Using Location Based Services

Developers who enable LBS support in applications need to be aware of a number of issues. First and foremost, a user's location is personal information and subject to privacy concerns. Second, using LBS on a handset takes a toll on the device in terms of network data usage and battery life.

The Android system addresses these issues, in part, through permissions. That said, some of the burden of managing the impact of LBS features on the user and the user's device does fall on the developer. Therefore, here are some guidelines for using services such as LBS:

► Enable LBS features only when they are needed and disable them as soon as they are no longer required.

► Inform the user when collecting and using sensitive data, as appropriate. Many users consider their present or past locations to be sensitive.

► Allow the user to configure and disable features that might adversely affect their experience when using your application. For example, develop a "roaming" mode for your application to allow the user to enjoy your application without incurring huge fees.

► Handle events such as low-battery warnings and adjust how your application runs accordingly.

► Consider including a custom privacy message as part of your application's usage terms, to explain how any data collected from the user, including the user's name and location information, will and will not be used.

Not every Android device will have LBS hardware, so you should not assume that all devices will be able to provide location information.

A number of LBS features are available as part of the Android SDK, but some of the most exciting features are actually part of the Google APIs add-on. This add-on allows you to incorporate powerful features such as Google Maps functionality directly into Android applications. Developers using the Google APIs add-on must register for a special Google developer account and use a special API key.

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