Why your phone wants to know where you are

Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A dot showing “You are here” used to be reserved exclusively for maps of shopping malls. Now, it’s being used more than ever by smartphones to offer deals, services and information.

The number of people using location-based services on cell phones has nearly doubled in less than a year.

GPS on a cell phone can let Groupon offer customers coupons for restaurants on the street where they’re walking.

Lots of apps can help people of similar interests meet up when they’re in the same location, like a nightclub or festival.

People “checking in” with Foursquare at Six Flags Theme Parks can skip ahead to the front of the line.

Some people concerned with privacy think it’s creepy to let the world know exactly where they are at any given moment. They worry the information could be used by stalkers.

But Sci-Tech Today reports the number of people using location-based services has nearly doubled in less than a year, to include 41 percent of smartphone owners now.

Smartphones’ awareness of “location” are also making them increasingly popular for problem-solving. People use their phones as tools for navigation, for example, to get directions. They also take advantage of the sheer number of restaurant reviews online to help decide whether they want to go into a restaurant they’re standing in front of.

About 46 percent of adults in America have a smartphone now, and 74 percent of smartphone owners report using their phones for directions or recommendations based on where they are. Sci-Tech today says that’s an increase of about 50 percent from 2011.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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