iOS 14: A Guide to Accessing Precise Location

Rakuten Ready

Posted by: Rakuten Ready / September 20, 2020

On September 16th, Apple released the newest version of its iOS, iOS 14. With this release, Apple continues on focusing on protecting users’ privacy and data — adding to the data privacy work done with iOS 13. As with iOS 13, the release of iOS 14 continues to push brands and their developers to provide consumers with more transparency and control around how their location is accessed and used. 

At WWDC 2020, Apple introduced a new dimension within location permissions – Precise Location – now providing users with the choice of whether or not to share their exact location. The nuanced nature of Precise Location further places responsibility on brands to clearly communicate the benefits to users on why they should share their location with the brands, while not overstepping their use of location tracking in inappropriate ways. 

In this article, we will discuss what Precise Location is, how to drive desired customer adoption, and we will also provide some best practice use cases. Our goal is to help you make sense of Precise Location and provide recommendations to drive users to share the proper location permissions you need to deliver upon your intended goals in using their location.

Precise Location Overview

The new Precise Location setting in iOS 14 lets users choose whether or not their iPhone shares their precise location with apps and services they use. If users choose to turn off Precise Location, then only their approximate location will be shared with the app. When an approximate location is provided, the app will receive a large radius area, in which the user’s precise location is contained within. The radius of the approximate location region will vary depending upon context. If the user is in a dense urban setting, the radius will be smaller; if the user is in an open field in a rural region, that radius will be larger. 

This new Precise Location policy may seem radical at first since users are used to sharing their exact location. However, this change serves to assist in protecting a user’s privacy by limiting potential abuse – especially since Precise Location is not needed in many use cases.  A weather application is a good example of an app that doesn’t need precise location, as the city or zip code will provide weather information that is just as accurate and relevant to the user.

However, apps that require your exact location – services such as map apps used for navigation, Uber, or curbside pickup – will absolutely require Precise Location in order to deliver the expected customer experience. And in these use cases, it is incumbent on brands to explain to users upfront about the value exchange in providing their precise location. 

For example, In order for a user to get accurate turn-by-turn directions, their exact location will need to feed through to the app. And if those users are told – when they first download or open the app – that in providing their exact location, they can depend on the accuracy of the directions and ETA, most will happily provide Precise Location.  

Dependency upon mobile devices will continue to grow and for many brands, that means prioritizing their connection with customers via mobile apps. And if those apps require Precise Location, only the brands who can gain user trust and get users to grant location permissions will be those who can provide the best customer experience, which drives up the brand’s CSAT (customer satisfaction score) and NPS (net promoter score) — ultimately improving their bottom line. 

Nuances around Precise Location

Let’s explore how Precise Location will behave in iOS 14 compared to iOS13. The most notable difference is that in iOS 14, the location permissions prompt will include a map with a toggle that allows users to turn Precise Location ON or OFF, with the default being ON. Below is an example of Precise Location ON, with the toggle pill in the top left corner of the map.

Now that you’ve seen the most visible change with Precise Location, let’s get into some common flows that users may encounter.

I. Precise Location ON by default, a user’s first interaction with your app

By default, Precise Location is on unless the user has changed this setting. In the diagram below, we’ve highlighted the flow a user may take when being asked for their location when Precise Location is ON by default. In our example, after a user has placed an order, the app then asks for permissions with context explaining WHY Precise Location is needed.


When the toggle is ON, Precise Location is enabled if the user selects either Allow Once or Allow While Using App. If these conditions are met, the user has allowed sharing of their precise location and you can offer the user the desired experience by leveraging their location. In our example above, by sharing the user’s location, the app is able to automatically check-in the user just before they arrive to pick up their order, enabling them to skip the manual ‘I’m Here’ check-in. 

However if the user does not share their precise location, the app will only have an approximate location with a broad indication of where their customer is. In our example above, if only approximate location is provided, the customer will have to manually notify the brand that they’ve arrived – meaning they won’t experience the seamless pickup intended by the brand. 

The challenge ahead then, is to make the case for WHY a user should share their precise location. Since this is commonly the first flow users will encounter, we encourage brands to really think through:

    • WHEN is the right time to ask for location permissions (more on that later)
    • HOW you will very clearly and simply explain to users WHY you need Precise Location 
    • And WHAT the users get in exchange for offering it

Given real estate limitations during this permissions experience, bullets 2 + 3 above will need to occur within one pithy sentence.

II. When Precise Location is OFF

When the Precise Location toggle is OFF, the app may still request Precise Location use for the relevant session. In this case, there are two different approaches: Your app can either ask the user to allow the use of Precise Location for the current session, or it can provide a link to Settings, where the user can enable Precise Location. In both cases, the app should provide a brief explanation of how precision will make for a better user experience.

In the case where the user swtiches Precise Location ON in Settings. the setting is more permanent, because it will remain on until the user changes it again. In the Allow Once case, Precise Location reverts to OFF when current session ends.

The biggest difference is that this temporary access is just that, temporary. While product leads would prefer the more permanent scenario, they should consider their users and create flows and options that balance their business needs with the concerns of their customers. 

Let’s walk through what temporary access means for Precise Location. In the example below, the user has completed an order and has previously allowed Always access, but has somehow turned Precise location OFF. As a result, users will get a prompt asking for Precise Location, at which point they can choose to Allow Once or Don’t Allow.


If the user decides to Allow Once, you can route them to the flow that uses their Precise Location. If they choose Don’t Allow, we recommend that you take this opportunity to share WHY they should share their location Always with Precise Location on. 

In our next example, the flow is very similar but with the goal of encouraging users to make Precise Location permanent. The main difference here is in the prompt delivered after the order is placed, which recommends users change their settings accordingly.


If your app TRULY needs permanent access, you must ask for location permissions at the RIGHT TIME (more on this later) and effectively prove WHY to drive significant adoption.

Trust is critical to influencing the location decision

In our previous blog we discussed some best practices to ensure consumers allow Precise Location. We continue to recommend that asking for location permissions at the right time and making a strong case for the value exchange is the best way to get customers to grant the necessary location data. Below are a few additional considerations:

    Build trust

Don’t ask for location permissions you don’t need. If allowing Precise Location doesn’t provide customers with a strong value exchange such as a faster, better  experience, their trust in your intents will diminish. Be transparent about the benefits they gain and never try to get access to data not required in your current app experience. 

Users can now see when and how their location was accessed and if their location data is abused, it is likely to lead to permissions being revoked or to the app being uninstalled entirely. Apps must consistently build trust by highlighting their value in order to continue receiving access to valuable location data.

 Ask at the right time

Request location only when it is needed and when it is obvious in the user experience flow. In iOS 14, it is very easy for a user to give permissions without leaving the app. The goal here is to avoid having users choose ‘Don’t Allow’ because when users select ‘Allow Once’ or ‘Allow While Using App,’ the app can ask for permissions again. Therefore, the first time an app requests location is by far the most important and the most likely time in which you will get those permissions granted.

 Provide rationale

Offer context to your customer around why location information is needed and how it is relevant to improving their experience. Focus on the user and try to understand what their top needs are, and how those needs are met by them granting you these permissions. Providing rationale that is human and relevant to the user will drive greater adoption. What would encourage you to provide a precise location? 

A: ‘Enable Precise Location if you want a perfect, hot pizza brought curbside to you’

B: ‘For a better experience, always allow us to access your precise location’

Yeah, we’d choose A as well.

With the change of how location is approached in iOS 14, apps that communicate transparently and deliver upon their promises, will build a trusted experience that has minimal impact on the business. The key is to ask at the right time with the right context, so users are in the right mindset and trust your app with their private location data.

Example Use Cases

We know that building trust with customers can provide the best customer experience when they choose to keep ‘Precise Location’ turned ON. Let’s review some samples of when to ask for permissions and great examples of how it’s being asked for.

1. Store Locators

Probably the simplest use case for needing Precise Location is to power your Store Locator. If the user selects “Find the Nearest Location,” that is the perfect time to request location permissions. 

That hungry person driving and looking for somewhere to eat or that person driving on empty desperately looking for a gas station – both will certainly be happy to provide their location in exchange for seeing where the closest and most convenient location is to them. The ideal experience would be for your app to prompt them to share their location before the user decides to conduct a search on their own, outside of your app, for the nearest location.

The Chick-fil-A app experience starts with the user selecting whether they intend to pick up their order at the restaurant or have their order delivered to them. If you order for pickup, you will be prompted to select the location, then asked to provide location permissions. When doing this, Chick-fil-A is transparent in telling customers that they need location in order to find local restaurants, to deliver/hand-off orders, and to offer local rewards.

This example assumes Precise Location is turned ON. If Precise Location is OFF, here are some alternative experiences to include to allow customers to find locations:

      • Offer a location search that has users manually enter zip code
      • Offer a map and have users search within a region that they selected
2. Local Deals

Another benefit of knowing your customers’ precise location is the ability to offer promotions that are delivered as customers travel by a specific location or things like BOGO offers are made at the right time.  

Chick-Fil-A (and any QSR can do this) drives incremental sales by offering customers free food/beverages, on a localized basis. But only those who provide their location are privy to such rewards.

A push notification such as “Hungry for a special deal?” could be followed by a screen that explains how location data would be used and then ask for permission, so they can get more offers like that. Such a prompt makes it very clear why the app is asking for location permissions and what the end user gets for providing it. 

When Precise Location is OFF, brands can consider incentive-based promotions that drive users to turn it on. Here are some sample promotion-based incentives that encourage sharing of Precise Location:

      • To drive more visits or to increase basket size, have customers check-in upon arrival to get X promotion (requires no location). After the promotion is redeemed, your app can prompt them for Precise location to get more special deals and local offers.
      • To help lower performing locations, consider developing a store-specific promotion (for example, ‘free pictures with Santa at our Main Street location’), then require Precise Location to activate the experience (“instead of waiting in line, use our app to hold your place in line – turn on Precise Location – and we will prompt you when it’s time to make your way to Santa”).
3. Fulfilling Curbside or In-Store Order Pickup

With the massive increase in curbside and in-store pickup volume due to COVID-19, knowing exactly when customers will arrive is more important than ever. Many people are ordering online for pickup in order to minimize their time in stores and around people, so if customers are left waiting long for their orders, brands can expect repeat purchases and brand loyalty to be impacted.   

For restaurants, timing the preparation of the food around the estimated arrival time of your customers is the key to handing off a quality product. Below, you can see how Chick-Fil-A tracks their customer’s trip to their location, then prompts the customer to click the ‘Prepare my order now’ button once they approach. By doing this, Chick-Fil-A is able to time order preparation perfectly. 

But even more importantly, with Precise Location on, Chick-Fil-A is able to not only have the order available for pickup in their restaurant, they can also offer curbside pickup. Precise Location allows the store employees to know exactly where the customer is parked, so the second the order is ready, they can quickly walk it out for a faster, more seamless experience. 

If Precise Location is OFF, the above experience in which a brand can be ready for the customer’s arrival will not be possible, since without the customer’s location it is impossible to determine the customer’s ETA. Often in this case, brands default to an “I’m Here” button or an SMS prompting the customer to click a link or call once they have arrived. 

For retailers – especially those with vast footprints (big box, grocers, home improvement) – precise location enables employees to properly plan out their picking + packing of orders, destaging, and contactless handoffs. When you have 10s of thousands of square feet to run around to collect a large volume of orders, prioritizing orders around the ETAs of customers is vital. 

This is especially the case for grocers who often pick + pack their orders, then store them in separate temperature-controlled areas, where the orders stay until the customer is approaching. Once store employees know the customer is minutes away, they run to collect the pre-packed bags from the various areas of the store, then wheel the order out to the customer in a timely manner that ensures no ice cream ever melts.

Precise Location enables retailers to not only have orders ready the second the customer arrives, but it also powers fast and seamless curbside pickup. Precise Location tells store employees your ETA so they can prepare for a safe, contactless handoff, but once you arrive on the lot, it also tells them where you are parked. This removes manual steps [customer having to tell the store where they, what car they’re in] from the experience and provides customers with a joyful pickup experience that they will want to repeat again.

Timing is everything. And when customers choose in-store or curbside pickup for their orders, THAT is the ideal time to ask customers for location. At that moment, letting customers know that having access to their precise location will enable your store to have the order ready (and warm, for example, if you are a restaurant with warm offerings) and waiting for them, will significantly increase likelihood of receiving location permission. In this use case, because customers already expressed intent to pick-up their order, you already know the experience the customer expects (fast, seamless hand off) and the value exchange in them providing their location is clear.

Developers need to understand the impact on the customer experience when a user trusts the app enough to share their precise location.  Once a user gives such permission to an app, make sure to use the location data wisely to build trust and provide the best possible customer experience so they will want to repeat that experience over and over again.

Do you need help optimizing your mobile pickup experience now that iOS 14 is live?

Rakuten Ready is here to help with ensuring a superior iOS 14 experience

Rakuten Ready, the leader in predictive arrival technology, has powered online Order for Pickup programs since 2013, and we have years of proven excellence in delivering superior customer experiences, with brands of all sizes.

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