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How to improve GPS accuracy on Android

How to improve GPS accuracy on Android

The GPS sensor on your smartphone is essential for the use of navigational apps and services, such as Google Maps. However, sometimes your GPS signal can go wonky. There are ways to fix and improve location accuracy. We'll show you how!

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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
androidpit google maps gps 3
Read on for the solutions to many of your GPS woes / © AndroidPIT

1. Switch on Google Location Accuracy

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.

Under Location you need to go to Advanced and then Google Location Accuracy. Tap it and make sure it's set to Improve Location Accuracy On. 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.

gps accuracy
Ensure Improve Location Accuracy is toggled on for a good signal / © AndroidPIT

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.

location scanning
If you want the highest possible location accuracy, the scanning option can help you  / © AndroidPIT

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

pokemon go gps signal
The 'GPS signal not found' error is quite common, but easy to fix / © AndroidPIT

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.

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30 comments

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  • Very informative, thanks


  • Thank you 😊


  • M P Oct 14, 2018 Link to comment

    Nobody mentioned that you need to make sure the option to use wifi for higher GPS accuracy should be enabled. That helped me a lot.

    Question: Does wifi need to be enabled for this option to work? It might seem obvious but perhaps not. I've noticed that when my wifi cannot find a saved access point my phone calls (through google voice) often fail. So I need to turn wifi off when out and about. Would I get the highest accuracy possible when wifi is disabled?


  • Nice information...Thank you for sharing


  • I'm wondering where the 1995 date for "released for civilian purposes" came from as Popular Mechanics states 1983 for the system being opened to the public. I only questioned this and looked for another source because I recall someone in my family having bought a commercial handheld Magellan GPS receiver back in the late 80s. And if one is referring to the removal of the civilian data fuzzing, that wasn't until 2000. Again, according to Popular Mechanics. I'd provide the article URL, but my account is apparently too new for the stupid forum software to allow me to include a link.


    • The reason some systems have that label is because the GPS 'system' is owned by the US Government, (and kept operational by the United States Air Force)- ground unit receiver/transmitters have been 'allowed' for use by civilians in the 80's, and some manufacturers have put a release label on their products just in case Uncle Sam decides to selectively deny access to it's systems.

      The US Government can- and HAS selectively denied use of GPS systems... a good example of this was in 1999 when the US Government shut down GPS to the Indian Army during India's brief war with Pakistan.

      Because GPS is owned by the US, Russia and China are hard at work to get their own version of GPS satellites up and running (It would be a real problem to go to war, have the US shut down your GPS and not know where the heck you are!).


      • Paul, I wasn't necessarily questioning the semantics of "released for civilian purposes" and am aware of the ownership and access issues which you added to the fold. As far as the 1995 date, you too have stated it should be in the 80s. That's the germane piece which I wish the author of the article would address.


  • old article


    • Yeah. There are comments dating back to 2014 yet somehow the article date currently shows it's only 2 months old. Maybe someone updated something in the article and bumped the date. Either the original published date should be retained or a separate "updated" date should be added. I also appreciate when a line is added stating what was edited.


  • I use this app "GPS TOTAL RUN" is all in one app.
    Check configuration zone of this app, you can change a lot of settings


  • ..if you're a serious hiker/backpacker/4WD you might wanna look into a dedicated handheld device rather than relying on a cell...today's Garmins, etc. are incredibly accurate in the most remote nooks and crannies on earth...Russia's GLONASS system of satellites can pinpoint you anywhere, from the Arctic Circle to Mount Everest to Machu Picchu with almost pinpoint precision...


  • Thanks, finding out about a add on GPS for my phone was a very big help! Thanks.


  • In your: settings, location, tap on the GPS icon (usually top) to see GPS modes. Try setting "use GPS only" rather than hi accuracy mode and see if this helps. I have been having trouble for about a week now and I think this helped. I am wondering if the cell tower data has been compromised.


  • My Samsung i9082 was able of detecting 13 gps satellites in about 4 seconds,on its peak, it can even detect 21, and use 13 of them at once, and it only needs 4 satellites to get a lock. Now it takes almost a minute to detect 13 satellites, and it wouldn't lock until it detects 17 or something, AND it only uses 5 satellites. Is there any problem(s) with my GPS?


  • I need Help i have The sony xperia M 4.3 Version And i cant change Mods Iam Playing The Pokemon Go And For Some reason It stop Working (GPS) I thought Cuz Pokemon Had The Problem But When I dried To Find my Location On Google Maps it coulnd Find It Can you Guys Help me ?


  • Thanks for the tip about GPS Connected. On my old JB device I found a little app called Active GPS to be the only one that really boosts performance (at expense of battery) especially when the device fails to "find" a connection. Haven't used it enough on my new L device to know if it adds anything.


  • Good read:)


  • Best GPS app is GPS status & tool box.
    For location accuracy select automatic date and time.
    Before navigation go to settings >storage>cached data>clear cached data.


  • Obtain UFO/Alien technology. Aliens are for sure to have better positioning systems than us, if you ever get hands on some and can work out how to use it, this may be better option.


  • Thanks. It helped me. 😃😎😁


  • I <3 GPS status and Toolbox. does the job for me for many years now.


  • Actually I noticed that when you have a disk partition with less then 10% free space that the GPS will work tremendously slow or not at all, so search for apps that consume a lot of disk and clean up


  • Awesome post!


  • I love gps


  • mike Apr 19, 2014 Link to comment

    essentials dont work. must be an update that killed the calibrate option. quick uninstall

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