Why didn't Google make GPS

Problems with the GPS - Smartphone users can do this

"You have reached your destination" - Finding the right way is quite easy with map apps on your smartphone. But what to do if the GPS causes problems?

Destination selected, navigation started, the smartphone in your pocket and off you go. But instead of the usual directional announcement, the navigation system reports with the words: "GPS lost". What went wrong "Today's devices are actually very good and also receive many satellites," says Michael Link from c’t magazine.

GPS interference source city

Nevertheless, the GPS signal is very fragile, says the expert, and disturbances can occur especially in the city. Because the satellites that the smartphone can reach in the narrow streets are close together and tall buildings interfere with the signal. What follows: The map app calculates the signals incorrectly, the location point on the map jumps back and forth between the streets.

Normally, the smartphone first scans the WLAN signals in the vicinity to determine its position and compares them with a database. "It works to within a few meters," explains Michael Link. Then the smartphone uses the satellites. At least four of them are needed to determine the position - modern smartphones use at least nine. This is why you have the best reception in the open air, explains Link.

A GPS problem runners know

But the satellites are not always to blame. The built-in chip and the software of the card app are more decisive. How they calculate the data determines what is shown on the map. Different map apps lead to different results. Runners and cyclists alike know the problem. If the app shows that the athlete has crossed the lake instead of circled it, the algorithm is to blame, explains Link. "At first the device does not notice that you have turned and shortens the route to the next point."

Tourists and people who first have to find their way around a new city are also familiar with another problem. You get off the subway, look at the map and want to know which direction you have to go now. Only, the direction indication on the map is wrong. Only when you turn the smartphone does the arrow point again in the right direction. "The GPS does not show any direction when the vehicle is stationary. This requires at least walking speed," explains Michael Link.

GPS interference source city. (Source: t-online)

That is why the compass or position sensor in the smartphone is crucial. If it is not set correctly, the arrow will point in the wrong direction. Calibrating the sensor can help here. But even that doesn't always help, because on some smartphones the sensor shows the wrong direction even if you are moving and the GPS should actually take over.

You can use these tips to avoid GPS problems in everyday life

  • It is best to hold your smartphone outdoors. So better not to put it in your jacket pocket. Ideally, use a bracket on the handlebars for bicycles.
  • The energy saving mode can also switch off the GPS chip. Therefore switch off the energy-saving mode, or allow the app in energy-saving mode and prefer to take an additional power bank with you.
  • In order to save battery anyway, you should keep the display as dark as possible, because that consumes the most electricity. Michael Link also has the Komoot map app as a tip. There is a so-called blind flight there. The voice navigation also works here without a display.
  • Have as few electrical disruptive factors as possible, such as smartwatches, in the vicinity.
  • Set the GPS signal for Android devices to a high level of accuracy, or allow location determination via WLAN and Bluetooth in the settings.

What is GPS and how does GPS work?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. GPS is used to determine the exact position of a place on earth. To do this, GPS receivers, like your own smartphone, connect to the satellites of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

To determine the position, the data from at least four satellites must be measured and processed. The distance to the satellites is then measured over the time it takes for the signal from the satellite to the smartphone. The more satellites are used, the more precise the position determination is.

24 satellites orbit the earth in the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). The system was originally developed for the US military and has been available to all since May 2, 2000. In addition to the GNSS, there is the Russian GLONASS and the Chinese Beidou system.


The European system is called Galileo and is the only one that is not a military project. Galileo uses 30 of its own satellites and can also connect to the GPS signal. Not all smartphones can yet use the European system. Which devices are Galileo-capable can be found on the website usegalileo.eu.