What Are Location Services on an iPhone?

By Shannon Keen

Updated September 28, 2017

To accurately determine your location, iPhone and iPod Touch applications such as Maps and Compass must be able to access information from local Wi-Fi and cellular networks and from broader Global Positioning System (GPS) networks. Location Services is a feature that collects the necessary information from these networks and makes it available to apps on your phone as needed. Location Services operates anonymously to prevent its use for identification or tracking.


The Location Services feature enables iPhone apps to pinpoint your location and provide you with directions based on your current position relative to your destination. This allows the iPhone to act as a GPS navigation device. Location Services relies first on GPS satellites to determine your location, with Wi-Fi and cell towers serving as secondary positioning sources. Navigation apps supported by Location Services can be particularly valuable if you are lost and no recognizable landmarks are available.


Once Location Services has determined your approximate location, it is displayed on your iPhone screen on a digital map of the surrounding area. If your location can be determined accurately, it will appear on the map as a small blue dot. If Location Services cannot pinpoint your exact location, a blue ring will appear around the dot, indicating the range of possible error for your location.

Data Service

Data services provide up-to-date navigational information for GPS systems, maps and location-based applications. These services are updated regularly to account for conditions such as new roads and intersections, closed roads and detours. If you are in an area that doesn't have access to certain data services, you may experience incomplete maps and inaccurate directions. Always default to posted road signs if the map on your iPhone doesn't match your surroundings.

On and Off

Every iPhone is programmed to run Location Services by default. The settings for Location Services are found in the “General” section of the Settings menu. You can turn the feature on or off at any time using this menu. The primary reason you might want to turn off Location Services is that it draws on your iPhone’s battery, requiring more frequent charging.