Building a Location-based Mobile App with React Native

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In the age of deep mobile penetration, location-based apps are becoming the hottest favorite of users. From ordering food to book cabs and finding their nearest bar, location-based apps have added an extra layer of convenience to modern lives. The soaring popularity of such apps has fueled the trend of location-based app development.

More and more startups are focusing on rolling out these apps to enhance the user experience. Interestingly, React Native is a powerful framework that augments the process of location-based mobile app development. In this blog, let’s see how you can build geo-dependent apps with React Native.

Need for Location-based Apps

Location-based apps offer location-specific features to simplify the workflow and make it easier for them to access information, services or specific content. Several established startups have built their entire business models on location-based services like Uber and Tinder. Even when an app is not dominantly location-based, geolocation feature surely enhances the user experience as in case of Instagram that allows a user to post geotagged photos on its platform.

Location-based apps provide specific services based on the location of the user. Location-based apps are highly popular among travelers, foodies, social users and are used for: 

  1. Accessing local guides and maps
  2. Posting geotagged photos on social media networks
  3. Tracking routes and monitoring physical activities using fitness apps
  4. Navigating to a particular place
  5. Booking a nearby service

Why choose React Native for Location-based app development?

React Native is a popular JavaScript framework that is used for creating intuitive cross-platform applications. With the help of React Native, developers can retain the native behaviors on iOS and Android, allowing them to roll out apps on both platforms using a single codebase.

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As React Native supports native behavior, developers don’t have to worry about the app behavior on different platforms. This has made React Native quite popular among startups and companies looking forward to mobile app development and deployment across multiple platforms with limited resources. Here are some advantages of using React Native for location-based app development:

Cross-platform

React Native empowers developers to use a single code base for developing mobile apps for iOS and Android. This means a reduction in their efforts and faster deployment which is essential in a dynamic digital world.

Better performance

React Native makes use of native modules and controls which means the code directly interacts with native components on Android & iOS. As React Native allows code rendering to Native API, the performance of a location-based app is enhanced phenomenally.

Open-source Platform

React Native is an open-source platform which means that developers can freely use the framework and interact with the community for improving the framework. With a thriving community of enthusiastic developers, the process of fixing bugs, finding solutions to critical development problems and deploying swiftly becomes quite easier.

Cost-efficient Development

Developing a cross-platform location-based app with React Native is cheaper than its alternatives. As React Native supports code reusability, developers don’t have to repeat the process of developing an app for multiple platforms, which saves time and money.

Steps to follow for building a location-based app

Now that we are done with the basics about React Native and location-based app development, let’s see how to develop such an app using the React Native framework. Fundamentally, there are three steps to embedding location-based features in a mobile app. Let’s look at them one by one in detail:

Gathering location-based data

React Native offers three ways to gather the user’s location data- using React Native API, using the react-native-background-geolocation package or by bridging native code to JavaScript API.

Using React Native API

React Native has a native JavaScript API that allows developers to detect the location of a device. The API is quite easy to install but only supports tracking of geolocation when the app is running which means it cannot be used for background geolocation tracking. Also, this doesn’t offer information about the location provider.

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Using react-native-background-geolocation package

The package can track the location of a device with an accuracy of 1000 meters. Though this means that the battery consumption is on the higher side. You can configure the package to decide how frequently the location should be tracked. The package also integrates with SQLite which means that the location data can be stored locally on the device and synced to the central database using HTTP

The developer is required to update the package frequently which can easily be done by contacting the creator via GitHub.

Bridge Native Code to the JavaScript API

If you want background tracking of the location data when you are using the JavaScript API, separate native code can be written to start the service in a dedicated thread. With React Native it is easier to bridge native code to a component such as a JavaScript API.

Asking for permissions to access location data

The user needs to provide permission for sharing his/her location information when he uses a location-based app. This can pose a unique challenge during location-based app development using React Native. As React Native allows cross-platform development but the process of asking permissions is different on iOS and Android, it is something that needs to be managed smoothly.

When using native code, this should be thought about and location data module should be used to verify access without triggering the alert for user permission on iOS & Android both platforms.

Displaying the location

The display part is critical and if not handled with care, location data can turn meaningless for the end-user. Generally, a mobile device uses either cellular network, WiFi or GPS to display location data. But out of these three, GPS is quite inaccurate because of the distorted satellite signals. If the app isn’t connected to the internet using cellular or Wi-Fi networks, a user can experience garbled data on the map with inaccurate location information.

To tackle this problem, a developer can use Fused Location Client by Google. This enables developers to set the frequency and distance between two location update points. For example, the location data should be updated every minute or every 500 meters. The client matches real-time location data with actual roads and sidewalks for enhanced accuracy and efficient noise reduction.

Wrapping Up

React Native is a suitable choice for location-based app development and can be used for gathering and displaying accurate location data to the end-users. If you are planning to launch a location-based service or startup, choosing React Native might be your best bet. This will help you improve your operations and provide a more user-centric experience to your targeted audience.

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Ankur is a CTO at Webs Optimization Software Solution. Being a passionate leader with analytical thinking and technical expertise in Java Application Development, he never fails to provide the best technical solutions. One would always find Ankur with ample energy and enthusiasm to explore new technologies.