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I purchased a MacBook Air M2 in China. The macOS Maps app works well when I am in China where it correctly identifies my location. However, I am currently traveling to Europe and I noticed that the Maps app either can't determine at all my location or it determines the location as Changsha, China. I have restarted the MacBook and I have also turned Location Services off and on several times but there was no improvement. I am running the last version of Sonoma (macOS 14.5). Moreover, this is certainly not specific to the Maps app. The automatic timezone detection also places me in China (which is how I first figured out that something is wrong: the timezone didn't automatically change to the local timezone after I connected to a WiFi), and the Weather app also fails to identify my location now (but it works perfectly well when I'm in China).

Another data point that may or may not be related. I downloaded the Amazon Kindle app using a Dutch App Store account. However, the Kindle app (even though it does not use Location Services) asks me to sign in with a Chinese Amazon account and it doesn't recognize my Dutch Amazon account. So, I guess that somehow the Kindle app knows that I'm using a "Chinese system" and accordingly restricts my options.

I wonder if these problems are in software or hardware. Would a full reinstall of macOS solve these problems, or there is something in the hardware that identifies my MacBook as being Chinese? Or, maybe, there is another explanation?

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  • support.apple.com/en-us/118283
    – Linc D.
    Commented Jun 28 at 5:21
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    Mac devices do not have a GPS receiver so it cannot always determine your location. How long has it been?
    – Ezekiel
    Commented Jun 28 at 13:26
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    @Kostas Are you connecting to any network in your present location that would allow the Mac to determine where it is, in the world? Available information says not. Commented Jun 28 at 14:43
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    The serial number encodes the region where the device was sold. It’s possible to reflash it, but only Apple can do that, and I don’t know whether they would in this situation. You could ask.
    – Linc D.
    Commented Jun 28 at 15:30
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    Chinese law restricts what computers and mobile devices can do. You may be running up against one of those restrictions.
    – Linc D.
    Commented Jun 28 at 17:51

1 Answer 1

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macOS and iPadOS location settings are beholden to WiFi (and possibly Bluetooth) sensors to look up the identity of other broadcasting entities and consult a database of crowd sourced location for WiFi signals to guess where the computer is.

The iPad with cellular works like an iPhone as it does have GPS / GLONASS antenna and location processing hardware, so they can avoid this effect with an input designed to work without needing WiFi base station input. This works even in absence of cellular towers giving a location estimate.


Back to your Mac, this WiFi location method can be wrong, sometimes spectacularly so. Worse, it gives a precise location (within a dozen meters some times) that is not accurate within miles or sometimes hundreds or a thousand miles of the device’s location.

This level of being wrong happens to hardware purchased in the US and everywhere else, regardless of country specific steering or feature lock / modifications.

If you can shut off all surrounding WiFi locations and try tethering to a mobile phone, you might be able to jostle the location to be more correct. You might also be restricted to cloud services based in China which might not index or share results of WiFi mapping outside their country.

Anyone with location serrors, please submit feedback to Apple so they can gather logs and perhaps help improve things short term or long term.


Back to you specifically, you very much should ask Apple support about your purchase.

  • Ask them about your Apple ID and how to establish one outside China if that is your situation.
  • Ask them about your purchase and which OS services are geographically modified due to the country in which Apple intended that hardware to be sold.

Some items sold into country channels are forever limited by the legal constraints and configuration associated with durable hardware identifiers.

Hopefully they can explain what you should expect from your Mac in the return where you choose to live. It’s highly unlikely reinstalling the os will change anything, but maybe it’s worth a try? (And you could answer with your results to help everyone learn about how well the experience matches what Apple documents.)

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