It’s been years since the Pokemon Go craze swept the United States and had everyone outside catching virtual monsters. At the time, some users decided to try and cheat in the game by spoofing their GPS signal, moving their phone’s location artificially so they could catch monsters in other parts of the world, all without leaving their house. Niantic, the developers behind Pokemon Go, have spent the better part of the last three years working to deter people from doing these actions, largely by soft-banning those accounts who happen to warp around the world in an instance, and by making even the most powerful Pokemon caught using spoofs worthless in gym battles. Niantic’s struggle with dealing with the antics of a small minority of their fanbase aside, it does beg the question: what else can GPS spoofing do to change how you use your phone every day
Spoofing your GPS on your Android device isn’t something you’re necessarily going to want to do every day, but it is something with interesting potential. We don’t recommend it for playing games like Pokemon Go, where spoofing your location just spoils your fun and brings down the wrath of the game creators. However, there are some real-world applications for spoofing that are a lot more productive and pro-social. Whether you’re looking to pick up a Snapchat geofilter halfway around the world, or trying to fool your friends into thinking you’re somewhere when you really aren’t, there are some really interesting ways you can use GPS spoofing on your phone. And on Android, it’s actually really easy to accomplish. Let’s take a look at the ways you can spoof your GPS location on Android, how to do it, and the benefits you might gain from faking your phone’s location.
Why Should I Spoof My GPS Location?
Let’s look at four ways spoofing your location on your device might help you out, both in terms of manipulating apps, and in the real world.
Snapchat and Instagram
One of the biggest reasons to spoof your GPS location involves Snapchat and Instagram, the two most popular photo-sharing applications in the world today. Both Snapchat and Instagram use geolocation filters to add flair to your directly-sent photos or your Instagram or Snapchat stories. Typically, both companies offering specific novelty filters for particular locations. For example, if you happen to be in Times Square on vacation, swiping through the available filters on Instagram and Snapchat will give you specific Times Square geofilters, as well as geofilters or geotags for Manhattan and New York City at large.
In addition, Snapchat has a feature called Snap Map which is useful for checking out where your friends happen to be, especially when they’re traveling or on vacation. It’s a neat way to look at what your friends are doing, as well as events happening near your location. Although it isn’t used by everyone, people do check Snap Map from time to time to see where their friends are or what they’re doing. Thanks to the ability to spoof your GPS location on Android, you can fool both the Snap Map and the filters on Instagram and Snapchat into thinking you’re somewhere you really aren’t.
This is probably our favorite usage of GPS spoofing. There are a ton of options here on what you can do with spoofing your location, making the possibilities basically endless for creating and customizing your new Snapchat or Instagram content. Whether you’re looking to create a geofilter that would normally require a transcontinental trip, or can’t make it to a friend’s wedding but want to use their Snapchat-based geofilter to send them your love, it’s easy to see how spoofing your location with Snapchat or Instagram is fun and productive.
Sports are an integral part of our society, especially in the United States. Whether you’re talking about epic events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics, or more community-sized events like college football or basketball games, sports are a big topic for tens of millions of people. Besides sports, there are other televised events like award shows and even big news events which are all covered live, with millions of viewers tuning in. However, many of these events come with a backlash for people who live nearby – since the organizers want to sell tickets to their game or event, they often will impose a media blackout on the local channels. If you live in Denver, you may not be able to watch a Broncos game on local TV because they aren’t broadcasting it. Ah…but what if your phone thinks you’re in Dallas? Suddenly, the blackout is out of the picture and the game is back on.
This isn’t an automatic ticket to free high-end content; remember that you’ll still have to pay for most access to live events streaming through apps like YouTube TV or MLB TV. However, once you’ve replaced your location with a new one, you should be able to get around blackouts just fine. Remember: spoofing your GPS won’t spoof your IP address to unlock geo-restricted content. You’ll still need a VPN for that.
Dating apps use your location to help you find matches in your area. When you start looking on Tinder, you set a range of action and only see people who are within that range (and they only see you if you are within theirs). In theory, this is great for finding a new partner, since the people you’re seeing are actually near you. However, if you’re looking to travel somewhere, or you’re planning on moving to a completely new city, you might be interested to learn what the dating scene looks like in that area. That’s where GPS spoofing comes in, allowing you to change your location to somewhere brand-new in order to view dating profiles in that new area. It’s not ideal for actually meeting up with people—remember, you’re still hundreds of miles or more away from them—but if you’re trying to get an idea of what the dating scene is like in your next vacation spot or the place you plan on moving, it’s the perfect way to do just that. (With Tinder, you can sign up for Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold and have the ability to change your location within the app itself…but using a GPS spoof is free.)
Hiding Your Activity
Finally, it should be noted that, since your phone is basically on you all the time, it can often act as a tracker, something that keeps a lock on your location and doesn’t allow you to slip by unnoticed or unwatched. While your phone can disable GPS from within the settings menu of your device, there are plenty of reasons to believe your GPS is never actually turned off. For one, it is possible to be tracked by mobile data and WiFi connections. Though less accurate, tracking via your cellular connection can be triangulated between networks and cell towers to basically determine where you are at any given moment.
Second, researchers as Princeton University have calculated ways to basically use the data recorded by your phone’s array of sensors, from the accelerometer to the barometer, along with the IP address and even the time zone you’re currently in, to basically work out where your phone was located at a given time.
Privacy is sacred, so one way to help block your real location without having to worry about whether you’ve actually turned off your GPS is to spoof your location. While you’ll still be connected to the web (unless you put your device in airplane mode), spoofing your GPS location can help to work around any security or privacy concerns you end up having with how your data is being handled. Considering that carriers like Verizon only just recently stopped selling customer location data to multiple companies (albeit anonymously) due to government pressure, it’s probably a good idea to keep your information hidden when you don’t need to use your GPS accurately.
What Apps Should I Use?
If you’ve decided that spoofing your GPS is something that will help you in your life, you’re going to want to download the proper application to do so. Accomplishing this might be more difficult than you think. Thanks to the number of GPS spoofing apps on the Play Store in 2019, it can actually be pretty difficult to determine which app is right for you. We aren’t going to do an exhaustive review of all the umpteen thousand GPS apps in the Play Store, 99% of which do the exact same thing, but we can point you in the direction of some apps that are known to work, to not be malware, and to be free.
- Fake GPS Location: Like most of these apps, Fake GPS Location doesn’t have a catchy name or title, but it’s well-designed and has maintained a nearly 4-star rating (out of 5) with more than 40,000 reviews. It’s basic, but it’s easy and free to use.
- Fake GPS GO Location Spoofer: As you might imagine, this spoofer is aimed at Pokemon Go players thanks to the popularity of that content and the demand for Go-related apps on the Play Store. Fake GPS GO Location Spoofer is a solid app, albeit with a semi-dated interface and a 4.0 rating on the Play Store. If you can’t get our first pick to work for you, GO Location Spoofer is the app to try. There’s also a Pro version available for $2.99.
- VPNa – Fake GPS Location: VPNa, despite the name, doesn’t include a VPN (virtual private network). The name actually stands for Virtual Phone Navigation App, and it allows you to redirect your GPS to any location currently on Earth. Some have reported the app doesn’t work on more recent versions of Android, so keep that in mind when installing in 2019.
- Mock GPS: One final recommendation, Mock GPS also features a joystick mode that allows you to move your signal at specific speeds, just like we saw above, but also allows you to just move your GPS. The app’s design is solid, with a more modern look than most of the apps on this list, but you should keep in mind that the same problems on Pokemon Go that afflict GPS JoyStick are also going to affect Mock GPS.
We recommend staying away from apps like Hola’s own Fake GPS Location app, thanks to that company’s questionable history behind their VPN and the sale of customer data. We also recommend that, if you do install an app not on the list above, you try to look at user reviews before continuing. It’s sometimes impossible to tell where your data is being sent—an issue even with our recommended apps above—but you should do your best to watch your data and where it’s being shipped, sent, and stored.
Setting Up the GPS Spoof
Once you’ve decided the app that is right for you, it’s time to download and install the program to your device. All of these apps are offered free through the Play Store; unlike on iOS, you won’t have to jailbreak or go to third-party app repositories to download these apps. Likewise, you won’t need to root your device to install or use the app. All of these apps will work on just about every smartphone without any major technical know-how.
For this walkthrough, we’re using Fake GPS Location, thanks to its good user rating and its simplicity. If you need an app with settings like the joystick or speed controls, you’ll want to switch to one of those apps instead of this one. Regardless of which app you choose, the actual settings to set up the app will remain the same, specifically when it comes to enabling the ability to mask your GPS on your actual Android phone or tablet.
Enabling the Right Settings
First, open your device’s settings menu. These screenshots show a Google Pixel 2 running Android 9 Pie, but the steps for enabling this setting will remain largely the same regardless of whichever application you choose for this step.
Basically, while your phone doesn’t need to be rooted or hacked in order to gain access to a spoofed GPS signal, you do need to enable “developer settings,” a hidden menu inside Android that offers a wide variety of options and customization menus to choose from. There’s no downside to enabling developer settings in the menu system of your phone, outside of the fact that you’ll have an additional menu in your phone taking up space. Developer settings in Android are hidden by default because there are some options in there that, while reversible, can really glitch your phone if you don’t know what you’re doing, making it an easy option to avoid giving out to general consumers. We’re only changing one setting, so enabling developer settings is easy and safe. If you don’t know what you’re about, however, then don’t go back into this menu later and start playing with stuff.
To enable developer options, open the settings menu on your phone and scroll all the way to the bottom, until you find the “About Phone” section of your menu. Some devices might call this “System” settings, or any other generic name for miscellaneous settings that don’t really go anywhere else in your device. Regardless, once you reach the “About Phone” section, you’ll likely see a bunch of information available to you. Your phone number, device name, and so on. What you’re looking for here, however, is the Build Number of your software, which you’ll find towards the bottom of this menu.
Once you find this option, tap it and continue tapping it. You’ll see a small message appear on your device after a couple taps, reading “five steps away from being a developer,” and so on, counting down until you’ve tapped the Build Number enough. You’ll see a small message alert you that you’re now a developer, and you can return back to the main display of your settings menu.
Activating Mock Location
You’ll now notice a new option available inside your settings menu. For some, the option will be hidden in the standard settings menu, ready to be clicked when it needs to be. For others, you’ll find the option in your own “About Phone” or “System” menu, which is where we found it on our Pixel 2 XL. This menu has a ton of available options you didn’t have on your phone before, all meant for developers who are working on creating apps for the Play Store, and for you to download at a later date. That’s where we’ll find the golden setting option we need for changing and editing your GPS location.
Under the Debugging menu, you’ll find an option for “Select mock location app” on older versions of Android, this option is a toggle entitled “Allow mock locations.” The former allows us to select a mock location app to utilize our GPS; the former allows us to enable the option to use those apps in the first place. Regardless of which version appears on your device, you’ll need to select it from this menu.
Now, jump back to the app you installed of your choice, no matter which one it was, and make sure all options are enabled before you start using the app. You’ll need to grant the app permission in order to properly use your location, and you can begin using the app at will to select your location. For Fake GPS Location, you’ll need to position the crosshairs over your target location. Once you’ve done that, you’ll click the small Play icon in the bottom-right hand corner, and a quick ad will play.
After the ad is over, you can either use the joystick to move your location around on the map (that’s right, this app includes one as well), or disable the joystick and simply let the app run in the background. There are all sorts of options here for playing around with, including the ability to create a path, to remove ads, set favorite locations, and more. Most of these apps will have their own feature sets for users to play around with, so make sure to explore the app to see what options are available.
Check if it’s Working
The final step in the process is simple: check and make sure that your GPS location is being properly spoofed. There are a couple of ways. First, you can perform a Google search on “my location” which will display a small Google Maps window on your device, giving you a look into your current GPS location on the app. If your location has been properly spoofed, you can look here for proof that your phone’s location has been hidden, obscured by the app you installed on your devices. Alternately, you can always open an app that uses your location to see if the app is working properly. For example, Snapchat might give you a multitude of geofilters, or Google Maps will suggest “nearby” restaurants.
If it isn’t working, don’t despair. Check the app again and try to make sure your spoofing has been enabled. You can also try out using different apps to see if the first app you chose isn’t working properly on your phone. Also make sure to check to see if your device’s GPS signal is on, which it needs to be in order for GPS spoofing to work properly. Ultimately, GPS spoofing can be a bit touchy, so it’s important to make sure that you keep troubleshooting the device if you run into any major issues.
Spoofing your GPS signal doesn’t get used a great deal to play Pokemon Go these days, but it has a lot of other applications. Fooling your friends into thinking you’re somewhere you aren’t, checking into locations you haven’t been, looking at dating profiles in all-new areas—it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s plenty of options for configuring and changing your GPS settings depending on what you need out of the app. While we wouldn’t recommend spoofing your location all day, it’s a handy tool that’s good to keep in your app drawer, just in case you ever need to get around a content blackout or place a fake geofilter on your Snapchat posts.
Interested in looking at the other side of things? You can use this advanced GPS geotracker to keep track of people or property that you suspect might be “wandering off”. Easily track on your cellphone!