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Why Does Find My iPhone Show Approximate Location?

Until now, iPhones have always given their users two choices: show your location or don’t. However, with the new iOS14 update, users might notice there now seems to be a distinct difference between precise location and approximate location, something Apple hasn’t introduced before (and didn’t talk about much, leading to some surprises).

iPhones now allow you to choose between approximate and precise locations in the settings. Approximate location means an app can only see the area you’re in, not your exact coordinates. You can change this by heading to ‘Settings,’ ‘Privacy,’ then ‘Location Services.’ 

Let’s take a closer look at the approximate location vs. precise location settings on an iPhone, as well as their limitations and how to change them.

What Did the iOS14 Update Change About Location Sharing? 

Hands holding iphone showing navigation

iPhones have always allowed you to choose whether you share your location and with which apps. When an app asks for permission to access your location, it will provide you with the following three options:

  • Always Share My Location
  • Share My Location Only While Using
  • Never Share My Location

You can toggle these for each app by going into your Settings, finding the exact app, and changing your settings. Alternatively, you can turn location services on or off your phone altogether.

However, iOS14 has introduced a new feature that not many have noticed. Not only can you choose between these three options now, but you can choose if you want to share your precise location with an app.

Before, they would always receive the exact coordinates of where you are—now, they may only be allowed a rough idea, protecting your privacy a little more.

How Does This Affect ‘Find My iPhone’?

Each app will be affected differently by this. For example, some apps—like weather and news apps—may only need your rough location, so you may not have an issue with you refusing to share your precise location. Other apps, however, need your exact location to function correctly.

Find My iPhone’ is one of these. ‘Find My iPhone’ can be accessed on Apple devices other than your iPhone to let you know its exact location if you lose it. It can also play a sound from the phone to draw you to it, in case it’s lost somewhere around you, but you can’t quite locate it.

‘Find My iPhone’ will still work if you have your approximate location turned on, but it will only show you the bubble where your phone is. It won’t be able to show you the exact location.

This might be helpful if you believe you left your phone at work or across town, but you may struggle if there are various places within the bubble that it could be. Therefore, having your exact location turned on for this specific app is best—though not mandatory.

How to Change Approximate Location to Precise Location

If you want to change your approximate location to your precise location, there are two ways you can do this.

When You First Get the App

The first is to change it when an app initially asks you to permit them to access your location. While you’ll see the usual three options, there will also be a toggle on the top left of the map that asks if you want to share your precise or approximate location. Choose the correct one. 

In the Settings

Iphone - disable locations menu

The second is to access the option in your settings and change it from there, which you can do this way:

  1. Open Settings.
  1. Tap Privacy.
  1. Tap Location Services.

Here, you’ll be presented with a list of all of your apps. You can then scroll down to find the one you want to change and tap on the app. This will open up your location settings for that app, and you can choose to share your approximate or precise location (as well as turn it on or off altogether, if you want).

It’s important to remember that sharing your location—whether approximate or precise—will drain your battery faster. Changing the setting to approximate doesn’t ease off on that, so be careful how many apps are running in the background and tracking you.

Why Would Someone’s Location Not Update on Their Phone?

Many people use the iPhone’s location services to keep track of friends and family for safety and convenience reasons. However, sometimes they may notice that the app of their choice has stopped giving them their location—or you may see your apps can’t track yours. There are a few potential reasons.

Location Services Turned Off

It may be that location services have been accidentally toggled off. Head into the settings mentioned above to double-check that you or your loved ones’ location services are turned on.

App Not Updated

The specific app that can’t track your location may need to be updated. You can check this by:

  1. Going into the App Store and finding the specific app that seems to be having issues.
  1. Once you’ve done this, check if there’s an Update option beside it and tap it if there is.

This will bring the app to its latest version, hopefully fixing any bugs.

Messed Up Signal

Although your phone doesn’t rely on your cell or data signal to provide a location, low signals can mess up its ability to find your exact or approximate location.

You may notice it seems slightly off, or it sometimes can’t locate you or your loved one. Check your WiFi, mobile data, and cell signal and see if the location services improve when it gets higher.

Overall, using your approximate location rather than your precise one is a great privacy tool if you’re concerned about apps having your exact coordinates.

However, it won’t save your battery, and some apps need your precise location to function to their full potential, so it’s essential to be aware of that. Fortunately, changing the settings is easy if you change your mind about an app’s granted permissions.