Android gpsI recently bought a Samsung Galaxy Gio, an entry-level Android smartphone priced at €149 (approx. $212). Overall my experience with the device has been great, but the phone seemed to have trouble picking up the GPS satellites and therefore couldn’t pick up a GPS signal in most locations. If your GPS-enabled Android phone has trouble locating you, there may be a simple way to improve your reception that doesn’t require a mobile internet connection.

Chartcross Limited has released a free Android app called GPS Test that displays diagnostic information about your GPS reception. After enabling your GPS, the device first needs to locate visible satellites and obtain a position fix. As soon as the GPS signal is locked in, the phone will have less trouble keeping tracking and updating your GPS position.

GPS Test displays information about the GPS satellites that are in sight. You can use this information to lock in your position as follows:

  1. Enable your GPS and start the app. The GPS status icon should be yellow. This means the app is trying to connect to the satellites.
  2. Move your phone around so that you have at least five satellites in sight. Also pay attention to the signal-to-noise ratio (higher is better).
  3. When your satellite reception is good enough, stop moving your phone and wait for the signal to lock in. Some satellite indicators will become colored (indicating they are in use) and the GPS status will turn green as shown on the screenshot.
  4. You can now switch to Google Maps (requires network connection or offline caching), MapDroyd (my favorite app for offline maps) or any app that uses your location.

After successfully connecting to the satellites, the GPS signal should stay locked in without too much hassle. GPS Test also offers some additional features you might find interesting, such as a display of the satellites mapped out on a compass. The GPS satellites can be used to determine your altitude, your exact UTC/local time and the time of sunrise/sunset. These features make it a nice companion for outdoor adventures.

Update: To avoid confusion, I’d like to emphasize that this tool doesn’t magically boost your GPS signal. However, if you’re unable to connect to the GPS satellites normally like I was, you can use this tool to move your phone into a position in which it sees enough satellites to establish a connection.

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There Are 11 Comments

  1. Pretty cool – thx

  2. GPS works by detecting at least 3 satellites then triangulating position through a series of increasing resolution readings and claculations. This program won’t make it more accurate nor will it make your GPS sync any faster.

    • While I certainly can’t say I have a thorough knowledge of the GPS system, I figured that if your phone sees just 3 satellites and you’re not consistently getting a good signal from them, your phone will have trouble establishing a connection. If more satellites are in sight, your phone will have more satellites to choose from and therefore it will be easier for it to find a way to establish a connection. If you think I’m wrong in assuming this, I’d be happy to hear your explanation and correct the article if necessary.

      Personally, I’ve had much more success connecting to the GPS satellites when I had more than 5 satellites in sight than when I had 3 or 4. Plus your position is recorded more accurately if you can connect to more than 3 satellites.

      Regardless, I couldn’t get my phone to pick up enough satellite signals and this program helped me find additional satellites to allow a connection to be established.

    • Your description of the status displays are correct. Your conclusion and title are not. The more clear line-of-sight access your device has to the sky, the better the satellite detection. Software won’t change that.

    • Actually you need 4. 3 Will triangulate your position but if leaves 2 locations on the planet. To choose a 4th will be used. A 5th or more could be used to calculate your location more precise.
      Worst case you could use 2, but I’ve never seen a tool do this before.

      There are also 3 states your phone can be in:
      1. hasn’t been using gps for 5 days.
      This requires your phone to locate all satellites again and due to low bandwidth from GPS this could cost some minutes.
      A GPS cache (sometimes called quick-fix) is this information stored in a file, putting your phone in state 2 saving you some time.
      2. has not been used for more then 4 hours.
      Your phone has most information stored but needs to find his fix again, normally done within one minute or less.
      3. GPS has been used in less the 4 hours.
      All information is fresh, fix is done almost instantly when signal is good.

      The galaxy Gio supports A-GPS, activating this could help people getting a decent ‘fix’ in buildings and bad-GPS receiving areas. This feature does use some data (and maybe some money is charged for this by your provider!).

  3. I used this software on my first android phone and it’s useful, providing some of the information a dedicated GPS unit offers. It helps confirm when you’re locked on and what kind of signal you’re getting, but I don’t think it provides a better signal in and of itself. Having more satellites certainly helps with accuracy in the base plane and can provide information on elevation. Having software like this can help you get a sense of how good your signal is in different circumstances.

    • You’re right about it not magically boosting your signal. However, my point was that if you’re unable to connect to the GPS satellites normally like I was, you can use this tool to move your phone into a position in which it can establish a connection.

  4. Awesome! You saved my day!

  5. I think. this is good i tried it out and it did work for me fine. Thanks alot

  6. Hi,
    I have some problems with Gio and GPS too. I bought my phone a few days ago, and when i first turned on gps navigation in google maps, it run smoothly and it locked me on in just a few seconds, and i was in my room, fare away from window. But after that, i have never succeded to locate my self here. I used GPS test application long before i read this article and i managed to find 9 sattelites onlu when i go to the roof of my bilding, but i used to go arround like an idiot with my phone for them to apeare. And what is best, my friend with htc desire locate him self here in just a secconds, in the same spot where i dont see any sattelites. On the work, its the same story, my colegue turnd on GPS on his galaxy fit and locate himself in a seconds, while i cant.

  7. From my experience, this app DOES magicaly boosts your GPS :-)

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