Location-based mobile apps have taken discovery onto the whole new level. Unlike the usual maps, location-based apps can suggest you more than just the route from point A to point B. They also pinpoint all the curious places around you and can help you answer the essential life questions such as:
- Where is the closest ATM?
- Where did I park my car?
- Is there any open taco restaurant in 500 meters close to me at 3 am in the morning?
Now, what bugs the majority of people is how does a location-based app gathers all the information about the area?
In this guide we’ll outline exactly how to make a location app to find places close-by, what other functionality to include and what kind of technology powers a local search app.
Key Features for a Location-Based Discovery App
So, you want to make a solution similar to Around.me app for instance?
In a nutshell, this popular app offers instant information on your surroundings. You can either view different points of interests close to you on the map, or search in respective categories (restaurants, cafes, hospitals, taxis etc.) and get the closest suggestions on display.
Each listing comes with some basic information like opening hours, website, contact number and general description/tips.
Additionally, users get instant directions to the place from their current position, can share the POI and location with a friend and also enjoy some cool augmented reality features.
So, if you want to build a complete Aroundme app clone, that’s pretty much all the features you’ll need to develop.
Additional Cool Use Cases for Location-Based Apps
But why should you settle for a complete clone when there are much cooler applications for location-based technology?
For instance, you can build an offline/online city guide app, which would include additional information on the local curiosities, along with some functionality to create actual walking routes.
Or a food discovery app like Zomato or Yelp, which would suggest the best eateries around town.
In fact, loads of your favorite apps now use location tracking as part of their functionality – Uber, Tinder, Pokemon Go and various social networking apps. For instance, City Hour – a location-based social networking app we have earlier developed for another company suggests users to locate and meet up with some professional contacts in their area .
You may want to build a brand new geosocial app, where users can not only discover places but share content. That’s pretty much for Periscope operates. This app lures users with the ability to discover and watch content from different points of the world and set up personal live streams as well.
We’ve previously written what it takes to develop an app like Periscope.
A vast array of fitness and health apps incorporate location-based functionality. You can plan and track your running routes, the number of steps you’ve made today, your health data and much more. For instance, you can add some gamification and allow users to set and receive virtual rewards based on their daily running goals for instance.
Bottom line: You can build a lot of really cool app solutions based on the location tracking module. So, give your custom app concept a good thought and decide what kind of user features you’d like to offer before calling the developers to do the job.
APIs For Location-Based Apps
The majority of modern smartphones include a GPS chip in addition to Assisted GPS (A-GPS) for determining the user’s current position.
In some cases, GPS-based location acquisition is also enhanced with mobile network cells and Wi-Fi hot spots. That’s why certain apps will ask you to connect to Wi-Fi or turn on mobile data to improve your location tracking.
GPS doesn’t work great indoors and around tall buildings, as those obscure the signal from the GPS satellites. And that’s exactly where the iBeacon technology rolls in – Bluetooth-enabled data sharing and location tracking.
For instance, if you want to build an app to help your conference users navigate around the venue more efficiently, you should rather opt for an iBeacon-enabled app, rather than the GPS one.
When it comes to providing directions and routing options, GPS relies on magnetometers and gyroscope sensors incorporated in smartphones.
So, that’s how location tracking hardware works.
Now, let’s look at the essential software elements or the APIs.
Both iOS and Android devices offer you explicit access to the GPS location collected from their users through respective APIs. Those, by the way, come with mapping functionality in tow.
A few words on the differences between the two of these.
Apple MapKit doesn’t offer any indoor navigation, while Google Maps have made certain attempts in this area. Apple maps also do not support route suggestions by bike and by public transport, unlike Google Maps. That’s why you may want to use Google Maps SDK for iOS as well.
Now, if you plan to build a mobile app like Around Me, knowing user location and offering map functionality isn’t enough. You also need to add those cool points of interests people can actually browse and discover.
- Google Places API will allow you to incorporate rich listings of local business listings in your app. The same ones you see in Google search results when you look for say cafes nearby.
- You can also use Foursquare API to gather additional information e.g. user rating, reviews, and recommendations.
- Additionally, you can use Yelp API, TripAdvisor API, and Facebook Places to action-pack your app with even more content!
Augmented Reality Functionality for Location-Based Apps
Location-based apps are rapidly evolving from just mere maps to more interactive solutions as the AR technology advances. Think Pokemon Go craze.
Instead of staring at those dots and lines, a user can now point their smartphone camera at a scene and have it annotated with relevant information. That’s kind of cool, right?
So, you may want to develop a location-based app that also features some AR functionality like the Here City Lens app for Windows Phone, for instance.
In that case, you can use the following tools and platforms:
- ARLab and Browser are compatible both with Android and iOS devices.
- Droid AR is an open-source project for Android.
- GART is a special AR toolkit developed for Windows Phone.
- Wikitude AR SDK is a paid tool both for iOS and Android devices.
A Word on Location-Tracking and Security
There has been a rising number of security and privacy concerns lately with location sharing and location tracking apps.
The main issue, in this case, is that 3rd party companies gather and accumulate tons of personal user data without people even realizing it. Afterwards, it might be re-sold and used unethically without the user’s knowledge or consent.
That can result into unsolicited marketing pitches, which are frustrating, but certainly not harmful. And more severe personal security hazards such as identity theft and cyber criminals being able to identify the user’s exact location and future movements.
According to a recent research by Skyhook, 40% of users hesitate to share their location data with an app, while 18% turn on location-sharing functionality for all apps.
Bottom line: The majority of users expect real benefits from the app in exchange for turning their location. Make sure you clearly communicate the value you are offering, the security precautions you are taking to protect user data and have relevant provisions in place explaining how you will use that data.
The Cost To Build a Location-Based App
As usual, we are wrapping up our app development posts with a price quote estimate.
Location-based app development heavily depends on the exact functionalities you want to implement. If you just want a simple discovery app like Around.me (but possibly without the AR component), the development costs will range between $10,000 – $12, 000.
If you are thinking about a more advanced solution with more screens, design elements and functionality extending beyond mapping a user location and suggesting nearby places, you can get in touch with our team for a more precise quote! Friendly vibe, experience in handling projects both for startups and established business, along with top quality for a competitive price comes as part of the deal ☺