'Pokémon Go' GPS Spoofing: Android and iOS cheats may work, but you could get banned

AP

Pokémon Go is meant to be played outside while walking around, not played inside from your couch. That's why GPS spoofing in Pokémon Go is considered cheating. 

It takes a long time to reach trainer level 40 in Pokémon Go, and it can take even longer to complete a Pokédex. No one should be surprised that some lazy Pokémon Go players want to cheat at achieving both goals, and GPS spoofing is one of the most popular ways to do it without actually putting in the work.

Pokémon Go GPS spoofing is moving without moving

Pokémon Go is a location-based, augmented reality game. This means the game is constantly drawing GPS data on your position, to know where to place you within the game world. Your GPS position tells Pokémon Go whether you are close enough to a PokéStop to spin it for supplies, close enough to a gym to start a battle or close enough to a wild Pokémon spawn for it to show up on your map.

GPS spoofing is the act of fooling Pokémon Go into thinking you are somewhere other than where you actually are. A GPS spoofer can look at their "nearby" menu, see which PokéStop a particular Pokémon has spawned at and then teleport to that PokéStop. In other words, GPS spoofing allows you to move in the game without moving in the real world.

Imagine hitting all these PokéStops in Pokémon Go, without getting out of your seat.Source: Mic/Pokémon Go
Imagine hitting all these PokéStops in Pokémon Go, without getting out of your seat.  Mic/Pokémon Go

How Pokémon Go GPS spoofing works on Android

The key ingredient in a Pokémon Go GPS spoof hack is finding some way to feed false GPS information into the game, and there are ways to do so that don't involve jailbreaking or rooting your smart device. You may only need to download an app or two, to enable a GPS spoof and cheat at Pokémon Go.

For instance, the "fake GPS joystick" Android app is a spoofing tool that only requires some changes to the developer settings of a mobile device to work. The virtual joystick appears on the map screen when you load Pokémon Go after installing the necessary apps and making the necessary settings changes. 

You use the virtual joystick to move your avatar around the game world, and then you're officially cheating at Pokémon Go by playing the game without leaving the house.

How Pokémon Go GPS spoofing screws noncheating players

The chief danger to Pokémon Go represented by GPS spoofing concerns the gym-battling metagame. One advantage of GPS spoofing is being able to get to pretty much any gym you want, without actually having to walk there. So imagine the GPS spoofer who magically teleports around your area, seizing gyms and reaping the Pokémon Go shop coin rewards far faster than it takes you to walk to a gym and retake it.

The entire gym metagame in Pokémon Go can be destroyed by GPS spoofers, especially when spoofers can locate and target out-of-the-way gyms that may not see many players over time, compared to gyms in more populated areas. Using this strategy can make it easier for GPS spoofers to conquer and hold multiple gyms. 

This, incidentally, is also something that would hypothetically cost Niantic money. Why should people spend real-world money to purchase PokéCoins for the shop if they can just GPS spoof and take over a large network of gyms for a huge daily coins bonus?

Pokémon Go GPS spoofing: Why cheaters are not easy to catch

A recent wave of Pokémon Go account bans targeted players that were using bots, or automated accounts, but did not seem to target GPS spoofers, probably because spoofing is less obvious if it's used carefully.

If a GPS spoofer teleports halfway across their state, for example, that's a pretty clear sign of a cheater. But how can you tell the difference between a GPS spoofer who only moves a short distance at a time and a legit player driving around in a car and stopping at the PokéStops and gyms they drive by?

The difference may be subtle, and lifetime bans are not something a successful game developer tosses around lightly. Unless some new anti-spoofing software comes out or Niantic announces an update targeting these cheaters, we should expect to continue dealing with GPS spoofers for the foreseeable future.

Don't take this as a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to worrying about bans for cheating, however. Have no doubt that GPS spoofing is absolutely a violation of the terms of service for Pokémon Go. If Niantic is smart, it will hunt down and ban every GPS spoofer it can find. Think carefully before adding your name to that list.

More Pokémon Go guides, tips, tricks and updates

Check out Mic's Pokémon Go tips and tricks. Here are guides on how to get stardust, how to determine how long it will take you to reach level 40, the kind of Pokemon you get from 10km eggs, how to create new PokéStops, how to maximize your chances of catching Pokémon and how PokéStops distribute Pokémon eggs. Also check out how to catch Gen 2 baby Pokémon, our analysis of post-balance update Chansey and Rhydon and everything you need to know about finding the long-awaited Pokémon Ditto.