You bought a smartphone recently and want to use its GPS navigation service, but are not sure if it actually uses your mobile’s internet service or not?
Well, this is a most common question that each one of us would have and I am trying to dig deep into how the whole thing works here.
What type of hardware do I need to run GPS service?
You need a GPS receiver which comes as a built in feature in almost all smartphones (like Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy versions and iPhones etc.) today.
Do I need an Internet connection to use GPS?
No. There is no internet connection required to use GPS services but that does not mean that you can use the map navigation only with GPS receiver. Read on to find more.
Where all can GPS work?
GPS reception is available around the globe. You will need to have a clear view of the skies so the receiver can triangulate at least three satellites. An office window works well, but you may have problems receiving signals in the inner area of buildings. In general, metal blocks GPS signals, while glass, wood, or plastic does not.
So, How does the whole concept work and what are the connection points?
GPS receiver is a hardware which is normally available in most smartphones these days. This receiver can fetch the location data from satellite FREE of cost. But this data is in raw form and you need an application (like Google maps) which can actually process this data for you and show you the directions on a map.
Remember, GPS receiver does not help you with maps on its own. A map generally contains all the places embedded in it along with latitude and longitude information.
Most companies today sell this portion along with their application to show the navigation user screens.
Once you download and install the maps and the application, you don’t need an internet connection on mobile i.e. no data charges would apply at the time of searching for locations while travelling.
This essentially means that if you do not download the maps initially and try to use the GPS application to find directions while travelling, the application will try to download the maps on the fly and this will definitely need an active internet connection and hence the data charges on your mobile phone would apply.
Your location changes quite frequently while travelling pushing the GPS navigation application to download quite a number of maps and would consume good amount of data.
Does GOOGLE MAPS GPS use internet data?
Google maps application is FREE to use but they do need area maps to be downloaded.
As of updating this article on 8 Aug 2016, they do allow offline or without internet access of their maps, if you have downloaded them earlier on your mobile.
If not downloaded, and you use Google maps to find directions using your own FREE GPS receiver (installed in your smartphone), it would still need your mobile internet connection to get maps on the go and show you directions.
What if I use GPS while travelling in another country? Will it cost something in roaming?
Ideally no charge should be levied if you are only using GPS receiver with the maps of that country already available on your smartphone i.e. no new download required. The map navigation software that you are using should be able to use the maps on your phone’s memory along with your GPS receiver to find the location (latitude and longitude) and show you the way.
Remember, Google maps (if maps not already available) would need the internet connection and would incur internet data charges in roaming.
So, the crux of the story is that even though you have a GPS receiver in your phone and GPS reception is FREE around the globe, you would still need to download and install the maps and the user application that helps you use the GPS information for navigation. There are many companies which provide maps and the navigation application free of costs and can be found on internet or Android and iPhone app stores.