Troubleshooting GPS Issues - Android

What is GPS (in one sentence)?

GPS is a system to estimate location on Earth by using signals from a set of orbiting satellites.

Tips: Achieving good initial GPS lock

To achieve fast startup and high-accuracy position estimates, you should provide:

  1. Clear view of a large portion of the sky
  2. Time to tune in to the signals from the satellites 

The keys to a GPS lock are clear access to the sky and patience. Any obstructions between the phone and the sky can adversely affect signal strength. A big tree is an obvious obstacle, but even a jersey or a backpack can cause problems for the very low-strength signals.

To improve signal acquisition time, keep the device in one place and make sure the device's data communications are enabled. This allows the phone's GPS to get hints about its approximate location. Even with a perfectly clear sky it can take a few minutes before a lock can be established in some situations.  Most Android phones made in the last couple of years have had fairly solid GPS sensors. That being said, not all GPS sensors are created equal.

Variable performance

The GPS system includes the chip in your device as well as the satellites above the Earth. So even if your device is in the same place and the same setting as before, it may behave differently from one day to the next. Typically, the device needs to receive signals from about 5 satellites to get an accurate estimate of its position. With the changing position of the satellites, changing weather patterns, and the changing nature of the Earth's outer atmosphere, there are enough parts of the GPS system outside of your direct control and observation that it is difficult to make conclusions about what specifically is causing inconsistent performance. We recommend you try repeatedly before making a judgement about the best ways to work with your device's GPS in your setting.

Tips: Improving phone GPS performance

  1. Turn phone off/on
  2. Turn satellites off/on
  3. Perform an "AGPS reset": Install the App GPS Status & Toolbox, then in that app, go to Menu -> Tools ->
    Manage A-GPS State -> Reset, and then Menu -> Tools -> Manage A-GPS State -> Download.

Steps to take when investigating GPS Issues

Be Patient!

Try using the Strava app to record for 10 minutes, letting it search for signals with a wide open view of the sky, and keeping it completely immobile. If this does not produce useful location estimates, here are the steps we recommend to take next:

Determine if GPS works in other apps

If you are willing to get your hands a little dirty, try running one of the free apps that presents detailed GPS operating information. “GPS Status” is a free app that can reset your GPS and download fresh A-GPS data. The link to download the app is here, and you should see it eventually reporting 5 or more satellites acquired, and an overall accuracy range of less than 30 meters if everything is working properly.

Check for resource management apps

Some devices may have apps installed that disable GPS services or terminate backgrounded apps in an attempt to reduce battery usage and improve system performance. Examples of apps in this category include "Advanced Task Killer" and "Juice Defender." Please disable or adjust the settings of these apps to allow Strava to receive GPS information during long periods of background operation.

What to do when GPS just doesn't work

Review the list of known devices below and see if there are any issues that apply to the device and operating system being used. Then contact our support team with a description of the device (make, model), Android OS version, and version of Strava. When sending a message to us from within the Strava app's support menu, all of this information gets included in the message automatically.

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