How to improve GPS accuracy on Android

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Your GPS sensor lets your phone use navigational apps, such as Google Maps and location services, and properly tag your geo-location across them. A good signal is crucial for navigation as well as for playing certain AR (augmented reality) games like Pokémon Go. So, here’s how you can improve the GPS signal on your device.

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What is GPS?

To know how to optimize your GPS it’s helpful to understand how it works. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and was developed by the US Army in 1973, but in the1980s it was released for civilian purposes. It was initially used with 24 satellites but now there are 31 GPS satellites in orbit.

Your smartphone communicates with these satellites via a GPS antenna, which is part of the hardware in the majority of today’s smartphones and tablets. This hardware is connected via a driver with the software. Thus, there are three sources of error for the GPS signal in the smartphone:

  • 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
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Read on for the solutions to many of your GPS woes. / © AndroidPIT

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 be able to toggle it at the top right hand of your screen. It should be green and the button to the right.

Now the first category under Location should be Mode, tap that and make sure it’s set to High accuracy. This uses your GPS as well as your Wi-Fi and mobile networks to estimate your location. This will use more battery but will utilize all available methods to give you the most accurate location possible.

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Ensure ‘High accuracy’ mode is toggled on for a good signal. / © AndroidPIT

Use a compass app to recalibrate the GPS

If you suspect your compass is not working accurately you can force it to recalibrate. For this, you will need a compass app. Some phones come with one already pre-installed. If so, 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 must 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.

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See if your GPS is connected to any satellites with GPS Essentials. / © AndroidPIT

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, and if it starts playing up again then 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. This can be coupled with the smartphone via Bluetooth and recharge with the same charger. On Amazon, the Garmin GLO GPS receiver costs around $100. Click the link below to pick it up.

Do you have any other tweaks to help improve your GPS accuracy? If so, share them in the comments.

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