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You have an idea to create a GPS application from scratch or enhance an existing app with GPS-based technologies. The arising question is how to build a successful location-based app. Market research, tech stack, features, testing, vendors, time frames, budget, launch — the scope of decisions to make is really extensive. The challenge lies not just in creating a multi-level app core with many useful features, but in making a robust and highly demanded mobile application within your budget dealing with a reliable tech partner. How do you finally start eating this elephant?

The first thing you should know about GPS applications is that they have the chance to bring you good income by providing new business opportunities, upgrading customer experience, and widening your target audience. Navigation technologies are on the rise because of the simplicity of concept and a broad spectrum of usage, from delivering pizza to location tracking in the ocean and in space. There is no need to pattern your business ideas after existing mobile apps. GPS is far from being just a standard solution for daily life demands but a stage for innovations. Look at the owners of the “No Place Like Home” brand, who created GPS shoes that will guide a person home after three heel clicks.

The development of GPS tracking applications can be a real challenge, but understanding the sequence of steps and having a reliable tech partner at your hand will turn your idea into an in-demand application that can reach the top of the market. Below are the exact steps for how to create a location-based app.

What is GPS Technology?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is an advanced tool for processing navigation, exact locations, and timing signals for users anywhere in the world. This technology lets us synchronize people, objects, and services at one point.

GPS is a tracking unit operating on a satellite basis. It works in all weather conditions, 24/7, and subscription fees are needed. GPS signals were initially used as secret U.S. military units and later had been transformed into daily instruments available to everyone. Its promotion in the last ten years has been due to a rapid jump in IT, commoditization, and miniaturization of gadgets supplying robust wireless solutions. Demand and availability pushed innovators and companies to create products and services to surround people with tech amenities, increasing productivity and saving their resources like time and money.

The Capacity of the GPS Tracking Application Market

The global GPS app market has a sky-high potential—its size has reached almost $1 billion in 2021, and its projected horizon is $1,5 billion by 2025. The main trends in mobile app development drive the navigation platforms to grow due to in-demand cloud technologies, telecommunications, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, etc.

Each industry has its window of possibilities in the GPS technology field. You can see this on real projects that started with just an idea like you have today.

How to make a GPS app

On-demand Services

On-demand services like taxis and deliveries ride high nowadays. Taxi mobile applications require specific features like linking passengers and nearby drivers, providing real-time location tracking, smart maps, and travel duration. Delivery applications need options for ordering food at the moment, seeing a courier’s location on a map, checking delivery times, etc. Uber, Uber Eats, and Zomato are the biggest players in this field. For example, Uber Eats’ revenue exceeded $5 billion in 2021, with nearly 70 million users. Here you can learn more on how to build a GPS app even better than Uber.

Automotive and Logistics

GPS capacities are widely used in public transportation and fleet management, for instance, Onfleet, Geotab, and Moovit. Navigation services have evolved from basic features showing just locations and routes to easy-to-use apps with weather and traffic alerts, route optimizations during traffic jams, location sharing, multiple stops, etc. Now if you’re wondering how to create a location-based app with millions of users, the companies below know how to do this:

  • Google Maps is simple to use, user-friendly, often updated, has satellite and 360° street view with augmented reality and real-time traffic, trip progress sharing, and integrated Google Assistant.
  • Badger Maps works for field salespeople to manage daily meetings and route optimization.
  • Waze has a minimalistic interface with advanced customization options in comparison with Google Maps.
  • is available offline, has low battery consumption, and is updated daily by millions of users. Their maps are photographic and engaging.
  • Komoot has many features for people practicing sports like offline maps and the ability to explore unsurfaced areas.
  • Polaris GPS Navigation is a built-in compass used for outdoor activities like trails, nautical trips, off-road hiking, and sunset/sunrise tracking.


Large retail stores like IKEA, Target, and Walmart use geo-tracking mobile applications to extend their in-store bases. Their clients can find the nearest store and choose delivery service or convenient pickup. Providing accurate indoor and outdoor positioning and full designation for clients is the key to raising sales.

Tourism and Hospitality

Booking apps have reached 50 million downloads in 2021. Here are the examples of successful travel applications:

  • Chain hotels also may have their own applications, for instance, Marriott.
  • ByHours is used for same-day stays by the hour.
  • One Night offers deals for unsold rooms and same-night stays.


The geolocation feature is widely used on construction sites. For instance, the HubStaff app may prevent rework by checking time and progress with GPS location tracking and use geofencing to create job sites and improve productivity on the site.

Geo-based augmented reality may be implemented to help with 3D visualizations of entire buildings and separate components on a construction site.


Many people spend their entire days on mobile devices. eCommerce successfully uses this ability to raise sales. Retailers can make relevant offers and deliver demanded services. AliExpress, eBay, and Amazon are the leaders here. At the beginning of 2021, Amazon reached $109 billion with 1.9 million sellers.

Social Media

Social media like Instagram and Facebook actively integrate GPS features like geotags for posts, showing advertising to relevant audiences, finding and adding friends, etc.


Wellness companies are fans of geolocation applications too, for example, Nike+, Strava, Runtastic, Runkeeper, and MyFitnessPal. They track your real-time route and speed and help you connect with other runners in your area. You can share your achievements on social media. MyFitnessPal has grown to 200 million users and earned $128 million in 2021.


If your company creates games, implementing a GPS system will add aliveness and social interaction and will league players together. Pokémon Go is an example of wild success with almost $800 million in revenue. Real-time social interaction was a winning factor.

Internet of Things

IoT is an innovative sector which uses navigation in smartwatches, fitness wearables, pet care apps like Pet Scout, luggage locator apps like LugLoc, etc.


The GPS tracking applications industry is much wider than just traditional Google Maps. This type of technology may be used for non-commercial purposes like tracking for law enforcement, social impact, public safety, and disaster relief, healthcare robotics, etc. Here are some nonprofit GPS projects:

  • OCEARCH organization tags white sharks with GPS items to alert people and local lifeguards if a shark gets near the shore.
  • Pharmacy thieves may be caught due to GPS tracking of painkillers like OxyContin.
  • GPS tracking is used for taking care of people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia wearing GPS shoes. Caregivers can check the location of their family members in the app.

Steps of Location-Based App Development

The question is how to create a location-based app that would be highly efficient, user-engaging, and in-demand on the market. Developing a GPS tracking application is a chain of connected processes. Hiring the right development team will lead your project to a well-packaged mobile product with a powerful tech stack and high audience engagement. Below, you can see the steps of how to build a GPS-based app.

How to make a GPS app

1. Market and Target Audience Research

Start from the market exploration—analyze competitors, their approaches, business strategies, provided services, and used technologies. Having a core idea is great but not enough for a strong release. Applying to business analysts will give an understanding of the demands and tasks needed to be put into action, help sharpen the vision of software products, and set its growth vectors on the market.

2. Choose a Tech Stack—iOS or Android

A technology stack combines OS, frameworks, libraries, programming languages, and other tools necessary to develop an application. The choice of Android or iOS depends on many factors like:

  • Target audience, purposes of the product, type of monetization, etc.
  • Android runs on a wide range of devices, including smartphones and tablets of different brands, TV, car audio systems, etc., which expands potential market size. iOS is compatible just with Apple devices, but the owners of these devices make in-app purchases more often than Android users.
  • Android supports more OS versions on more types of devices—that’s why Android app development may take more time and a bigger budget than iOS. iOS developers use single-style guidelines for Apple devices; this potentially progresses app development faster.
  • Apple has more strict requirements for their app review process, so the chances of downloading problematic apps from the App Store are fewer compared to Google Play. However, recently Android also tightened rules for app security. This line is quite blurred because both aim to create a safe experience for users.

Android and iOS are rival operating systems, each with its advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a tech stack, you need primarily to take into account the product itself, its specifics, purposes, and target audience.

3. MVP as a First Real Check

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) will be the first real introduction to your project. Its features are basic but enough to provide functionality and meet the needs of the target audience. The MVP development stage is optional, but it is reasonable to implement it as it provides many advantages for businesses. Below are some of the goals of an MVP:

  • Focus on the core functions of the product, not adding features going beyond the specification
  • Test business concepts within minimum time and budget
  • Business analysis is needed to start the project, but feedback from real users provides much more effective development. At the MVP stage, you may get feedback from early adopters that will be used to turn an app into a 100% customer-oriented product.
  • It provides the ability for faster release and systematic hypothesis verification.
  • MVP ensures development with minimal time and money risks. Polishing large-scale projects takes forever to craft and requires colossal money. That’s why applying to MVP with gradual testing and upgrading is the right solution for building a highly demanded GPS application.

4. QA is Always Reasonable

QA is intended to check whether an app’s features are responsive and meet specifications, test its performance under a particular workload, verify compatibility with various operating systems and devices, check how user-friendly and intuitive an app is in usage, pass through security borders, etc. Testing of GPS tracking applications is a complicated process because of many factors affecting navigation accuracy—from travel speed to how cloudy the sky is. After all types of testing the team gets a report with QA results including a list of bugs and recommendations for app improvement.

5. System Polishing

After testing an app with a global positioning system from different sides and getting the recommendations, your team will need to modify functions, eliminate bugs, make the app more intuitive, etc. The scope depends on the results obtained in the previous stage.

6. Launch and Release Your Solution

When your GPS tracking app is polished, it’s time to release it in mobile app stores like the Google Play Market and/or Apple’s App Store. You may release a beta mode if more tests are planning to be run.

7. Post-Release Maintenance

Location-based apps require periodic updates as SDKs map changes and mobile OS updates may break some functionalities. Continuous updating of features will let you stay on the wave of tech and market needs in the future.

Many companies have already implemented geolocation features into businesses and successfully reap its benefits. If you still have questions about GPS app development, contact NIX.

GPS App Challenges, or How to Build a GPS App and Not Fail

The main problem to tackle is how to create a location-based app and not fall at the finish line. Statistics show that only 77% of users who install an app will not use it again after the first month. Thus, you have just one chance to impress the crowd with your idea and functionality of the location-based app. An enormous number of ideas fail due to errors in reaching, delivering, executing, and packaging the product when other companies like Waze make giant leaps forward.

Waze is a geolocation application launched in 2008 as “LinQmap”, which raised $55 million in funding. In 2013 Google purchased Waze for $1.1 billion. So the main question is how to create a location-based app, reach your audience, and give an impressive performance. To achieve metrics like Waze, deeper challenges must be solved.

How to make a GPS app

Collecting Personal Information for the App’s Functionality

Nearly 57% of people are comfortable disclosing their geolocation while 31% of users require complete privacy when sharing data. That is why it’s crucial for app developers to stay transparent with users about the purposes of data processing, rules of its usage, and storage. Explain why getting a user’s permission is required. Offering additional value as an exchange for GPS information is a way to hit privacy objections.

Personal data must be secure. This crucial task may be provided by a combination of advanced security protocols and the implementation of security testing measures in your location-based app.

Engagement to Get Desired Audience Behavior

Low app engagement is a common issue in mobile development. Gamification, real-time communication, sharing information via social media, personalization, relevant notifications, and rewards increase users’ engagement quickly and organically. For instance:

  • Waze uses gamification, avatars, features like a leaderboard, and a badge reward system.
  • GasBuddy uses a leaderboard and competitiveness and rewards users reporting prices at local gas stations. The points may be exchanged for gift cards, raffle tickets, etc.
  • StriveCloud tracks personalized milestones and rewards clients for progress and activity. The app sends relevant messages at the right time—it modifies audience behavior and activates participation triggers in a profitable way for the project.

Background Mode for Location Tracking

Background mode for location tracking will complement the app’s technology and functionality, mainly if your GPS platform relies on local notifications. Voice integration with Google Assistant or Siri will be an advantage for the geolocation app.

Saving Energy Consumption

Battery consumption of mobile devices while using geolocation applications is quite high if not optimized. This issue may be solved by batching geo requests, turning off unnecessary updates, controlling GPS accuracy, etc.

Geo Accuracy Makes a Difference

Accurate location displaying is decisive in location-based app development. Distort of routes may include wavy lines instead of straight lines, crossing buildings or water areas in the wrong points, etc. These violations must be technically foreseen, for instance, by using the Fused Location Provider API from Google, and also by specifying how often geodata will be updated. Apple implements this feature automatically.

Eliminating Weak Points

It’s needed to pick to pieces all the vulnerabilities in third-party entries like frameworks and libraries. The challenge of location-based app development is to reveal security holes and neutralize the trouble spots. Secure communication in transit is provided by encrypting and installing an SSL certificate from a trusted authority. Sensitive data should be encrypted with advanced cryptographic algorithms to secure data storage.

As you see, building a navigation app consists of not just following and implementing tech requirements but also considering a wide range of deeper issues and challenges for ensuring the competitive edge results.

How Much Does Location-Based Mobile App Development Cost?

The more core features, complements, and additions an app calls for, the higher location-based app development will cost. Here are the items which may influence the overall cost of GPS app development.

How to make a GPS app

Enhancing an Existing App or Building an App from Scratch

The expenses will significantly rely on if you need to empower an existing app or create an app from scratch.

Functionality Complexity

The more functions a geolocation app has, the more expensive it will be. A GPS app may consist of push notifications, audio and video streaming, payment gateways, online and offline modes, external device connections, third-party integrations, advanced analytics, chat, ads, etc.

Chosen Tech Stack

The geolocation app development rate on Android and iOS platforms are in the same range of expenses. Android commonly needs to be compatible with a wider range of devices, operating systems, and versions than iOS. Thus, Android may have higher expenses due to the wider scope of tasks.

UI/UX Design

UI/UX design may differ in cost depending on the complexity of the UI kit, visual hierarchy, the number of screens, if there will be modern graphic elements or animations, etc.

The Team Size and Composition

GPS application development from scratch requires a team with up to 10 people usually with the following roles: business analyst, project manager, UI/UX designer, app developers for Android and iOS platforms, back-end and front-end developers, QA engineers, etc. The bigger the team, the more the budget. The hourly rate of app development services also depends on the team’s location and experience.

In-house Team or Outsource App Development

You have two options—create an in-house team or outsource app development. Choosing to build your own team always leads to additional expenses like buying equipment, rent payments, time-consuming hiring processes, and onsite employee management. You can’t avoid these significant expenses, especially if you’re a permanently growing company.

If you decide to go with outsourcing, pay attention to the team’s experience, relevant portfolio, recognitions, certificates, composition, legal practices, and pricing for services. Outsourcing development to an experienced software provider gives a wide range of edges to your business:

  • Coverage of full scope of tasks by offering end-to-end services
  • Expertise in app development for various business domains using up-to-date tech solutions
  • Ready-to-work teams to deal with your project without wasting time for searching, checking, hiring, and bringing people up to date
  • Strong project management

Considering all the items above, you will get the final location-based app development budget. Here you can learn more about how much it costs to make an app.

Buyer's Guide

NIX Expertise in Geolocation Applications

It may seem that GPS application development is an overwhelming task, but with a proficient tech partner close by, your idea will be transformed into a set of accurate tech goals, fixed time frames, and a transparent budget.

NIX knows how to create a location-based app with the help of a skilled pool of talent.We have high expertise in Uber-like app development. Real-time data and smart map features were implemented into a multifunctional taxi app. We also developed an app for online food delivery service, where the client was one of the largest online food ordering and delivery marketplaces in Europe. The NIX team created a high load & real-time location tracker, and many other projects. Our experience and expertise let us affirm that we know how to create highly-efficient GPS apps.


GPS connects people, objects, and services at the same point at the same time. The high demand makes geolocation a budding technology—billion-dollar revenue is not an empty promise, but a reality. Following the steps described above you will set goals and, piece by piece, the GPS app elephant will be eaten. GPS is a stage for innovative solutions to bring your business to a substantially new level. NIX can be your reliable tech partner because we know how to transform ideas into real products.


What Are Some Common Features of GPS Apps?

If you want to figure out how to build a GPS app, start by working on the requirements for it. You have a lot to choose from since GPS applications can have many valuable features enhancing the user navigation experience. The most common options are as follows:

  • Real-time navigation. GPS apps provide turn-by-turn directions to help users reach their destinations efficiently.
  • Route optimization. GPS navigation apps analyze traffic data to suggest the fastest and most efficient routes.
  • Voice-guided instructions. These apps offer spoken instructions to guide your users while driving, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road.
  • Offline maps. Many GPS apps provide the option to download maps in advance, so users can navigate even without an internet connection.
  • Points of interest. It’s also a good idea to collect information about important objects such as nearby restaurants, gas stations, attractions, etc., and tell users where they can dine or relax along the way.

These features are needed to create a successful and user-friendly navigation app.

What Are Some Examples of Popular GPS Apps?

There are several popular GPS mobile apps available today. Let’s list the most famous examples.

  • Google Maps. Of course, we can’t exclude Google Maps, a widely used GPS navigation app available worldwide. It offers users accurate directions, real-time traffic updates, and an extensive database of points of interest.
  • Apple Maps. There’s also Apple’s default map app for iOS devices. Its features include step-by-step instructions for users, real-time traffic updates, and integration with other Apple services.
  • Waze. The third navigation app worth mentioning is Waze, known for its community-based approach. It provides real-time traffic information, alerts about accidents or hazards, and user-generated reports.
  • HERE WeGo. Another service that has managed to gain popularity among users is HERE WeGo. This comprehensive GPS application has features like offline maps, public transit information, and live traffic updates.
  • MapQuest. This app provides driving directions, live traffic updates, and the ability to search for local businesses and services.

These are the most popular navigation GPS apps today. Of course, the list may change over time as new players are constantly entering the market.

What Are the Technical Requirements for Building a GPS Application?

If you’re looking for how to create a location-based app, you should analyze a couple of crucial technical requirements, without which you won’t succeed. Let’s discuss them in order.

  • Location services. First of all, your app should have access to the device’s GPS or other positioning technologies. This is a primary requirement for accurately determining the user’s location.
  • Mapping and routing APIs. You’ll also need to integrate your application with mapping and routing APIs that provide map data, routing algorithms, and geocoding services.
  • User Interface (UI). Don’t discount the design aspect of GPS application development too. First and foremost, it’s about creating an intuitive, user-friendly UI. The goal is to help users easily find their destinations, view maps, and receive clear navigation instructions.
  • Data storage. Depending on the app’s functionality, you may need to store map data, user preferences, and location history. In this case, you should take care of reliable data storage.
  • Network connectivity. GPS mobile apps often rely on internet connectivity to fetch real-time traffic updates, search for locations, and download maps.
  • Device compatibility. Ensure your app is compatible with a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and possibly wearables like smartwatches. After all, you never know what your user prefers to use to create routes.

What Programming Languages and Tools Are Commonly Used to Build GPS Apps?

Developers use various programming languages and frameworks to build GPS navigation apps. Let’s list the options most commonly used today:

  • Java. Focused on Android apps, Java provides a robust framework and access to Android’s location and mapping APIs.
  • Swift. Used for iOS app development, Swift offers powerful navigation features and integrates well with Apple’s Core Location framework.
  • JavaScript. This programming language is frequently used in combination with web-based mapping libraries and frameworks, such as Leaflet or Google Maps JavaScript API.
  • Python. A versatile language, Python can be used for backend development or data analysis tasks related to GPS apps.
  • C++. Is primarily employed for developing low-level components and optimizing performance-critical parts of the app.

Surely, this list could be continued, but these are the most relevant technologies for creating GPS applications.

How Do I Monetize My GPS App?

It’s not enough to create a navigation application—you need to be able to monetize it afterwards. So the next question is regarding how to make a GPS app profitable.

We propose considering several simple and working monetization strategies:

  • Freemium model. The essence of this concept is that you offer the basic application version for free but provide paid access to additional premium features. Another good idea is removing ads for premium users.
  • Advertising. Display relevant advertising content within your GPS mobile app, either through banners or interstitial ads, and earn revenue from ad networks or direct advertisers.
  • Partnerships. Another good monetization option is to partner with local businesses or service providers by offering them sponsored placements or promotions within your app.
  • Data licensing. If your app collects anonymized location data, you can sell or license this information to third-party companies for analytic or research purposes.
  • White-label solutions. Customize your GPS application for other businesses or organizations and license it to them for a fee.

Can I Build a GPS App Without a Background in Programming?

Building even a basic GPS app without any programming knowledge will be tricky and pretty challenging if you’re not ready to hire professionals. It’s not impossible, though, and here are a few options to consider:

  • No-code platforms. Use user-friendly, visual development platforms that allow you to create apps without writing code. These solutions often provide pre-built components for GPS functionality.
  • App builders. Utilize app-building services that offer drag-and-drop interfaces and ready-made templates. 

The above free solutions are suitable for building a base for your app, but they won’t give you many customization options. Therefore, your GPS application won’t be able to compete successfully in the market. Of course, the most effective way to create a navigation app is to hire experienced developers. The main thing for you is to have a clear understanding of the requirements for your project, and the rest is up to experts who know how to build a GPS application and will be able to bring your idea to life. 

Roman Zelinskyi
Roman Zelinskyi Software Solutions Consultant

With a vast background in business analysis, Roman is keen on identifying actual business challenges, defining tailored software requirements, and navigating IT projects to market success.


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