share approximate location - hero image

With the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 software updates, you can grant apps your approximate rather than precise GPS location. Follow along with us to learn how to share approximate location with specific apps instead of exact GPS coordinates of your iPhone or iPad.

Approximate Location in iOS and iPadOS 14

Location data is among the most personal pieces of information about you because it’s often used to gain valuable insights into your daily routine, habits, places you frequent and so forth.

TUTORIAL: Understanding iOS Location Services and what they do

Building on top of iOS 13’s tightened location controls, iOS and iPadOS 14 make it easy to share your rough location instead of your device’s exact GPS coordinates.

share approximate location - a map showing a rough location

You can give apps your broad location within 10 square miles (circled) rather than the precise spot you’re at

In iOS 13 and earlier, you can grant an app either wholesale access to your precise GPS location (“Always” or “Just Once”) or no location at all (“Never”). And with “Always” selected, an app can obtain your precise geographical coordinates via the GPS until access is revoked.

TUTORIAL: Using iOS’s Frequenters Locations and Maps Destinations features

These controls are still present in iOS and iPadOS 14. However, now you can limit positioning data to within ten square miles so that specific apps only know roughly where you are.

Fast Company explains how it works:

To achieve the approximate location feature, Apple divided the entire planet into regions roughly ten square miles in size. Each region has its own name and boundaries and the area of the region is not based on a radius from the user–it’s fixed. That means that an app can’t extrapolate your precise location from approximate location data because you aren’t necessarily at the center point of that approximate location boundary.

There are a few cases when you might want to share somewhat looser location data.

When to share approximate location

Knowing when to share and don’t share your accurate location depends on an app.

Some apps depend on knowing precisely where you’re at. One such example is Apple’s own Reminders app which uses geofencing for alerts based on location. The stock Camera app is another example because you’ll want to know exactly where you snapped those photos.

A map showing a user's precise location

Sharing an exact location of a user’s iPhone or iPad remains present in iOS and iPadOS 14

But a weather app doesn’t need to pinpoint exactly where you are (unless it’s a hyperlocal weather app). Local news apps also don’t need to know your exact location. All that these and similar types of apps need is a general idea of where you are.

Follow along with the tutorial embedded ahead for step-by-step instructions showing you how to grant apps your approximate location only.

How to share approximate location with apps

Follow these steps if you’d like to prevent an app from knowing your exact location:

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
  2. Tap Privacy in the root list.
  3. Select Location Services near the top of the screen.
  4. Choose a desired app, like Weather or Instagram.
  5. Toggle off Precise Location to only share approximate location with that app.

“With this setting off, apps can only determine your approximate location,” reads the feature’s description. The Precise Location toggle is a per-app setting. You can also open Settings, scroll down and tap an app, then select the entry Location to make desired changes.

Share approximate location - app permission prompt

Toggling between sharing precise (left) and approximate location (right) directly from the permission prompt

The easiest way to do change an app’s location tracking settings is via iOS’s standard location permission prompt. When an app seeks location access, just tap the Precise button in the top-left corner of the mini-map to switch between sharing approximate and precise location.

50 major new features in iOS 14

For a quick overview of the 50 headline new iPhone and iPod touch features introduced with iOS 14, be sure to watch our hands-on video walkthrough embedded right ahead.

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