Navigation, location sharing, and location tracking apps are dime a dozen. Today, we will talk about location-aware mobile apps. Apps that utilize GPS chips in smartphones to offer unique features that go above and beyond simple navigation.
GPS chips in smartphones are mostly used by apps that offer navigation and location sharing features. You might get pinged by Google, Facebook, and other services (so it’s always recommended that you turn your location setting off and use it only when you need it for navigation and other purposes that require precise location), and your GPS chip can also be used by various apps to get one time reading of your location (such as weather apps, Netflix, shopping apps, and other apps that require user location info). And that is about 9 out of 10 cases your phone’s GPS chip is used.
But there are plenty of mobile apps that utilize smartphone GPS capability in unique ways, be it for allowing users to admire the night sky, to get info on various tourist attractions, to meet new people, to play games, for urban exploration, and for many other purposes. We found 10 highly interesting location-based apps that offer unique features based on GPS technology.
City and museum guides by Tourblink
Tourblink creates specialized city and museum guides that are location-based. There are dozens of popular cities in their lineup including major tourist destinations such as New York, Tokio, Bangkok, Amsterdam, London, Istanbul, Barcelona, Venezia, Prague, Firenze, and many more. There are more than 30 cities in total with the addition of the world’s most popular museums such as The Louvre, Rijksmuseum, Hermitage, and more.
Each destination has its own app and each app features a plethora of sightseeing points, walking tours, most popular places to eat, drink, and have fun, as well as paid tours by local guides. The best thing is that in case you don’t have any free data while in roaming, each tour and each map can be downloaded on your phone and used offline. This is, along with Lonely Planet’s guide app, the best collection of location-aware apps for tourists from around the world.
Dark Sky - Hyperlocal Weather
Weather apps are all similar, aren’t they? You get daily and weekly forecast, multiple locations to cover (with most offering auto location option that requires GPS), some additional features such as multiple weather forecast providers along with a selection of custom widgets. Some go above and beyond when it comes to extra features and can offer additional weather details, long-term forecast, or moon forecast, along with various radar data. But at the end of the day, they are all pretty similar and we usually go for the one that offers the best combination of accuracy and eye candy.
Well, Dark Sky is a bit different. It uses your GPS along with other ways to calculate your location and builds up a hyperlocal weather forecast unique for you and your movement throughout the day. The forecast uses every single local weather forecast station that’s connected to the internet to build a hyperlocal forecast. You can know when the rain will start to fall and the exact second it’ll stop; or the minute-by-minute changes in air pressure, temperature, and wind speed. It’s all very pretty too, with a slick UI and beautiful widgets. The only downside is the fact that hyperlocal weather forecast is a premium feature (but $3 per year subscription is quite affordable) and that the hyperlocal feature works only in the US, UK, Ireland, and Puerto Rico.
GasBuddy is a neat little app that doesn’t come packed with unnecessary features but it’s best at what it does. The app uses GPS to search for gas stations near you that have the lowest gas prices. But not only that – GasBuddy allows users to search gas stations by selecting variables such as the inclusion of car wash, restaurant, restrooms. You can also search only specific brands and in case you really need the closest gas station there’s the option to show just those that are closest to your location, no matter their gas price or the selection of extra conveniences.
The app comes with additional features, it’s not just one-trick pony. There are reviews from the app’s huge community, the app will notify you to fill up your car’s tank before price hikes, there are cool prize contests, and the app also shows deals offered by convenience stores. And finally, with GasBuddy, you can save up gas by allowing the app to monitor your driving habits and notify you about events that suck up additional gas and hike up your fuel economy.
Guides by Lonely Planet
Another case of using GPS and location for tourist guides but this time every single one is available in the same app. The Lonely Planet is one of the most popular travel sites in the world that they did amazing work with their tourist guides app. The app features guides for more than 100 cities and each included city has a selection of curated guides written by real people, insider tips on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do, along with hidden, off-the-beaten-track places to enjoy.
The app also has additional features such as a currency converter, a selection of maps, bookmark feature, and a huge selection of audio phrases (more than 10,000 phrases for 19 languages) that can be a great band-aid for many tourists. The best thing is that every single piece of data (maps, guides, audio guides, phrases, etc.) can be downloaded and used offline.
Most dating apps use your location as just another variable when deciding which persons to put in your swipe feed but Happn is based completely on your real-time location. This “local dating app” creates a unique web of persons who crossed their paths in real life and then puts their profiles on your timeline as potential matches. The more times you crossed paths with a specific person and the less distance there’s between you two the higher up your timeline their profile will be, and vice versa.
You can tap on every suggested profile and check where you crossed path with a certain someone as well as the frequency and the exact time. This allows users to find out about details (like discovering that you have an attractive stranger you’re crossing paths each day when getting a coffee or waiting for the train to go to work, etc.) about the suggested match before sending a secret like that won’t show to the other person unless they like your profile too. And from then on, anything’s possible!
NPS National Mall
NPS National Mall (National Parks Service's National Mall) is an awesome app for anyone planning to visit Washington D.C. The app features a plethora of resources regarding historical sites in the capital of the US. There’s a handy map with each POI (point of interest) tagged clearly on the map; AR (augmented reality) layer shows labels, sites identification and more; there’re also walking direction for each site based on your location and the app also offers curated tours based on how much time you have on your hands as well as your interests.
The app is lightweight and works without an active internet connection. Other features included in the NPS National Mall are postcards (allowing users to send digital postcards to friends and family) and events and news.
Location-based games aren’t really new but they finally become a global phenomenon with the release of Pokémon Go. This game combines augmented reality (AR) features with GPS technology to bring players into the magical world of Pokémon. You can search for them all around you, can track your movement and places where you caught each and every pocket monster, there are gyms where trainers can battle, which can be found via GPS, and much more.
The game’s also great for getting some activity since Pokémon aren’t only obtained by catching wild ones but also by hatching their eggs. And for an egg to hatch you have to walk a certain distance. The more you walk the more eggs will be hatched and the bigger your Pokémon collection will be! A great game that uses location technology in combination with AR to offer a unique experience for all players.
When I started using Android back in 2010 (with the legendary HTC Tattoo) one of the first apps I downloaded was the one that featured the map of the night sky that correlated the real thing with the help of the GPS and, the phone’s accelerometer and the compass. Now, I don’t remember which app I used back in the day but I know that the best experience today is brought by Sky Map.
The app is pretty simple. Every time it runs, it gets your exact location along with the position of your smartphone via accelerometer and other sensors and then it shows the map of the night sky on your screen that correlates with the real thing up in the skies. You can discover constellations and their position on your night sky, check out locations of each visible planet, visit the night sky visible from the opposite side of the Earth by pointing your display to the ground, and much more. Sky Map is a small planetarium that can fit any pocket and is a unique way of using GPS tech.
Skydroid - Golf GPS Scorecard
This is the best gold scorecard app on the market because it offers GPS-based features that can really help you in your game. The base of the app is an excellent golf scorecard that offers attractive, clean, and easy to use UI but the fun starts with the app’s GPS features.
Skydroid has more than 30,000 golf courses in its library and each mapped course offers a plethora of useful features. You can see exact, GPS-based (meaning no mobile data is used) distance to every green as well as distances to water, bunkers, trees, and more. Every mapped course supports satellite view (zooming on the view does use mobile data) along with shot tracking (each hit is calculated based on your walking distance to the ball).
Further, shot data and every scorecard can be uploaded and backed up, each course can be downloaded in order to save up mobile data, and the app supports mapping of any golf course for free. The best golf scorecard that does much more and that uses location tech in an original way that’s really handy for every golfer.
Trigger – Location-aware task launcher
Trigger is a location-aware app that’s all about making everyday life easier and simpler. We all use all phones all day every day and with trigger, we should make many of those usage scenarios autonomous. This allows more efficient usage without the need of picking up the phone every time you want to silence your phone, manually activate the alarm, or turn Bluetooth manually every time you enter your car.
Trigger uses GPS to make your phone aware when it enters a specific location, activating scripts that automatize certain actions. Entering your office, for instance, can silence your phone, activate Wi-Fi and deactivate mobile data. Entering the car will turn on Bluetooth, open your music app or turn on GPS navigation.
The app supports NFC tags meaning you can create specific macros based on different NFC tags. Putting the phone on a nightstand can put it on airplane mode, activate the alarm and dim the display. An NFC tag placed in the kitchen, for example, can turn on your favorite cooking YouTube channel. The possibilities are endless.