Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

Watching for changes to a user's location

Yesterday, we learned about the Geolocation API, and how to use the Geolocation.getCurrentPosition() to get the user’s current location.

Today, we’re going to learn how you can watch for changes to the user’s position and do things when it changes. Let’s dig in!


The navigator.geolocation.watchPosition() method accepts the same arguments as the navigator.geolocation.getCurrentPosition() method.

You can pass in a callback function as an argument that runs when the location is successfully retrieved. If the user denies the request, or something goes wrong, you can also provide an optional callback function to handle errors. As an optional third argument, you can also provide an object of options.

 * Log the user's location details
 * @param  {Object} position The location details
function logLocation (position) {

 * Log an error message
 * @param  {Object} error The error details
function logError (error) {

// Request access to watch the user's location
navigator.geolocation.watchPosition(logLocation, logError, {enableHighAccuracy: true});

When called, it gets the user’s current position just like the Geolocation.getCurrentPosition() method.

Any time their position changes (for example, if they’re using a mobile device and walking or driving around), the success callback function runs again with their updated location details.

How to stop watching a user’s location

I would imagine that the Geolocation.watchPosition() can be a bit demanding on a mobile device’s battery, so it’s a good idea to stop watching when location data is no longer needed.

Similar to the requestAnimationFrame() and setTimeout() methods, the Geolocation API provides a way to clear your watcher function.

The Geolocation.getCurrentPosition() returns an ID for the watcher that you can assign to a variable. To stop watching, pass the ID into the the Geolocation.clearWatch() method.

// Watch the user's location
let watchLocation = navigator.geolocation.watchPosition(logLocation, logError, {enableHighAccuracy: true});

// ... some time later
// Stop watching the user's location

When would you need to watch a user’s location?

This method in the Geolocation API is useful for building location-aware web apps, like…

  • A map application
  • A geocaching or scavenger hunt app
  • A Pokemon Go! clone

(I guess technically speaking those are all scavenger hunt apps, huh?)

This isn’t the kind of thing you’ll need on all or even many of the things you build. But it’s really cool that the web platform exposes deeply integrated APIs like this for when you need them.