How to improve GPS accuracy on Android
What is GPS?
It’s helpful to understand how GPS works in order to optimize it. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and was developed by the US Army in 1973, but it was released for civilian purposes in the eighties. It was initially used with 24 satellites but now there are 31 operational GPS satellites in orbit.
Your smartphone communicates with these satellites via a GPS antenna, which is part of the hardware in the vast majority of current smartphones and tablets. The antenna is connected via a driver to the software. This means there are three main sources, which GPS problems can arise from:
- The number of GPS satellites at the current location
- The quality of the GPS antenna in the smartphone
- The implementation of the driver in the operating system
Switch on High accuracy mode
To get the best possible signal, you have to be prepared to use a bit more battery than normal. It’s a necessary sacrifice, and you can always reverse it later when you don’t need to use GPS anymore. Enabling this is easy; just follow a couple of steps and you’ll be on your way.
Go into your Settings and tap Location and ensure that your location services are on. You should also be able to enable it from the quick toggles when pulling down the notification bar.
The first category under Location should be Mode. Tap it and make sure it’s set to High accuracy. This uses your GPS as well as Wi-Fi and mobile networks to estimate your location. Of course, this setting will use more battery but will utilize all available methods to give you the most accurate location possible.
On some smartphones you will also find additional options under Scanning in the location settings page. You can enable Wi-Fi scanning and/or Bluetooth scanning. The first will improve accuracy even further by allowing apps and services to detect Wi-Fi networks at any time. The same applies for Bluetooth scanning, which will detect Bluetooth devices nearby.
Use a compass app to recalibrate the GPS
If you suspect your GPS signal is not up to snuff, you can force it to recalibrate. To do this you will need a compass app. Some phones come with one already pre-installed. If yours does, fire it up and go through the process of recalibration to give your GPS signal a much-needed refresh.
If your Android device does not come with a compass app, you can download one from the Play Store and do it this way. Compass Galaxy is a good and reliable option.
Keep the GPS signal active
One of the main problems that we encountered when going from one app to another is that the GPS is turned off to save battery. If for example you are playing Pokémon Go and want to take a look at your latest messages, your GPS could be turned off.
However, you can keep the GPS signal active. To do this you need to install a GPS app. We recommend Connected GPS. It’s a simple app and does the trick. Bear in mind that doing this could result in reduced battery life.
Find out if your GPS issues are hardware- or software-related
With GPS Essentials, you can diagnose whether a poor GPS signal is due to a hardware or software issue. In the GPS Essentials main menu, tap Satellites, then watch (with some amazement) your phone connecting to satellites around the earth.
If no satellites appear, then this could be due to interference from metallic objects around you, your smartphone case, or your GPS hardware not working properly. If satellites do appear, but your GPS is still out of whack, then this is a software issue, and you should refer to the other tips in this article to help you.
Refresh your GPS Data
Sometimes your device will get ‘stuck’ on certain GPS satellites, even if they’re not within range, causing it not to work properly. To fix this, you can use an app like GPS Status & Toolbox to clear your GPS data and to start connecting to satellites from scratch.
In the app, tap anywhere on the screen, then tap the menu icon and hit Manage A-GPS state. Tap Reset, then when that’s finished go back into the Manage A-GPS state menu and tap Download. Your GPS data should now be refreshed. If it starts playing up again just repeat this process.
Get an external GPS receiver
If your smartphone GPS is no longer sufficient it might be worthwhile for you to purchase an external receiver. It can be paired to the smartphone via Bluetooth. On Amazon, the Garmin GLO GPS receiver costs around $100. Click the link below to check it out.
Bonus tip: fixing Pokemon GO GPS problems
The apps that most often utilize your GPS besides Google Maps are AR-location based games like Pokemon GO and Ingress. However, the dreaded ‘GPS signal not found’ error is quite common. How can you fix it? First, make sure your location is enabled and then turn on high accuracy, as described in the steps above. You should now be able to go on the hunt for more Pikachus.
If the error does not disappear, however, you will need to restart the app. If it still persists, log out of your account, close the application from the recent apps menu, wait a couple of seconds and re-open it. Once you log back in, the problem should be gone. Restarting your phone is always something you should try as well. Finally, you should also make sure you have the latest version of Pokemon GO or Ingress by checking the apps on the Play Store.
Do you have any other tweaks to help improve your GPS accuracy? If so, share them in the comments.