How to fix and improve GPS on your Android phones and tablets

If you’ve noticed that your smartphone or tablet mapping apps aren’t working as well as they should, these tips may help you get to where you want to go.

Just about every smartphone has a Global Positioning System (GPS) sensor these days. Used in tandem with a navigation app like Google Maps they are incredibly useful for finding your way around. But not all GPS sensors perform as well as others, and signal problems such as weak signal or a complete dropout could literally leave you lost.

If you want to improve the GPS signal on an Android smartphone, these tips may help. Remember: Android looks slightly different from phone to phone, so some of the steps may be slightly different on your device.

[Read more: How to use Google Maps as your satnav]

Tip 1: Check your location

To work properly, GPS needs a clear view of the sky, so it's best to be outside for satellites to communicate with your GPS properly.

If you’re using Google Maps you can tell how strong the signal is by seeing how well the app is able to pinpoint your location.

If Google Maps isn’t sure about where you are exactly, there will be a light blue circle around your blue ‘current location’ dot.

A completely grey dot means Google Maps is unable to find your current location, and is showing your last known location instead.

Google Maps

Tip 2: Activate high accuracy mode

GPS uses up a lot of battery power, and the more precise it is, the more battery it uses. Most smartphones keep the accuracy at a moderate level to avoid sucking all the juice out of a device.

Some Android smartphones let you activate GPS high accuracy mode, which gives more precise performance at the cost of battery life.

To set your GPS to high accuracy mode, open the Settings by swiping down on your screen and clicking the cog icon. Tap Security & privacy > Location Services. Depending on your model of smartphone it may be under Security & location.

Settings security

Here you'll find the option to use High accuracy mode. Make sure the toggle is switched on.

Location high accuracy

Remember to switch it back to a lower setting once you’ve finished.

[Read more: How to fix a water-damaged phone]

Tip 3: Use a compass app to recalibrate the GPS

You may need to recalibrate your GPS to make things work better. To do this, you’ll need to use a compass app – your smartphone may already have one, in which case open it. If not, you can easily download one for free on the Google Play Store.

We went for GPS Essentials.

Once the app has downloaded, open it and tap Compass.

Pick up your phone and rotate it vertically three times, while keeping the phone flat as shown below. Make sure you do so slowly.

Calibrate GPS using a compass app

Next, spin your phone around from front to back vertically three times.

Calibrate GPS using a compass app

And finally, flip your phone horizontally three times from front to back.

Calibrate GPS using a compass app

Tip 4: Make sure nothing is interfering with your phone

In order to use GPS your phone needs to be able to detect satellites, which it can’t do if a metallic object is blocking your GPS signal.

To find out if your phone is able to detect satellites, open the GPS Essentials app again and tap Satellites.

If you don’t see any results, you’ll know that the signal is being blocked or there is something wrong with your device.

If you’re seeing satellites dotted around, that means that the GPS is working but something is wrong with the app you are using.

Consider reinstalling the app or find an alternative. We like HERE WeGo which lets you download European Maps to use offline and includes turn by turn directions.

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