How To Change Location on Android

Changing our GPS location can help us surprise a loved one, benefit from location-based games, and protect our privacy.

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Aug 25, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Aug 25, 2021

We’ve all had those days when we wanted to teleport to the middle of nowhere. While science hasn’t advanced that much (yet), we do have the technology to teleport our virtual selves.

We often rely on our phones’ GPS software to give us accurate weather forecasts, directions to the nearest coffee shop, or the number of miles we’ve walked. But sometimes, there are benefits to changing our GPS location on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Maps, Snapchat, and more. In this article, we’ll explain how you can change your GPS location on your Android device.

How To Change Your Android Location

Changing a GPS location isn’t as easy as changing a Netflix region using general VPN software. That’s because VPN software hides our IP address, which contains some information about our geographical locations. But VPN software doesn’t hide our GPS location. If we want to change our Android’s GPS location, we have to purchase and download a VPN with location-changing capabilities. Right now, the only VPN we know of with that capability is Surfshark.1 Read our Surfshark review for more information about the VPN.

Option 1: Use a VPN.

Surfshark is a safe and simple way to change your phone’s GPS location. We like that Surfshark not only masks our locations by hiding our IP addresses, but changes our GPS locations as well. As far as we know, it’s the only VPN that offers both services. Here’s how to tweak your location on your Android using Surfshark:

How to Change GPS Location With Surfshark

  1. Purchase a Surfshark VPN subscription.
  2. Download the Surfshark app from Google Play.
  3. Open the Surfshark app from your Android device.
  4. Open your Settings menu within the app.
  5. Toggle on the “Override GPS Location” option.
  6. Select “Let’s Go” in the pop-up menu.
  7. Select “Open Settings” in the pop-up menu.
  8. In your Android’s Settings menu, find and open “About Phone.”
  9. Find your Android’s build number.
  10. Tap on the build number seven times. You will then see a message indicating you are in Developer Mode.
  11. Reopen the Surfshark app.
  12. Tap the arrow.
  13. Select “Open Settings” again.
  14. Tap on “Select Mock Location App.”
  15. Select Surfshark.
  16. Go back to the Surfshark app.
  17. Make sure the setup is complete by changing your location within the app.
Surfshark

Option 2: Download a GPS-Changing App.

An alternative to Surfshark is to download a mock GPS location app (although we prefer Surfshark because it offers us more comprehensive security on top of its GPS-changing software). Here’s how to change your GPS location if you’re downloading an app:

  1. Download a mock GPS location app such as Mock Locations2 or GPS Emulator. Most of the apps in Google Play offer an interactive map that lets you set your own location.
  2. Turn on your phone’s Developer option. The steps you’ll need to take to turn on your phone’s Developer option depend on the type of Android you own.3

Here’s how to turn on Developer Mode for Androids:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap “About Phone.”
  3. If you have an Android 8.0.0 or 8.1.0, tap “System.”
  4. Find the build number.
  5. Tap the build number seven times. Once you have enabled your Developer options, you should see a message that says, “You are now a developer.”
  6. Go back to Settings.
  7. Tap “Developer Options.”
  8. Tap “Select Mock Location App.”
  9. Select your GPS-changing app.
  10. Open your location-changing app and teleport yourself to a different destination.

REMINDER: Your Android’s Developer mode is difficult to turn on for a reason. We don’t recommend downloading a GPS-changing app or software unless you’re confident it will protect you. Messing around with your phone in Developer Mode can slow down its programs.

Why You Might Want To Change Your Location

There are plenty of benefits and everyday conveniences to keeping our Android’s GPS location accurate, such as checking the weather or retrieving a lost or stolen phone. However, people may want to change their Android locations for various other reasons.

  • Privacy: VPNs hide some information about your location by encrypting your IP addresses, but they don’t encrypt or change your GPS locations. That’s just not how VPNs work.
  • Safety: You might want to tweak your location for safety in some extreme cases, such as if you’re fleeing a domestic violence situation.
  • Snapchat: You might want to change your Snapchat location so you can access location-based filters not available to you in, say, Brooklyn.
  • Pranks or surprises: If you want to surprise a loved one with a visit home, GPS-changing is the best way to do it. It’s also a great way to prank your friends into thinking you’ve crossed oceans for the weekend.
  • Pokemon Go: This location-based game requires you to explore new places outdoors. But if the weather is nasty or you want to catch rewards in Phoenix while you’re all the way in New York, you technically can change your GPS location to trick Pokemon Go into thinking you’re somewhere else. However, this is against Pokemon Go’s policies and puts your account at risk of being banned. To change your Pokemon Go location without leaving a trace, you’ll need a VPN service. Learn more in our VPN guide.

MORE INFO: Read our article on the best VPN in 2021 for our recommendations of user-friendly software that will protect your data and privacy.

VPN for Phone
VPN for Phone

How Android Tracks Your Location

While your Android is already equipped with a GPS, which uses satellite signals to determine your location, there are a few other ways Android can track you (creepy, we know). Here are the other ways your phone tracks you.

Google Location Services

Google Location Services uses information from nearby Wi-Fi networks, mobile networks, and device sensors to determine your device’s location on top of your GPS location. This is separate from your device’s IP address, which can also contain information about your location.

To disable Google Location Services:

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen.
  2. Touch and hold the “Location” option.
  3. Tap “Advanced.”
  4. Tap “Google Location Accuracy.”
  5. Toggle off the “Improve Location Accuracy” option.

Tracking Your IP Address

“IP” stands for “Internet Protocol.” Essentially, an IP address is a device’s identifying number associated with a specific computer or network of computers. Using your IP address, computers can track your approximate location and web activity. If you want to remain private online, hiding your IP address is a must.

FYI: If you have an Android and want to change your GPS location on your phone, we recommend Surfshark, which is the only VPN for Androids (as far as we know) with GPS-changing capabilities. Read our article to learn how to set up a VPN on an Android.

NordVPN Android Split Tunnel
NordVPN Android Split Tunnel

Changing Your Location Settings

Your Android’s settings control whether device sensors (like GPS) or network-based locations (like Google Location Services) track your whereabouts. Your settings also control which apps have access to that location data. However, your settings don’t control how websites and apps estimate your location using your IP address. To control how your Android tracks your location, toggle your phone’s location settings.

How To Turn Off Location on Android

  1. Tap “Settings.”
  2. Tap “Location.”
  3. Toggle the Location switch off and Location Mode will turn off, no longer using GPS signals.

How To Improve Your Location Accuracy

  1. Tap “Settings.”
  2. Tap “Location.”
  3. Toggle the Location switch on.
  4. Tap “Mode” or “Locating Method.”
  5. Tap one of the following:
    • High Accuracy: This mode uses the most battery, estimating your location through GPS, Wi-Fi, and mobile networks.
    • Power Saving / Battery Saving: This setting uses Wi-Fi and mobile networks solely to estimate location, requiring the least battery life.
    • GPS Only / Device Only / Device Sensors: This option uses your GPS location only. It falls between the High Accuracy and the Power Saving options in the battery amount it uses.4

How To Turn Emergency Location Services On or Off

If your phone’s Emergency Location Services (ELS) is turned on, it will use Google Location Services and other information to track your location after an emergency 911 call. When your phone scans for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices in the background, it’s collecting information about your location to use in an emergency. Here’s how to turn your Emergency Location Services on or off:

  1. Tap “Settings.”
  2. Tap “Location.”
  3. Tap “Advanced.”
  4. Select “Emergency Location Service.”
  5. Toggle the Emergency Location Service option on or off.

TIP: We recommend leaving your phone’s Emergency Location Services on. Your phone only uses ELS when you call or text an emergency number. Your Android sends your location to emergency partners directly, not to Google, in the case of an emergency.

Recap

If you’re interested in changing your GPS location, you have options. You can modify your location settings on your Android, modify your location settings within certain apps, or download software that lets you change your location. Whether you want to surprise a loved one, catch ’em all in Pokemon Go, or protect your privacy, you can change your Android’s GPS location in a few simple steps.

FAQs

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to location tracking on your Android. Here are some frequently asked questions.

  • How do I undo my mock location settings on an Android?

    You can undo your mock location settings if you’ve downloaded a GPS-changing app for your Android. Here’s how:

    1. Open Settings.
    2. Tap “Developer Options.”
    3. Toggle off the “Allow Mock Locations” option.
  • Is it safe to turn on Developer Mode on my Android?

    It is safe to turn on Developer Mode on your Android. However, Android hides this setting for a reason. If you toggle the wrong tool within the Developer menu, you could impact your phone’s performance. In sum, don’t play around with the Developer tools unless you know exactly what you are doing.

  • Is it illegal to change my GPS location?

    It is not illegal to change your GPS location using a VPN in the U.S. unless you are using the tweaked location to accomplish a crime.

  • Can VPN software change my GPS location?

    Some VPN software can change your GPS location. The only VPN we’ve tested that can change your GPS location is Surfshark, and it only works on Android phones. Other VPNs can change your location using IP addresses, but not GPS addresses; Surfshark can do both.

Citations
  1. Surfshark. (2021). What is the GPS override feature and how to use it?
    support.surfshark.com/hc/en-us/articles/360011723459-What-is-the-GPS-override-feature-and-how-to-use-it-

  2. Google Play. (2021). Mock Locations (fake GPS path).
    play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ru.gavrikov.mocklocations&hl=en

  3. Google Developers Android Studio. (2021). Configure on-device developer options.
    developer.android.com/studio/debug/dev-options

  4. Verizon Support. (2021). GPS Location Settings – Android.
    verizon.com/support/knowledge-base-106080/