Your phone knows exactly where you are. Is that good or bad?

Android phones come with a few options for location services, and these are useful for map apps, locating nearby shops, restaurants, and the like, but which one is the right one for you to use? Let's clarify the differences and help you out.

Accessing location services

To find and select your location services:

  1. Tap the Settings button on your Home screen.
  2. Tap Location under the Personal menu.
  3. Tap Mode.
  4. Tap the option you want to use for your location service.

    Tap Location, tap Mode, tap your option

Now let's have a look at what each of the three options mean.

High accuracy

When you select the High accuracy location service mode, you are allowing multiple networks to pinpoint your precise location (hence the name High accuracy). It calls upon every service available: GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and/or cellular networks in whatever combination avaailable, and uses Google's location services to provide the most accurate location.

It might feel a bit like Big Brother is watching you, since your phone's location will be pretty well down to the street corner you're standing on, or the home address you're living at or visiting. Some people find it disconcerting, others find it comforting. Regardless, you'll probably want this mode turned on if you're looking for turn-by-turn directions.

Battery saving

A sure way to save battery life is to eliminate GPS from the location equation. Battery saving mode uses less battery-intensive location sources (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and/or nearby cell towers) to figure out where you are using Google's location services.

Granted, this will not be as accurate as using them along with GPS, but you will still get a close approximate location and your maps or apps will still point you in the right direction within a few extra feet of where you are — all while saving valuable battery life.

Device only

Device only mode relies solely on the GPS radio signal built into your Android phone. It works in much the same way that a GPS device for cars does, using the GPS-designated network of satellites to find your phone's location. This means it will work in places where Wi-Fi and cellular network coverage are lacking, but will also end up using more battery power to determine your location than the Battery saver mode.

It will be a bit more time consuming for the information to reach you, but you'll get a pretty good idea of what's nearby; just keep in mind that some app features you might want to use won't necessarily function without the other networks.

Which one's right for you?

For the most part, if you're going to use location services you should leave your phone set to High accuracy. It eliminates guesswork and is the most precise location service you can use, so why not? Sure, switch to battery saving mode if you're running low but still need to use maps and other services, but High accuracy mode live up to its name when you absolutely need to know where you are and where you're going.