation app development.

Map view

To view the current location, map the route or search for a place, users need a map in an interface. The easiest way to add it is by integrating Google Maps API. The details are based on what type of maps and actions you need: for example, custom maps, non-interactive screenshots or a dynamic map. For Android apps, there is a ​​Google Maps SDK, which lets you add maps to any Android app including Wear OS solutions. 

A screenshot of a Starbucks app with a partial map view and a partial list view displaying a list of coffee stores nearby.

Starbucks app has a dynamic app that helps you find the nearest store nearby based on your current location


Every app should be utilizing push notifications — to keep users up to speed, send personalized offers, and increase engagement. Together, with geolocation capabilities, you can get to customers’ wants and needs. For example, tailor your offers based on location and provide exclusive discounts to people in the area.

A screenshot of an iPhone home screen showing a notification with a special discount for probiotics.

Thrive Market uses GPS coordinates to send personalized offers that can be activated by tapping on the notification

Route mapping

Geolocation apps use GPS coordinates to plan a route from one place to another and estimate the time of arrival by using satellite information on traffic and current road delays. When it comes to GPS app development, it is important to focus on route planning reliability, mapping accuracy, and multi-stop routing to be on the same level as your competitors.

A screenshot of Apple Maps with a 50-minute route mapped on a map

Apple Maps

Places near me 

One of the main perks of any location-based app is searching for places nearby. From restaurants and hotels to museums, popular bars, and things to do — users can explore the area through the map view or the list view in most geolocation apps.

A screenshot with a list of restaurants sorted by distance

TooGoodToGo, an app that connects customers and restaurants that have unsold food, has a search filter based on distance

Saved locations and addresses 

This feature allows users to create and manage lists of locations on the map, browse past-visited places and save the most frequent addresses. For example, on Google Maps users can assign labels like “Home” or “Work” to certain places and use shortcuts to plan the route there.

A map of Los Angeles with pins that mark saved locations

Additionally, on Google Maps users can save their favorite places, assign labels and create public and private lists

Necessary technologies to locate a user

To unleash the full potential of location-based features, you need to know where the user is located exactly. You can achieve this by understanding and incorporating several essential technologies — GPS, geofencing, Wi-Fi, cell tower triangulation, or Bluetooth Low Energy — during your location based app development.

The ultimate goal is to provide users with a seamless and personalized experience. As a startup owner, prioritizing user location accuracy will help you build trust, retain customers, and differentiate your app in a competitive market.

These technologies work together to enable precise location tracking, trigger location-based actions, and deliver contextually relevant content to your users. 

We break down 4 most popular technologies and explain how exactly they work:

GPS (Global Positioning System)

GPS is the backbone of location based app development. It utilizes satellites to pinpoint a user’s precise location, making it an essential technology to integrate. By accessing the GPS functionality of a user’s phone, your app can determine their GPS coordinates — latitude and longitude, showing a precise city point. This enables you to offer location-specific features and services tailored to their needs.


Geofencing is a powerful tool that allows you to define virtual boundaries around specific geographic areas. By leveraging GPS, you can create virtual fences and trigger notifications or actions when a user enters or exits these predefined zones. Geofencing is particularly useful for sending targeted promotions, providing location-based recommendations, or automating certain tasks or notifications when users are within a designated area.


Wi-Fi signals can complement GPS for more accurate positioning, especially in urban environments or indoor settings where GPS signals may be weakened. Smartphones can use nearby Wi-Fi access points to assist in determining the user’s coordinates. By integrating Wi-Fi positioning capabilities into your location aware app, you can enhance location accuracy, providing a better user experience.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Bluetooth Low Energy technology enables communication between devices with minimal power consumption. Incorporating BLE into your product during location based app development can facilitate proximity-based interactions. For example, if you’re developing a retail app, you can use BLE beacons to detect when a user is near a specific store or product, allowing you to send relevant notifications or offer personalized discounts.

Concerns when making a location-based app

We have to be honest: there are privacy, ethical, and data safety concerns about location apps. Like with any personal information, storing and possibly disclosing a user’s location can be a very sensitive topic. In the wrong hands, geolocation can uncover users’ whereabouts when it is not necessary. However, there are ways to secure users’ data. 

So, how to make a location based app and make sure it’s protected? There are a few steps to take:

    • First, you should decide what data exactly you need from users and for how long you will be storing it. If you need a location only for one-time use, do not store it longer. Likewise with other information: phone number, name, or payment options.
    • Then, think about adding logins and passwords for users. It will help to minimize the risk of someone else using their account. Also, if you deal with payment information and store card data, consider implementing two or multi factor authentication for extra protection.
    • After that, encrypt your data. When transferred from a device to a server it is especially susceptible. Therefore encryption of names, phone numbers, locations, and other contact information is a must. This will help to ensure data safety on different levels.
    • Finally, run security check-ins and stay involved. After you launch a location based app, the supervision of security does not end. New malware appears constantly, so make sure to update your encryption and security protocol and from time to time test the system. Your initial developing team will help to keep your app secure. Remember that  insufficient reliability can ruin even the best, one-of-a-kind, in-demand idea.

Trending ideas for creating incredible location-based apps

For some companies location features are optional, but if you want to leave competitors behind, they are a must in 2023.

We put together examples of apps that can utilize the user’s location and break down how they can be used in a solution. There are several types of services that will benefit from a location based app.

🍔Food delivery apps

These platforms allow customers to order services based on their location. Usually, on the user-side, location features look like a third-party map and a pin with the address.

Examples: Uber Eats, DoorDash, Wolt.

A screenshot of an Uber Eats ordering page with a map view and a pin on user’s location

Uber Eats uses Google Maps to locate users

📲Social media

Social media services are basically location based apps. Geolocation features help users check-in, monitor local trends and events, attend virtual tours and events, increase engagement rate, and even attract local customers.

Also, apps like TikTok use geo features for their algorithm. Based on the origin country and the language it decides which users see a particular video. If a person posts from Spain, but hopes to become an influencer in the United States, on TikTok it is very unlikely. Their content will probably land on pages of Spanish users.

See also  How to make a viral app like TikTok: Purrweb’s guide for 2024

Examples: TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Yelp, Foursquare.

A screenshot of Instagram geotags

You know the expression: “If you haven’t posted a photo with a geotag, have you even been there?”

💘Dating apps

To match a user with the right partner, it needs to locate both of them first. Usually, dating apps ask to share a location first, and then let customers set the distance range, within which they want to see profiles.

Examples: Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Pure.

how to create a location based app

Tinder, as well as other apps, asks for permission to track the location

🛒Marketplace apps

How do you integrate location based services into a marketplace platform? Easy! Most of the time users want to know when their package will be delivered. To estimate that, marketplaces use location APIs that track where a seller and a customer are located.

Based on that the platform provides delivery dates, using satellite information, cell phone data, and an integrated map. Location-based marketplace: 2-in-1 app!

Examples: Amazon, eBay.

A screenshot of a Ebay listing of a bag

For each listing, Ebay shows estimated delivery day based on the user’s location

🚕Ride-sharing apps

Taxi-hailing services utilize data about where users are located to match them with a vehicle. The live location feature also helps to find where the driver is parked.

Examples: Uber, Lyft.

A screenshot of a user’s side page on Uber with information about a ride

GPS module helps with route tracking when you order a cab

🌎Maps and navigations

Their main purpose is to locate a user and find a route to the desired place. It considers biking, walking, driving, or taking public transport. To make your map app stand out, you can add augmented reality (AR), which uses camera feed and overlays digital content onto real-life environments and objects to navigate users.

Examples: Google Maps, Apple Maps, MapsMe, Waze.

An example of AR screens on Google Maps

Google Maps uses augmented reality to help users find where they are and where to go

🏥Health and fitness apps

There are many ways how wellness and sport-focused apps can use geolocation. For example, track your exercise such as running, hiking, or biking routes, and share it with friends.

Examples: Strava, Apple Health, and Nike Running.

 A route of a running training on Strava

Strava records each training session: the route and the performance activity


There are tons of location based travel apps on the market that utilize geolocation features. They can help users find a hotel nearby or track a plane in the sky.

Examples:, Hopper, Flightradar24.

A screenshot of Flightradar24, airplane tracking app

Flightradar24 uses satellite technologies to track aircrafts and displays their current coordinates

🚗Gas delivery

Fuel delivery apps are a trending niche in the international markets, especially in the United States and the United Arab Emirates. These platforms use geolocation to help users fill their cars from the comfort of their homes.

See also  How To Develop an On-Demand Fuel Delivery Mobile App?

Examples: Cafu, EzFill, Fuelster.

A home page of Cafu

Cafu is one of the market leaders in UAE

Creating a location-based app – the 7-step approach

After digging into details of how to create a location based app, the next question comes: “Where to start?” With security or maybe with APIs? We got you covered on that!

Here are 7 essential steps not to be overlooked:

1. Come up with a unique idea

First things first: think your business idea over, realistically weigh the advantages and disadvantages of your future solution, and research the competitors. The more defined your idea, the quicker the development team can dive in and start working on your location-based app.

The rule of thumb is to be able to put your startup idea in a few sentences, often referred to as an “elevator pitch”. Practicing it will be useful before pitching investors, but also will help you identify and highlight the main points of the idea.

2. Study the market and explore competitors

During this analysis, you need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. You should study and adopt their advantages to ensure your audience receives the same level of service. Competitors’ disadvantage is your chance to win users over and identify opportunities for your product to shine.

3. Find reliable developers

Who you choose to develop your app matters a lot. Especially, when it comes to data privacy and security protection, you want to make sure you work with professionals.

When choosing a team to create an app, check their reviews, learn about their past experience and schedule a short meeting to meet face-to-face. Nowadays, the majority of developing teams worldwide have their own blogs, where they post cases and share tips for startup owners. Make sure to check it out 😉

4. Define key features

To decide how to create app for your startup, you need to figure out what you want to see in the solution. Do you need a map in the interface? Do you want to send notifications when the location is changed? Are you going to track users for some time, like running apps do, or just get a real-time place once?

5. Create UI/UX design

Together with the team, you need to decide how your geolocation app will look and feel. The designers will prepare several designs based on your references. Your task would be to provide feedback and choose what you like. After you agree on mock-ups, the team will develop a UI kit with components like fonts, layered design files, icons, documentation, and HTML/CSS files.

6. Develop MVP and test

Releasing the first version of a product is crucial for future development and pivoting. It helps to test the idea, check how the market is doing, and receive reactions from targeted audiences. An MVP shouldn’t be just a cheap or bad version of the complete app, rather a simplistic version.

MVP simply means the initial version of a location based mobile app that contains only essential features that make the solution work. Your developing team will help you prioritize those pieces and create a shortlist of what will be part of the minimum viable product.

7. Deploy and launch

After you’ve taken on board user’s feedback and polished the app, it is time for the launch. Deployment is the process of publishing your tested geolocation app. In most scenarios, it entails putting your code into an environment where it can be modified and assessed.

But, it might not be the end. Very often apps need post-launch services to keep up with new requirements and software, upgrade the interface and fix the bugs. Discuss with the developer who is going to create the app if you need this type of support.

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Costs & timeline

Even though geo application requires a lot of time and effort, we know how to create a geolocation app on a budget. Of course, it is impossible to give an example of a universal estimation of an app using geolocation, since the range of options is very large. Therefore, we decided to show you a rough app estimate of how to create a location based app that has the geolocation attributes you need:

Disclaimer 👇🏼 : The estimation is provided by Purrweb and can vary from team to team. This is how much time it will take us to create app.

Stage What exactly are we doing How many hours needed Approximate
UI/UX design Map users’ journey, create interface concepts and present them to you 111 hours $4 995,00
Development Work on architecture and the interface on both client and server-side 823 hours $37 035,00
QA Testing Search for bugs and fix them before the release 83 hours $1 245,00
Project management Manage the development process and control deadlines 14 hours $1 800,00

Typically a location-based app costs $45 075,00 and requires 1017 hours of work.

The estimated price of geolocation app development covers everything your solution might need: we develop an application from scratch for both iOS and Android, make sure the data is encrypted and secured, establish the connection between server and user-side, at the same time focusing on the UI/UX design. We take a minimalistic and simple approach in order to create a robust and easy-to-navigate interface that makes users happy and enhances their experience with an app.

To sum up

In this article, we discuss how to create a location based app and what to consider. Pretty much every single device user now has a solution that tracks their location. For example, Uber, DoorDash, Instagram, TikTok, Amazon, and many more. Geo features help to provide customers with more specific and personalized services just based on where they are.

While for some mobile applications location tracking is a nice-to-have feature, for others it is essential. We came up with 6 types of startups that will definitely benefit from introducing geo. Guaranteed! They are:

    • Food delivery apps;
    • Social media;
    • Dating apps;
    • Marketplace apps;
    • Ride-sharing apps;
    • Maps.

The development process of these solutions can be tricky. For that, we summarized the main point in the list. Here are the key takeaways from the article on how to create a location-based app:

    • Location based apps use special APIs, GPS, and Wi-Fi data to track where the device is, providing services based on the user’s disposition.
    • The location services market is a fast-evolving area that expects to grow by 24% by 2028.
    • To stand out from competitors geo features in the new releasing apps are a must.
    • Solutions that locate users can raise concerns about their security and privacy. This area needs extra care during the development process to make sure the user’s information is protected.
    • Double-check to encrypt all the data and add extra protection to the servers.
    • The approximately location-based app will cost $45 075 and requires 1017 hours to develop.

The Purrweb team has worked with geolocation app development for years. Our developers will be happy to help you execute your startup idea, secure the data and add geolocation features where it is needed.

Need more information about how to create a location-based app? Contact us now and get a quote from our experts.

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