How to configure location services on iPhone

Location Services on smartphones are really important nowadays. Not only is it used for the system services but also there are many apps that need your location in order to give you a better experience, or require it as a must.

Besides many advantages of it, turning on Location Services also drains your iPhone’s battery a lot, especially if you installed an app that uses location services in the background. And also, being tracked by apps (the companies behind them) and system services (Apple) is what many users concern about.

Fortunately, you can configure the settings yourself. You can enable and disable any items that are allowed to use your location, including services from installed apps, and even system services that are an integral part of the operating system.

Let’s dive in, I’ll show you all about it.

How to configure location services on your iPhone/iPad

To check if Location Services is being enabled on your iPhone, just examine the status bar to see if there is a little arrow icon, like in the following image. I’ve seen that many new iOS users have been asking why this icon always showing up on the status bar. Yeah, that means Location Services has been turned on and running during the whole time.


Turning ON/OFF location services

Navigate to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, here you’ll see a dedicated preference pane for configuring location services. You can turn off them completely by simply tapping the main toggle at the top to OFF. After doing this, you’ll no longer see the arrow icon on the status bar.

Or if you want to configure for individual applications, preventing these from tracking you or consuming your battery, just scroll through the app list and change the access levels.

Turn off/on location services

1. Location for specific apps

As you can see, there are typically three options for location access:

  • Never: Select this option if you want to turn off location services in the app.
  • While Using the App: Select this option if you allow the app to use your location when the app or its features is visible on the screen.
  • Always: The app always has access to your location even when it is in the background.

When you select an option, it will tell you about these things and also provide you with an explanation of how your location data can be used by the app. For example, the Facebook app has an explanation like this:

location service access levels for apps

Personally, I’d like to select Never for all the apps that I think they really don’t need to use my location data. And I also encourage you to do this, for both your privacy and battery saving. Many users have also reported that they really improve the battery life after considering and disabling some third-party apps using location services.

Another thing you might have noticed is some apps have a little arrow icon beside the app name. These icons indicate when the apps use your location. You can scroll down to the bottom and read fully the explanations.

2. Location for system services

From the main Location Services screen, tap System Services, which is always at the end of the app list. You’ll see various built-in features that have the ability to use your location here, such as Find My iPhone, HomeKit or Setting Time Zone… By default, all of these features are turned on, so understanding how they use your location data will help you decide which ones you’ll need to use and which you won’t.

  • Cell Network Search: Apple collects users’ cellular tower information to improve products, in general, using this feature. So you can turn it off if you don’t want to help Apple 😀
  • Compass Calibration: You should keep this on if you’re using apps that require compass access, such as Mapping apps.
  • Find my iPhone: Find my iPhone uses this feature to locate the device on a map so if you think your device is lost or stolen, you can find out its approximate location.
  • HomeKit: This feature will create a geofence, which is a virtual perimeter, around your house. You can disable this if you have no app that uses geofence to notify you each time you arrive at or leave your home.
  • Location-based alerts: This feature is used for apps that have the ability to send notifications based on your locations, such as alerts from the Reminders app when you turn on “Remind me at a location”.
  • Location-based iAds: This feature help Apple provide you with relevant iAds based on your locations.
  • Motion Calibration & Distance: This feature will help gather your movement metrics. If you are not interested in any of the health apps collecting your data then you can disable this feature.
  • Safari & Spotlight Suggestion
  • Setting Time Zone: If you’re not the one who travels time zones often, you can turn this feature off and set your own time zone manually under General > Date & Time.
  • Share My Location: This feature allows you to share your current location with other from within certain apps, such as Messages and Find my Friends.
  • Wi-Fi Calling: If you’re using Wi-Fi Calling feature on your device, then leave it enabled.
  • Wi-Fi Networking: This feature finds nearby Wi-Fi networks and sends information about them to Apple, just like Cell Network Search, and helps figure out your location if you don’t have cell service.
  • Frequent Locations: This feature keeps track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them. And the data will be used to help provide you with personalized services.
  • Product Improvement:
    • Diagnostics & Usage: Apple collects anonymous information about you and how you use the device so that it can improve its products in future releases
    • Popular Near Me: If this feature is turned on, your device will periodically send locations of where you have purchased or used apps to Apple. The data will be used to offer relevant apps and other products.
    • Routing & Traffic: Apple can monitor your physical movement as an anonymous and then use it to provide traffic information for other users.

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