Does GPS SmartPhone Use Data – Mobile Internet Plan?

Anil Gupta  26 May, 18      21  Finance Tech Tips

Does GPS SmartPhone Use data

Yes and No based on if you have maps downloaded or not.

1. Street maps downloaded on your phone?

Your maps navigation app can work without your Mobile Data from service provider like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Airtel, Vodafone or Sprint.

If you are worried, just turn the ‘mobile data’ off and then use Google maps or Waze or iPhone Navigation app and it should still work.

So, the question Can I use my phone as a GPS without data is answered.

2. You don’t have maps downloaded on your phone

In this case, your navigation app will need to download maps on the go using your mobile data to show you street by street directions.

To give you an example, ever wondered how your car’s in-built navigation works without internet data plan?
Simply, because, the car manufacturer has downloaded app maps on your car’s system and hence does not need any on the go.

The same concept applies to your Android or iPhone.

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, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy versions and iPhones etc.) today.

Do I need Mobile Internet Data connection to use GPS?

No. There is no internet connection required to use GPS services. Global positioning system (GPS) is available FREE of cost everywhere on earth.

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. Even the second row seat of the car may not catch the GPS satellite signal sometimes.

How does GPS work?

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 app like Google maps, which can actually process this data for you and show you the directions on your mobile screen using 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 the maps 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.

GPS in Smartphone
GPS in Smartphone

Does GOOGLE MAPS GPS or Waze use Mobile internet data?

Google maps app is FREE to use but they do need area maps to be downloaded.

Google maps allows offline or without internet access of their maps, if you have downloaded them earlier on your mobile.

The problem here is that you won’t be able to see traffic suggestions without mobile data.

If not downloaded, and you use Google maps to find directions using your own FREE GPS receiver (installed in your smartphone) using your mobile internet connection to get maps on the go and show you directions.

Waze App provides a lot of other features like signalling police officer, cameras on traffic lights, cars standing on road side etc. which are NOT possible without real time updates. These updates certainly need data to be fetched from Waze servers and hence, bytes your internet cost.

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.

You can test this by switching off your mobile data in phone settings and you should still be able to use Google Maps to navigate with downloaded maps.

Turn Off Mobile Internet Data in Android
Turn Off Mobile Internet Data in Android

Remember, Google maps (if maps not already available) would need the internet connection and would incur internet data charges in roaming.

Can GPS be used without maps?

Yes, you can use GPS to get your location data free of cost.

But, if you want to use it as a road by road and turn by turn navigation device, you need street maps. Google maps and Waze provide them free of cost! Use them.

   Read all 21 Q & A

  1. Guy Anderson   23 Apr, 18 at 1:08 pm

    I just downloaded my whole city about 250mb worth of data with my home wifi in the Google maps settings. VERY easy! Ytube Video ‘Google Maps Offline Just Got Easier to Use! (Tutorial)”. Can GPS in my android be used track my speed or be used as a speedometer without wifi or data?

    • Anil Gupta   23 Apr, 18 at 1:16 pm

      I do not think speed can be gauged without using data. Not aware of any such app or feature either.

  2. Guy Anderson   23 Apr, 18 at 1:09 pm

    I just downloaded my whole city about 250mb worth of data with my home wifi in the Google maps settings. VERY easy! Ytube Video ‘Google Maps Offline Just Got Easier to Use! (Tutorial)”. Can GPS in my android be used track my speed or be used as a speedometer without wifi or data?

    • Anil Gupta   23 Apr, 18 at 1:17 pm

      I do not think speed can be gauged without using data. Not aware of any such app or feature either.

  3. I am walking around using Google Maps, my Data is Turned Off, but the GPS is still giving me live detail information of my location. What is being used to download this data?

    • A GPS receiver (hardware) is in-built in all smartphone these days. It does not need data connection to find your location as it connects with satellite to get latitute and longitude information and then show you, your location.

      You would need internet connection if you want to use LIVE maps.

      In case you have downloaded maps for offline use, you can see maps too with your location with data turned off.

      • Dear Anil,

        i had a blackberry passport which my cousin had bought it from the USA..after 3 months it wasnt functioning normally ,so my cousin told me to send the phone back as his friend was in india and was about to fly to the US next day.Blackberry found out the issue with the phone and gave a new blackberry as a replacement.Now the question is that can my cousin send the phone through courier,and will i have to pay any customs.

        • Yes, there will be custom duty on the phone, if it is sent by courier. If you can prove that it is indeed a replacement for the old phone, you may get a relief. You can just ask your cousin to attach relevant proofs to the package (along with sending one copy to you; you can scan and print them).

          But, did your cousin paid the duty, the first time he brought this phone to India? I am sure, he would have not!

          In this case, it would be difficult to evade the custom duty.

          The best way is to ask someone to carry it back.

          If you still planning to get it couriered and wondering how much would be the duty, then here are the details:

  4. brother……..

    i have vehicle of tavera. i kept on hire in one of the software company in hyd. but the driver of my vehicle is not running properly. when i asked him where he is. he replying unsuitable reasons. . i want to know where is my vehicle on every movement. how can i do. and what can i do. please reply me on “”

    –with regards.

    • Anil Gupta   22 Jun, 15 at 8:11 am

      You can install GPS tracker in your vehicle. Most of the Cab companies these days install this device to track down their cab location.
      Search for ‘GPS tracker for cabs’ on google and you will find many options.

  5. Help full Information thanks

  6. Thanks for the information. Its really helpful.

  7. this article has cleared certain doubts, thanks.

  8. Google Maps now offers an offline feature… you’ll need to have a connection and can download for a specific area or city. You then save each area you’re interested in. Search for “OK Maps”, its better explained there 🙂

  9. Your article is correct for all phones having GPS or a GPS receiver (from Garmin or Tom Tom) unfortunately the majority of smartphones sold have AGPS, and that requires additional network resources and internet connectivity to get an intial fix.

    • Anil Gupta   24 Jan, 12 at 3:14 am

      Ya Shahid, I agree with you. AGPS uses mobile towers for getting the location information and it will certainly have data cost.

    • The only phones that have GPS (vs AGPS) that I know of are the Garminfone (no longer made) and the Nokia Lumia 710 (probably the newer Lumias.) Does anyone know of others?