Over the Christmas break, my iPhone would randomly decide that I was in my office. I’d have an app open that used my location, but instead of showing me where I actually was, it’d suggest that I was in Bradford. Which isn’t so useful when, in reality, you’re at home, or in York.
It caused particular problems when using Google Maps for directions, as it’d randomly jump to Bradford and then back again. Swarm was basically unusable. And it completely broke the ‘Track Exercise’ function of the Fitbit app. I had to actually uninstall and reinstall the Fitbit app a couple of times because it wouldn’t let me stop the exercise. This was even after restarting the app.
Turning Wifi off helped. Apple’s iPhones, and indeed many other devices, use the SSIDs of available Wifi networks to approximate your location. This is done by querying a web service, which means that you can still get an approximate location even when indoors, and out of view of GPS satellites. But turning off Wifi was hardly a long term solution.
How to actually fix the location problem
A bit of Googling uncovered this article about fixing your location. It offers several solutions, depending on whether the issue affects just one application, or all. In my case, it was all applications, and the solution that worked was the fifth on the list. This involves resetting your phone’s location and privacy settings.
To do this, open Settings, and choose General. Then, scroll right down to the bottom and choose Reset, then select ‘Reset Location & Privacy’ – on iOS 10.2, this is the last option. Your device will ask you for your unlock password – pop this in, confirm, and hopefully your device will get the location correct from now on.
There is a drawback to doing this, however. You’ll have noted that this resets both your location and privacy settings. This means that any apps that you have granted access to your contacts, photos, calendars, camera, microphone, media library and so on will need to request them again. Although, oddly, apps will retain their location permissions, along with any permissions regarding background app refresh, notifications or mobile data access.
Despite these issues, it was a relief to fix the problem.
This blog post was updated in November 2023 with an updated screenshot, but the instructions are broadly the same.