iOS 4.3.3: Clearing Your iPhone Location Cache

With the release of iOS 4.3.3 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, Apple trimmed down the size of the on-device database that tracks nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots. The update also lets you delete that database from your mobile device any time you like, and it’s easy to do.

Apple came under fire recently when security researchers showed that iPhones can maintain up to a year’s worth of data logging cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots that are within 100 miles of your device. The new iOS update reduces that database to a single week, and no longer saves the data to your computer during an iTunes sync.

To delete your iPhone or iPad location database, do this:

  • Tap Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Tap Location Services.

Location Services SettingsUse the Settings app to control Location Services

  • Tap the Location Services slider so it shows “OFF.”
  • Tap Turn Off to confirm you want to disable Location Services.

Location Services controlsTurn off Location Services to stop tracking, and delete the location database

Once Location Services is disabled, your iPhone won’t give apps your current location, and the database logging nearby cell and Wi-Fi points will automatically be deleted. Once you reenable Location Services, your device will start rebuilding its location database.

The downside to disabling Location Services is that none of the apps on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad will be able take advantage of features that help figure out exactly where you are — and that includes Apple’s Find My iPhone device locator.

This is a quick way to periodically flush your location database if you don’t want anyone potentially digging through your phone to see the general areas you visit. Accessing the database, however, isn’t as simple as tapping an app and looking at a map, so your travels are relatively safe from most people’s eyes.