Phone built-in GPS quality

I have Galaxy Nexus phone. The most painful thing in Mapillary experience for me is constant “Waiting for (better) location fix”. Most of time I get GPS fix, but only 20 meters precision that doesn’t allow me to take photos. I totally can’t take photos in narrow streets.

Also, I noticed that precision drops when I take lots of photos (maybe due to overheating).

What experience do you have with GPS on other phones? Maybe Galaxy Nexus has bad GPS? What phones have decent GPS receivers? What can I do besides buying a new phone? Or all GPS receivers are the same?

I used Samsung Tablet 7.2.0 and S3 mini and confirm that sometimes there is no GPS fix when using in car. This leads to rejected pictures after uploading, I even thought there would be something weird on the server, bit it was just because of missing coordinates in EXIF.
When using my Moto G (I tested 1st, 2nd, now 3rd gen models) this problem does not appear, everything works great. Maybe you like to try an external BT GPS mouse and pair it with your device.

I’m using a Galaxy S5 here. Formerly I had a HTC Legend. There’s a big difference between the two. The Legend’s GPS was just bad (well, this model was released in 2010) while the S5 is OK. Regarding the compass, this is the opposite, the Legend was better.

The surprising thing with the S5 is that I used to have quickly an excellent fix in South East Asia while it takes ages to have an average fix or less in Paris. I initially thought this was tied to the city walls (I was mostly in the countryside, in Asia), but I have the same problem in parks and large empty areas surrounding Paris. I don’t understand why.

The GPS quality I think largely depends on the number of satellites found. It seems the iPhone has a very decent GPS with GLONASS support, while Android devices are still lagging. Right now the app has the basic LocationService implemented in order not to use Google Play Location Service. I think we should try out tht one since it might improve location, but require Google Play Services to be installed.


Hey, Android supports GLONASS too ^^

You maybe know it already, but if not, this excellent blog posts gives plenty of interesting tips on how to optimize geolocalization under Android. Even if it is a bit old now:

I just made a comparison between my old Galaxy Nexus and a Nexus 5, in the same conditions, with the GPS Test app.

Nexus 5 was faster, but it’s biaised, it got cellular data, not the Galaxy Nexus.
But the 5 was more accurate. Sometimes, same value, but mainly 2 times more accurate.
Nexus 5 is using both GPS and GLONASS. It was able to use much more satellite than the Galaxy.

So yes, I think that the Galaxy Nexus has not the best receiver… Nexus 5 is fast and really accurate in my opinion.

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my experience with GPS quality:
HTC One M7/M9 in good quality, nice, fast, stable
Moto G2 - not so good, not so fast, but OK
Honor 6 - good GPS like M9
Alcatel One touch idol - bad GPS quality, not suitable

Overall: streets with buildings are bad for GPS, free view to sky with no clouds is the best, but not a small valley between two mountains…
While hiking in the alps, GPS is ok, but in the woods it could get worse and bad from time to time, depending on the amount of leafs.

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I have both a Samsung Galaxy S4 and an S5. Started with the S4 but now use the S5 most of the time because of the higher pixel camera.

Both seem to acquire GPS lock around the same time. There are some differences sometimes, but not enough to say that one is definitively better/worse than the other.

Having said that, cloud cover definitely makes them take longer. Moving helps them gain lock most of the time. Driving deep in a concrete jungle (e.g., downtown) often causes me to lose lock.

I’ve found that using a separate GPS app (one designed specifically to gather GPS satellite data) helps on those extra-cloudy days. GPS Status by MobiWIA is one; there are others. Have any of you tried using an external app to get a faster fix?

HTC Desire s : Bad Gps
HTC One mini : Average GPS
Sony Xperia Ray : GPS Ok
Motorola Moto X (1st gen) : good GPS, but I have some sync loss since the android 5.1 update

Qualcomm chips were really better than Mediatek for GPS, but I don’t know if it is still a correct information.

What about ?

Does anyone here use an iPod 6 with the Mapillary app to capture and upload? I know the iPod does not have a GPS. The app details say it is compatible, but I do not want to assume that means it can be used exactly the same as an iPhone. I plan on buying a new iPod 6 if it is a good option for using with Mapillary.

@jimwatana Thanks for highlighting this! We require GPS in some way, it’s an error on our part to not inform better about this. One thing we can do is to add GPS to required HW in the app, but maybe that’s not what we want. For instance, iPod + external GPS might be valid? Need to do some investigation, but just using an iPod will not work.

Those i Things are better with external GPS than their Android counterparts.

I said that I have some problems with my Moto X since Kit-Kat to Lollipop update.

And I just discovered that it’s a global problem in Android, not only on my phone. So If your GPS is losing lock and you’re using Lollipop, take a look at this issue :

There is a workaround, but it’s not successful for every user:

I found that running Mozilla Stumbler in background kept my GPS fix. I used it for LBG, but this should also work for Mapillary.

Is the iPod touch 6 compatible with the Mapillary app because the location services write EXIF info when the device is CONNECTED to wifi? And then would not be when you lose a login?

There are several issues with phone GPS’s.

  1. The quality and location of an aerial and software for reading signals from the satellites - my wife uses a Samsung S5 and I use a Note 4 we both access only the GPS and GLONAS satellites although using an app like GPS test we can see others like Galileo and the QZSS (which is Japanese but orbits over Australia and would be useful for urban canyons). I can only assume smartphones will improve their support for GPS as more an more apps demand accurate GPS’s.

  2. The best phone accuracy is likely to be c3m (based on published articles and some tests I have done) without improvement to the hardware and software in the phone.

  3. No GPS can work through trees. Even my Trimble Geo7 with an external aerial cannot see through a dense canopy.

  4. Canyoning effect impacts all GPS’s although obviously the professional ones have software algorithms to help improve accuracy.

  5. Often if you come back to a spot a few minutes later the satellites have moved and reception and accuracy may improve (or not as the case may be).

  6. There are various hardware add ins that claim to improve phone accuracy.

There are work-arounds to being under a canopy which involve more time and effort and maybe there needs to be some information on these available.

A relatively modern phone on a good day with a relatively clear view of the sky should get you to 3m on a regular basis.

In contrast my Geo7X will get you to 2cm but has a 2mb camera and so delivers terrible georeferenced photos in contrast with the excellent images available from modern smart phones.

Hope this is helpful


Both my Nexus 5 and Sony Xperia Z2 are usually pretty quick at getting a GPS fix.
For the Z2 I have several times experienced, that it registeres a point that might be several hundret meters off and then it goes back to the correct point again. You are see that on Mapillary in my area untill change sets are processed again.

Currently I only uses my phone for small sequences, usually for use in OSM work. I normally use 4 cameras (see other posts by my about that) and geotags all images with the coordinates from my Garmin Virb Elite. Usually it is pretty precise (3-5 meters) but can take 1-2 minutes to aquire a fix.

Once I experienced that the position of the Garmin slowly drifted off, about a couple of hundret meters, just to drift back. The whole period was about 20 minutes. It was next to the sea with almost perfect conditions for the GPS, I cought it before uploading.

@IainS Geo7X sounds nice, but a little out of my price range :smile:

Now, I use an external bluetooth GNSS receiver with an external magnetic antenna on my car’s roof.
This receiver has a position update rate up to 10hz. I usually set it to 5 hz to have good shape on roundabout.

It’s a little DIY:

  • Navspark-GL
  • Bluetooth module
  • External Antenna
    -GPSBLue on my Android smartphone to store the nmea file.


That sounds interesting, but not really “easy” for users.
Any howto setup this for the mapillary app?
Or is this not really a replacement for mobile-built-in GPS?