How to Set My Location on an Android

By Dan Stone

Android devices offer some control over how your device determines its physical location and how apps can interact with that data. With location services enabled, an Android device can use a combination of GPS tracking, Wi-Fi and cellular data to pinpoint where the device is located on Earth. Apps such as Google Maps can use the data for navigation, while weather apps use the location information to bring up automatically a relevant forecast for your area. The downside to location services is that keeping them on at all times can drain your device's battery quickly.

Enable Android Location Access

You don't need to manually enter coordinates or search for your location to set your location on an Android device; the device does the work for you. You can enable location services by touching the "Location" tile in the Notifications menu or by opening the "Settings" app, selecting "Location" and tapping the "On/Off" switch. The device will prompt you for approval when you enable location services. Leaving location services enabled to some degree is necessary to run certain apps that rely on GPS data. Some Android devices, like the Nook Tablet, do not have built-in GPS and are limited to Wi-Fi based location services.

Accessing Advanced Location Settings

Android's Location settings menu lets you toggle location services features and provides information about which apps are using your location. Android 4.4 adds further control over which location-determining components are running; previous versions offered an all-or-nothing approach. While location services may not be as accurate when disabling some components, it also means the Android device doesn't have to power those devices, which can extend battery life. Access location services through the "Settings" app or by pressing and holding on the "Location" icon in the Notifications window for a few seconds.

About Location Mode Settings

Android 4.4 introduces a "Mode" menu to the Location settings; this menu controls which components the device uses to determine your location. The default "High accuracy" setting uses GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile networks and any other location-determining hardware your device features for faster and more accurate location calculation. High accuracy is the most battery-intensive option. Alternatively, you can switch the device to "battery saving" mode to use only Wi-Fi and mobile network data to calculate your location. Apps that require GPS will not work in battery saving mode. Finally, the "device only" option disables Wi-Fi and mobile network data location calculation in favor of only using GPS; this option uses more battery power than "battery saving" mode.

Developer Location Debugging

Android developers can enable a feature called "Allow Mock Locations" which allows apps to test for false locations (see Resources). Mock locations trick your device into thinking it's somewhere it isn't since you can't manually set a location. The mock locations feature is intended to allow developers to test location features within apps without having to actually go to the location in question. Google recommends using a fake GPS app to feed your device fake locations.