Whether you want to keep your location private or just save battery life, there are several ways to turn off iPhone location services. Airplane mode is one option that disables cellular and WiFi connections and prevents anyone from seeing your location.
Many built-in mechanisms rely on, or are greatly enhanced by, location access on an iPhone, like emergency calls and cell network search. There are also system services that access your location.
1. Go to Settings
If you’re concerned about privacy, you may want to limit the amount of data that your iPhone shares with the world. This can be done easily enough on the iPhone’s Settings app by adjusting the Location Services options. While this won’t stop anyone from tracking your location, it will prevent apps and services from seeing the information and enabling them to do so without your knowledge.
The easiest way to do this is to simply disable the Location Services option. To do this, head to Settings and then scroll down to Privacy to see the option. By default, this is set to “On” but can be switched to the Off position. This will keep any apps and Apple’s system from having access to your location information, though it won’t disable features such as Find My iPhone which can help you locate a lost or misplaced device.
Another way to limit the amount of data shared is to turn off “Location History.” This will remove any locations logged from your phone, but it won’t affect current GPS tracking. This option is in Settings and in the Privacy section under Location Services.
You can also decide which apps should have access to your location by going through the same process in your Privacy settings. This will display a list of all iOS systems that use location and allow you to toggle them on or off as desired. Some, like the Phone and Settings Time Zone and Emergency Calls & SOS, should stay on at all times, but others such as HomeKit and Location-Based Suggestions can be turned off to conserve battery life.
One downside of this is that the person you have chosen to share your location with will get a notification in Messages when you choose to reactivate sharing. This isn’t a big deal if you’re just looking for some privacy, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re planning to do anything more involved with the phone such as leaving it unattended for extended periods of time. If you really want to protect your privacy, it’s best to keep the phone in airplane mode whenever possible.
2. Scroll down to Privacy
Many of the features and apps on an iPhone rely on location information. For example, some apps use your GPS position to find nearby restaurants and driving directions. Others use your location to provide weather reports or make sure that the time displayed on your phone is correct based on your current location and time zone. While this is all fine and well, you don’t need to keep your location information available to every app that you use.
In fact, if you’re concerned about privacy, it’s best to turn off Location Services as much as possible. That way, only you can decide which apps have access to your location and when they can see it. This also prevents your location from being accidentally logged in to other apps or websites.
The first thing you’ll want to do is go to Settings and then scroll down to Privacy. Here you will see a list of all the apps that have access to your location. The ones that have been turned on will have a green checkmark next to them. To turn off an app’s location services, tap the grey switch next to it. This will turn off the app’s access to your location, unless you specifically enable it in the future.
You can change the settings of individual apps by selecting them from the list and changing the toggle switch to either Never, Ask Next Time, or When I Share. If you select “Never,” the app will not be able to track your location at all, but you can still allow it to use your location when you’re using the app. You can also adjust the Precise Location setting to limit how precise an app or widget can be with your location.
If you’re really serious about protecting your privacy, the easiest and fastest way to hide your location is by turning on Airplane Mode. This will disable your cellular data and WiFi, making it difficult for anyone to trace your location. However, this method is not foolproof because Apple’s Find My feature can still track your iPhone if it has power and is connected to a wireless network.
3. Scroll down to Location Services
There are some built-in iPhone mechanisms that either rely on location access to function (like Find My iPhone or Emergency Calls) or are greatly enhanced by it (like Cell Network Search and Significant Locations). Depending on your level of privacy concerns, you may want to turn off the ability of any app to track your location. This will not stop the iPhone from tracking you; it will simply limit the amount of data that is collected and shared.
To access the location settings, go to Settings and then scroll down to Privacy. This will bring up a list of all the apps that can use location services. To disable location tracking for any one of them, simply slide the switch next to the app to the “Off” position. It will turn red when the feature is off. If you wish to turn it back on, just follow the same process.
In addition to the general Location Services switch, there is a specific Significant Locations setting that shows your past movements on a map. This is turned on by default, but if you want to turn it off, go to the same settings menu and then to System Services. Tap on the toggle switch next to “Frequent Locations.” This will turn it off, but your previous data won’t disappear. It will just be encrypted and not available to Apple.
It’s also a good idea to clear your Significant Locations from time to time to remove the older information that you no longer want Apple to have access to. Once this is done, you can turn off the general Location Services switch once again to resume normal operation.
You can also change the location preferences on a per-app basis by tapping the app that you want to modify and selecting one of the options at the bottom of the screen. These range from Never to Ask Every Time or Only When I Share.
If you don’t have a need to keep your location settings turned on at all, the best way to ensure that your friends and family do not see your phone is to set it to “Lost Mode.” This will prevent anyone from seeing where you are when you are in Lost mode, but be aware that this doesn’t necessarily hide your location from law enforcement or your cell phone provider.
4. Turn Off
You can turn off location services on your iPhone to stop apps and other features from tracking where you are. You can do this by going to your Settings app, scrolling down to Privacy, and then tapping Location Services. This option is green and on by default, but you can turn it off to prevent your phone from using its GPS. This does not hide your location from cellular service providers or government agencies with a warrant, but it will stop other apps from knowing your exact location.
If you have a specific reason to limit the use of your iPhone’s location services, you can choose to turn off the setting for individual apps or widgets by moving down to the Individual Apps section. You can choose Never to ensure that apps and widgets do not use your location at all, Ask Next Time or When I Share to allow the app to use your location only when you’re using the app or widget, and Precise Location to limit the accuracy of Apple Maps and other location services.
Another good reason to disable location services is that it can save you some battery life. If you’re ever stuck with a 3% battery life and know you have an hour or two to make it home, turning off location services can give your phone the power it needs to last.
The downside of disabling location services is that it will affect your ability to use a variety of apps and features on your device. You will need to enable them again if you want to use your GPS, use Apple Pay or any other feature that requires a data connection or uses your current location. You’ll also be unable to use iCloud Find My, which is an excellent tool for keeping track of children and loved ones while you’re away from them.
To re-enable your location services, just go back to the Settings app, scroll down to Privacy, and tap Location Services. Then, slide the toggle switch to the off position. You will also be able to manually disable location services by opening the Control Center, tapping on the airplane icon, and then enabling it again when you’re ready to use your iPhone.