Detecting device location with JavaScript

Posted on: July 16, 2016 by Dimitar Ivanov

HTML5 makes extremely easy getting the position of the user device, e.g. browser. The API itself uses various sources of location information as GPS, IP address, WiFi, GSM, Bluetooth. Let me show you how to detect a device location with few lines javascript.

Check browser support

Before to proceed with it is a good practice to check if the browser supports HTML5 Geolocation API.

if (navigator.geolocation) {
    // supported

which is equivalent to:

if ('geolocation' in navigator) {
    // supported

Getting current position

To get the current location of a user device, use the getCurrentPosition() method. It takes up to three arguments as follow:

  • successCallback - Callback function that is called asynchronously if the attempt to obtain the current location of the device is successful.
  • errorCallback - (optional) A callback function that is invoked asynchronously if the attempt to obtain the current location of the device fails.
  • options - (optional) Accepts next three properties: enableHighAccuracy, timeout, maximumAge.
function successCallback (position) {
    console.log(position.coords.latitude); // 43.2132209
    console.log(position.coords.longitude); // 27.9571503


Calling the getCurrentPosition() forces the browser to displays a confirmation dialog, in which asks the visitor for permission as shown below:

HTML5 Geolocation API
Figure 1. HTML5 Geolocation API

Giving a permission will display a icon in the address bar as shown below:

HTML5 Geolocation Allow
Figure 2. HTML5 Geolocation Allow

Blocking the request will display a icon in the address bar as shown below:

HTML5 Geolocation Block
Figure 3. HTML5 Geolocation Block

Error handling

The error callback function is invoked asyncronously when the attempt of getting the position fails. It takes one argument - an object with the reason for the failure.

function errorCallback (error) {

navigator.geolocation.getCurrentPosition(successCallback, errorCallback);

Watching the position

To track position updates use the watchPosition() method. It takes up to three arguments (successCallback, errorCallback, options). Returns a unique identifier of a watch operation.

var watchId = navigator.geolocation.watchPosition(successCallback);

Stop the watch process

To stop watching for the device current position use the clearWatch() method. It takes one argument - the identifier of a watch operation.


Browser Compatibility

IE 9+, Edge 12+, Firefox 3.5+, Chrome 5+, Safari 5+, Opera 16+

Recently Google Chrome discontinue the support of getCurrentPosition() and watchPosition() on insecure origins.

HTML5 Geolocation Chrome deprecation
Figure 4. HTML5 Geolocation Chrome deprecation


Various industries could benefit as for example: accommodations, real estate, travel, transportation, tourism, food & beverage, auto, classified ads, retail, security, sport. A lot of applications could use coordinates to show nearby amenities, hotels, restaurants, gas stations. The apps could show user's daily route and the current position at any time.

See also
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If you have any questions about the HTML5 Geolocation, leave a comment below. And do not be shy to share this article. Thanks so much for reading.


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