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How to use GPS without data and Internet access: FAQ for Android / iOS

Author: Vladimir Brown

GPS is an essential technology which is intensively used on mobile devices. However, users have questions on the operation of GPS together with a navigator. Whether this technology uses data from the Internet, can it work without Wi-Fi, cell service, etc. – we will answer these questions.

Table of Contents

Does GPS download data from the Internet?

There is no clear answer to the question: does GPS work without data?

If you use a navigation app (such as Google Maps or Waze) on your phone, the app will download data from the Internet.

If your phone is connected via a Wi-Fi, this will happen automatically. If mobile Internet is enabled, a navigation app will ask you whether it can download maps to your device. In some cases, this doesn't happen.

At the same time, GPS technology itself doesn't use data from the Internet, obtaining information (longitude and latitude) directly from satellites.

How to use GPS without Internet

If you download offline maps of the required region / city to your phone, a navigation app will display your location without the Internet.

This is easy to verify:

  1. Download maps to your phone (the easiest way to do this is via Google Maps),
  1. Turn off the Internet on your device,
  2. Enable GPS,
  1. Check if the opened navigation app is running,
  2. Go to the statistics of Internet data consumption,
  1. Make sure that you don't need the Internet for GPS to work.

By the way, car navigators are equipped with offline maps, so their built-in GPS system doesn't require an Internet connection to operate with GPS data – unlike many mobile navigation apps running under Android and iPhone, which highly depend on an Internet connection.

Please also note that the accuracy of a navigator without the Internet is 5-10 meters.

Equipment required for GPS operation without data

You will need a satellite receiver for a GPS-navigation. Most modern smartphones have it built-in. Pixel, Samsung, HTC, Huawei and other Android and iPhone models support GPS from out of the box.

However, "cut-down", i.e. budget versions of the equipment don't always please its users with a built-in GPS receiver, so read the device specifications carefully.

In an extreme case, an external GPS receiver will help out which you can connect via a free USB-port.

Is GPS for free?

All information received from satellites to a GPS receiver is free of charge.

However, if you use a mobile navigation app, make sure that the cost of mobile Internet traffic allows you to safely download maps and other data necessary for displaying and downloading additional maps.

Where can I use GPS?

GPS navigation is available everywhere, all over the globe.

However, you may face some difficulties if:

  • there is bad weather,
  • you are in a place where there is no good satellite access,
  • it's more challenging to receive a signal inside an isolated room – usually, the connection to a GPS satellite is worse than in an open area,
  • metal overlaps, hard and dense materials can impair the device communication with satellites.

How does GPS work on phone

  1. GPS receiver (integrated or external module) connects to a satellite.
  2. The satellite transmits the current coordinates (longitude / latitude) to your device.
  3. Google Maps, Waze (or other software) navigation apps use the coordinates in order to display the location of a user at a map.
  4. Maps are downloaded directly to your device.
  5. When a user moves data on the location of a receiver change in real-time.

Are there any alternatives to GPS?

In addition to GPS (in the USA), GLONASS (Russia), BeiDu (China), and Galileo (EU) can be used for navigation.

Do I need to install maps?

If you use a separate device for navigation (for example, Garmin or Navitel), maps and other software are already included, and they usually don't need to be pre-installed.

With mobile devices, you can use the apps offered for Android or iOS.

How much data can Google or Waze consume when using GPS?

Even though many apps for navigation are free to use, the Internet traffic that is actively consumed by the software is not free.

How much traffic can a regular navigation app like Google Maps consume? About 100 MB per hour is a minimum with a reasonably economical approach.

Please note that in addition to loading maps, navigation apps receive additional information in real-time, which may also incur additional costs.

If you download offline maps on your device, a GPS-navigation app will only use data received from your smartphone memory. We recommend disabling mobile Internet too, just to be sure, primarily if you use roaming with GPS and a navigation app.

Do I need roaming for GPS operation?

If you need the Internet to upload maps to a navigation app, then you may need roaming. Please note that the cost of services can be quite shocking. So the best thing to do is as follows:

  1. Download maps to your device and make them available offline.
  2. Buy a local SIM-card with prepaid Internet traffic.
  3. (and / or) If applicable, use Wi-Fi points to view and download navigation maps to your device.

Thus, roaming isn't required for GPS-operation. For comfortable work, it's better to download offline maps and avoid using roaming. Do this only in an emergency such as to find out your location or get directions.

Will GPS work appropriately without a navigation app and maps?

In fact, only the GPS-receiver will work, determining your coordinates (longitude and latitude), i.e. your location.

To work in the full mode, you'll need one app: either a navigation app or a reference guide, which will show you exactly where you are in an accessible visual form.

The best solution for these tasks is a free navigation app. Depending on the device and platform you use, this may be Google Maps, Waze or Apple Maps.

Do location services use data on iOS and Android?

The location services themselves do not use data. If you are not using GPS apps with maps, there is no need for an internet connection. At the same time, you cannot use Google Maps or Waze fully just with GPS enabled.

Via Google Maps, you will be able to track your location through offline maps without data.

Also, using GPS without data, you will be able to send SOS signal and your location to emergency services.


Can I use of GPS data without an internet connection

Yes, you can use only GPS data for that, but only if you have downloaded offline maps on your iOS / Android mobile device. Google Maps is best for this purpose. The route will be laid using these very maps.

At the same time, real-time data on the map will not be available without Internet access.

Does the GPS navigator use a lot of data?

Google Maps uses about 5-10 MB of internet data per hour. If you disconnected from wifi, respectively, the app will not use data. GPS does not use data at all. Other navigators, such as Waze, also do not use more than 10 MB of data per hour.

Most data consumption occurs when new maps are downloaded or when traffic information is received.

Does data consumption occur when GPS is turned on?

GPS technology itself does not use data when connected to a satellite. Moreover, it does not require an internet connection to determine your location.

At the same time, GPS navigators can download additional maps and other data to provide users with additional real time information.

Do I need a SIM card for GPS to work?

A mobile phone can work with GPS without phone signal or SIM card inserted in the slot. But be aware that mobile navigators can use the internet for their work.

If you don't have offline maps downloaded beforehand, connect to wifi, download maps. Only then you won't need a phone signal.

What data does the GPS collect?

GPS gets information about the object - the exact location of the phone user. This data is available as exact coordinates. Coordinates are used by mobile applications - navigators, for positioning the user on the virtual maps. All the data is calculated using a mathematical method. In turn, the offline maps can be downloaded to the phone or in real time. In addition, GPS collects various geographical information from the geographical images.

Can you use GPS without data on iOS?

Using GPS without data, for example, with Waze is difficult since Waze needs the information to assess the situation on the road, update the maps in real time. 1 - 2 MB of data per hour is the average usage of Waze, regardless if you have internet access or not.

So if you have downloaded offline maps to your phone, location services will not use data on iPhone. If there are no maps, the GPS will connect to satellites, but you will not be able to find out your exact location through location services.

Does Garmin work with no cell service?

Yes, Garmin works with no cell service. Essentially, Garmin only requires a GPS signal to display maps. Wi-Fi can also be used to sync data with its database.

Why does GPS work all the time?

You can disable GPS through your phone settings at any time. Connection with GPS satellite is required only when using navigation applications. In this case, you will be prompted to use Location on your phone. You will need to allow access to the GPS functions.

In all other cases, you can turn off location services.

How do I know if my phone has GPS?

You can check if your phone has GPS through the device specifications available in the owner's manual.

However, most Android and iOS phones have the global-positioning system implemented as a tracking chip. This allows the use of mobile navigation systems and location for emergency workers and services 911 everywhere.

Why the GPS does not work even though it is enabled in Settings

  1. It may be Google Maps or another navigation device software issue you're using. Update the app to the latest version.
  2. The GPS satellite connection may be lost. Change your current location.
  3. The GPS module on your phone is not working due to a damage. Contact the service center to find out the reason.

I'm Vladimir, your guide in the expansive world of technology journalism, with a special focus on GPS technologies and mapping. My journey in this field extends over twenty fruitful years, fueled by a profound passion for technology and an insatiable curiosity to explore its frontiers.