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Published the 17.11.2016

Does GPS on your smartphone use data?

Every year, we see this question popping up a few times: “Does my smartphone’s GPS app use data?” And so, we thought we’d give you the answer once and for all.

GPS data - Go mobile BASE

In our quest to provide you with the best answer, we stumbled upon this article by the Dutch mobile provider Simyo. We found it to be informative and well written and decided to use it as a guide to craft our own answer.

There is GPS and A-GPS

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Your smartphone’s navigation app makes use of two different versions: GPS and Assisted-GPS (A-GPS).

GPS uses satellites to define the location of your smartphone. It does so rather precisely, but it isn’t very fast. A-GPS makes use of telecommunications networks like 3G and 4G to more quickly define your device’s position, but it isn’t the most accurate system. 

Does your smartphone’s GPS use data?

No, it uses satellites. Just like the GPS in your car.

Where does the confusion stem from?

Apps that make use of geolocation use a combination of both systems. First, A-GPS rapidly defines your location, after which GPS finetunes your position on the map. There are however also navigation apps that don’t actually make use of an Internet connection. But in a nutshell, that is why your GPS uses data.

How can I reduce the usage of A-GPS?

Two tips.

1.  Turn off your location settings

There are a lot of apps that make use of your location services to rapidly define where you are. An obvious example would be Google Maps, but there are many others that access your location services.

How do you turn these off? Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. You will be able to turn this service off or on and decide this app per app.

2.  Download maps to your smartphone

To stick with the example of Google Maps: You can download maps and use them offline. 

How does it work?

  1. Open Google Maps.
  2. Make sure you are online and logged in.
  3. Find a location, for instance Beveren.
  4. Enter the name or address in the dropdown bar below. If you are looking for a restaurant, tick the three vertical dots.
  5. Hit download.

How much data does GPS-navigation use?

An excellent question, if you don’t mind us saying so. Our friends at Test-Aankoop tested this during a 120 km trip. They came to some interesting conclusions.

  • Waze used 8,3 MB (Android), 7,1 MB (iPhone) and 5,65 MB (Windows).
  • Apple Maps used a hefty 22,35 MB.
  • Google Maps used 17 MB (Android) and 13,1 MB (iOS).

Are any of your friends wondering if the navigation apps on their smartphone use data?

Send them this article.

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