The internal GPS is one of the essential features of modern smartphones. Their inclusion allows us to have reliable navigation apps, location services and complex location interactions. However, much like the phones themselves, not all GPS sensors are alike. You may not realize it, but they vary wildly in terms of features, effectiveness and precision. Certain phones are in fact infamous for having poor GPS, like the original Samsung Galaxy S, and more recently the Transformer Prime. Some of these problems are hardware related, and cannot be fixed. Yet, in most cases, poor reception and GPS performance can be affected by the ROM and user settings. In this lesson, we will explain to you how you can improve your GPS’s performance with some easy tips and apps, all links provided and all apps free. Keep in mind, you’ll need root access for most of these apps to do major changes to the OS, so make sure your device is rooted!
Make Sure Your GPS is Enabled
First of all, let’s make sure you’re actually using your device’s internal GPS for location purposes. Go into your Settings, then “Location Access”. Make sure “GPS Satellites” is checked, and that “Access to my location” is enabled in the top section, or else your phone’s internal GPS is not being used for location purposes, only your 3G/4G and Wi-Fi signal, which is not as accurate nor power-friendly. Certain apps like Maps will warn you to enable all additional sources of location data, so it’s unlikely you have GPS disabled, but let’s check it just in case.
Use GPS Essentials to Diagnose
You can use GPS Essentials to figure out what the problem is. Sometimes, your signal is strong and your phone sees plenty of satellites, but it gets no fix. Sometimes, it cannot find enough satellites, or the connection is not very strong. Well, using this app can tell you what’s going on, in a graphical, easy to understand form. It also comes with a few goodies, like the ability to calibrate your compass, which may be a factor of improper GPS signal and which we’ll cover later. To see if your device is seeing enough satellites, and if the connection is strong, press the “Satellites” icon when it starts. You should get a high number (anywhere from 8-10 is good) and all the satellites should be colored green in ideal conditions.
Use FasterGPS to Configure NTP Servers
FasterGPS isn’t magic. It dos justice to its name, and it does make your GPS faster, but the way in which it does it is very simple: it simply overrides whatever current settings you have for your GPS, and replaces them with optimized options according to your needs. What this means, in practice, is that your GPS should take much less time getting a solid lock, and may even improve the quality of the connection. The app is fairly powerful and includes a bunch of settings to mess around with, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you go changing everything (but don’t worry, even if you mess up, FasterGPS backs up your original settings)! When you first open the app, it will ask you for root access. Allow it, and you’ll then see the basic options screen of the app, asking you to set up an NTP server. All you have to do is narrow down your location with the given options. After this, your next GPS lock should be much faster and reliable. Give it a shot!
Calibrate your Compass
A lot of devices ship with a compass, in addition to the GPS sensor. What happens is that, from time to time and even coming out of the factory, your compass may not be properly calibrated. This means that your device is not getting proper orientation information, and it may disturb you when using navigation apps, and even making apps like Street View useless. It’s easy enough to see if you’re affected by this, simply download “GPS Essentials” and go to the compass Section, and see if the movement is smooth and not erratic. Not working as it should? Don’t fret, it’s trivial to fix. Simply open up GPS Essentials yet again, go to the Compass section, press the menu button and select “Calibrate”. The app will then show you instructions and even a video showing you how to do it.
Use GPS Status and Toolbox to Reset Cache
You can also download GPS Status and Toolbox and reset your cached GPS data, so that the GPS module is forced to clear any incorrect data it may have on file and instead search for a new signal. This is especially useful if you have moved recently, or are in a different region, as the GPS tends to look back on where you were to get your current position. Anyway, open the app, press the menu button, go to Tools and then tap “Manage A-GPS State”. Like the instructions say, press “Reset”. After a while you should get a message saying new data has been downloaded. If not, just do it again and select “Download” instead. This should result in a faster fix and ore reliable connection overall.
When all else fails – Update your Firmware
Manufacturers tend to ship baseband and firmware updates along with software updates, and so if you’re having GPS woes, upgrading it would be a good idea. You don’t have to do anything, just install the latest update for your device that the manufacturer has available, and the update process will take care of the rest. Of course, keep in mind the risks inherent with updating, always follow the instructions completely and understand that your root will probably go away once you upgrade, requiring you to root your device yet again to enjoy full root app access.