Nov 30 AT 5:47 PM Taylor Wimberly 31 Comments

Samsung GPS problems? Please move to open sky and try again

The Samsung Galaxy S is one of the best selling Android phones, but some models have been haunted by GPS problems since they were first released back in July. Samsung finally issued a software update for some phones in September that claimed to fix the issue, but a small (?) number of customers are still having problems.

From everything I have gathered it sounds like this was a software issue, but I know some people who never got their GPS working and we recently saw Samsung swap out the GPS antennas on their upcoming Nexus S.

If you are one of the unlucky few with GPS problems, Samsung just released a new app to the Android Market called GpsRestore that is aimed at AT&T Captivate and T-Mobile Vibrant owners. The app restores the GPS config file values to their original settings, but based on the comments users have left on the Market it does not seem to be helping everyone.

Some users who hacked their phones and flashed custom Android 2.2 ROMs have reported an improvement in GPS performance, so hopefully this gets resolved whenever Samsung finally pushes that out to the U.S. carriers.

For those of you that are still having problems, I suggest heading over to xda-developers and reading the thread Why Samsung Galaxy S i9000 GPS is inaccurate and how to fix it. There is no¬†guarantee¬†this will fix your problems, but it doesn’t hurt to mess with your settings now that Samsung has released the GpsRestore app which returns them to the default.

Please leave a comment if you are still experiencing problems with the GPS on your Samsung Galaxy S phone. I’m curious how widespread this problem still is.

Update: Peter from CareAce uploaded a quick video that demonstrates the GPS probme and the GpsRestore app.

Source: Samsung

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://Website Bo

    unlucky few? pretty much anyone who has a Galaxy S has GPS problems.

  • http://Website watbetch

    It won’t work if you’re on WiFi. My GPS doesn’t lock on WiFi, disable WiFi and restart, then it works.

    My GPS has always worked properly. Sucks for you guys.

    • http://Website watbetch

      “restart” meaning to restart the app. WiFi gives me an accurate position, but it’s not GPS.

  • http://Website Sergio Lopes

    My Vibrant never worked. Already tried XDA’s hack without any success.

  • http://www.careace.net CareAce.net

    We just did a video comparing the GPS signal acquiring time and accuracy between the AT&T Captivate, Sprint Epic, and Verizon Continuum pre and post installing/running this app. You can check out the review here to learn more http://bit.ly/gw7SVB .

  • http://Website adam

    I have the problem i have at&t captivate i kive in calgary canada i can even acces the gps restore app its say it doesnt exsist when i clink the direct link any solutions. ….

  • http://Website Sponko

    The thing is that for most people, the GPS on the Galaxy S phones will seem to work just fine. That is because they’re using navigation software like Navigon that will always keep your location on the nearest street. Using only these, they won’t notice the GPS going bonkers most of the time. When driving into areas with a high density of streets, the GPS will displace you even in these programs, but most of the time they’ll be like: “WTH you’re talking about? Mine’s working!”

    But when using software to record off-street GPS data, you see the mess. And yes, people have to use these, be it for running, geocaching or whatever.

    Thing is: The Galaxy S has never had good GPS reception. And before someone points out that standalone receivers will always be better than phones, I have to say: I had the HTC Legend before, and while this device had its own problems (like a ridiculously weak bluetooth signal), the GPS worked flawlessly, with great accuracy, fast fix and no signal losses.

    With the Galaxy S however, the GPS loses signal every now and then without even changing the environment. Even under a blue sky.

    For most people, Froyo has improved things a lot. But looking at the tracks it seems as if Samsung is merely smoothing the GPS data. When testing, I could sometimes see the GPS recording a curve 2-3 seconds after I drove it.

    They’re implementing software tricks to cover up a hardware issue.
    It’s a shame they’re not confessing to it.

    At least Google told them to get a better GPS antenna for “their” phone. Testing before release should be mandatory for new phones…

    • http://Website watbetch

      That’s a blatant lie.

      I use Google Maps and Google Maps Navigation regularly. The snap to road smoothing with Google Navigation is VERY light. If it gets too inaccurate it will easily show the big huge circle as well. Never see it on my Vibrant nor do I have random reroutes at intersections.. I use Google Navigation just to see if it will do this to me. It hasn’t yet.

      Google Maps has no smoothing. I can see my position on the road very easily, it’s usually tracking me on the right side of the street. Stopping, getting out of my car with the GPS still tracking me in Google maps gives me a REALLY good position fix. Exactly to where I’m walking.

      Don’t assume it’s not working for everyone. It’s working for me. I don’t doubt some phones are faulty, but it’s not across the board “broken” on all phones.

      • http://Website clocinnorcal

        I cant even estimate how many different people have this issue with the vibrant. Both myself and girlfriend, about ten others I know with either a vibrant or captivate, not to mention the endless posts on XDA’s website regarding this issue. I’ve tried all the hacker fixes with no luck. I’m glad yours works! But why the hostility towards Sponko?

      • http://Website Derek

        Ok, douche. I suppose you got the one and only Galaxy S phone in America that the GPS works perfectly on. Whatever liar. You’re as annoying on here as that freaking whore in your avatar is!

  • Mazzura

    Samsung Fascinate, No GPS issues in downtown and suburban Seattle. Consistently within 10 – 20 feet.

  • http://Website matt

    i have a virant and every time i opened up google maps it said gps error or something like that. fortunatly i went over to xda and went into some secret menu and changed the settings and then it worked fine.

  • http://Website Sponko

    Testing and posting the conclusions is not lying. So please contenance, watbetch. I got these results on 4 Galaxy S I 9000. And yes, Google Maps does not smooth the data – the GPS driver does. And the blue circle relies on an accuracy value the GPS driver gives to Google Maps, so that is not necessarily the accuracy it really has.

    I’m not saying you have to have the same problems – I’m happy for all those people that actually have usable GPS on their GS. Even if it’s just for their usage scenario.

    Me (and 3 of my friends) would just like to be able to use their expensive GPS smartphone for e.g. geocaching like we did with the ones before.

  • http://Website Ben Force

    Wow… This actually worked. Nothing has worked to this point for me. I tried everything short of flashing 2.2. I didn’t even have to go outside. Let’s see how long this lasts. I’ll try to record a track on my way to work tomorrow. Hopefully it will stop Navigation from freezing my phone.

    The GPS, and other hardware for that matter, was flawless on my G1 and I was using basically all the same applications. This Vibrant has been a big disappointment for me.

    • http://Website Trevor

      Same as Ben, my G1 which I still have has a flawless GPS…but my beautiful Vibrant which I love in every other way, has a non functional GPS…I have been ripped off!! F… U Samsung!!

    • http://Website Ben Force

      I recorded a track on my way to and from work today, taking the exact same route. I was planning on posting here to show how pathetic the GPS tracking was, but to my surprise they were dead on…

      However, when I woke up this morning I could not get a lock. I tried several times with no lock. I then ran the GPSRestore app again and got a lock within a few seconds! wtf?!

      Many people are reporting they didn’t mess with the LBS settings, but running this app fixed things. I did mess with them, but changed them back to normal almost immediately after realizing it was a bogus “fix”. If this software is supposed to restore them to default and nothing more, why is that people with default settings get GPS locks after running the app? Also why can people not get locks when they are connected to a WiFi network? Something wierd is going on here. I’d return this phone if I could.

  • http://Website Mike

    Samsung Captivate running 2.2…Didn’t make a single change in the LbsTestMode. I STILL cannot get a lock.

  • http://Website Rainor

    From Brazil.

    I had two Galaxy S and GPS didnt work. Pure garbage. Now I have a Galaxy Tab and I have no GPS’s problem.

  • http://Website bryce

    I have the samsung epic 4g, I don’t really ever have gps issues unless its a random app or in the browser, I do want the nexus s though :\

  • http://Website bman

    I love this video…I ran the same tests on my HTC phone while watching from my couch and not only did I get faster locks, it was more accurate than any of the Samsung phones…and I was indoors, not outside 15 feet away from a building.

    My Vibrant (now appropriated as my 5 year old’s media player) couldn’t lock on a satellite if I was in the middle of a field and a clear day. Navigation? HA! I’m not saying I’m the best driver, but if I drove like the GPS said I was, I would be in jail for driving through people’s houses, through their lawns and amazingly, I even jumped a few swimming pools! My phone (and I’m of the belief that many others suffer from the same) has faulty hardware that no amount of software will ever fix which is why I gave up on it.

    Your Vibrant GPS works? Good for you, but keep in mind, you are the exception. This sad excuse for a “fix” just resets your GPS to what it was out of the box, it doesn’t even qualify as a fix, it’s just a reset button. It might make it work for a few days, but it will stop working again, just like it did the first time.

  • http://planetcarl.net Carl

    I got my Galaxy S back in july in Norway and the GPS have never worked properly. I can get a fix in 15-20 secs but the accuracy in google maps and mytrack is a joke and it looses the fix from time to time.
    I am selling my phone cheap to a friend who doesen’t care about gps so I can get something that works.

  • http://Website Mark

    Another reason to stay away from Samsuck phones…

  • http://Website Carol

    I’m in the UK on T-mobile and moved to the Galaxy S from the G1. The G1 gave me perfect GPS lock every time and was extremely accurate. Using Google Maps and My Tracks was a pure pleasure. My Galaxy S has never been able to accurately find position usually not getting withn 30m of my location (If it gets a lock at all, or even bothers to put the GPS symbol up al all). If I use My Tracks and stand still the GPS will jump around like a looney and tell me I’ve walked 3 miles. It’s a shame as the rest of the phone is wonderful!

    p.s. I have tried XDA fix and it doesn’t really improve things!

  • http://Website Silgrond

    I live in Hungary. I bought my phone in september, in 2.1, the gps was working fine, always found my accurate position.
    I’ve updated my phone to 2.2 with registry hack, since then GPS on google maps is a joke. :(

  • http://Website Renato M.

    As I’m not using my phone on AT&T network it seems I’m not able to even find this app. Can someone help me and put it somewhere I can download? Thanks!

  • http://Website mmm

    After applying all the “fixes” I could possibly find and getting amazing results that fade away with time I figured out what’s wrong.
    The phone takes from the server in your GPS settings your position where it last locked/handshake. If you’re now in a diferent place, it fails to lock. If you put a “fix” basically you change the server and you get a cold start lock that works until you turn off your phone and change your geographic position. So there’s no actual fix, the solution would be for Samsung to make their phone ignore the position received from server if the phone doesn.t lock onto satellite for more than 2 min or so.
    Or you can manually change the server to a different one and disable hot start, reboot, get a lock and reenable hot start.

    The good news is that there’s no hardware fault, Just a bug. The GPS antenna is OK, of course a bit weaker than a dedicated GPS .

    fix where you

  • http://Website Bryan

    I was one of the people always saying “I don’t get it. Mine Captivate works great.” Then I decide to use the GPS Restore. Don’t ask me why. I figured “Hey, if there’s some settings that could be adjusted, then please do.” Now my GPS is nigh to unusable. Sad panda. :(

  • http://Website Julius Ceasar

    All of these setting changes and restore programs do not work. The problem is hardware. So take your phone back to AT&T or wherever and get a phone that works. I did. And I had the AT&T guy prove to me that the GPS locks with Google Maps. He tried it and it got a lock in 10 seconds indoors! I took it outside and tried it out. I tried it with Navigation and Maps. It all locked. I’ve been using the phone as GPS receiver for a few days now and am convinced that it is a hardware or manufacturing problem.

    I had even tried upgrading to Android 2.2 in hope of getting the GPS to work. It did not.

  • http://Website Subs

    Doesn’t fix gps which shipped broken.
    As I’ve posted elsewhere:
    If you want GPS, you don’t want this phone I’ve been waiting months for a fix for this phone Hasn’t worked since day one, doesn’t work on replacement sent to me/swapped out by AT&T. Enough of me detailing my situation- samsung: you know it, because I’ve told you directly and lots of people have the same problem. You need to fix the problem by issuing new software, or replacing the hardware, or refunding money to people/upgrade to a new model. It’s been months Samsung… Don’t write back telling me to call customer support or take it to ATT, please tell us the timeline and process that the company has planned to fix the device.

  • http://Website Chris

    I tried everything to get my vibrant gps going. Just sent it to samsung to be fixed. with out a phone for a over a week they said its fixed and it still doesn’t work. I heard there may be a class action law suit coming out. I know I will be signing up. maybe that will get samsungs attention.

  • http://Website AJ

    Wished I had done my research before buying a Vibrant. I was at the end of my TMO contract fam plan and wanted to get a better phone since I had not bought one for about 5 yrs. My daughter decided to go to Verizon and get an iPhone and I got this brick (after I had already purchased the HD2 – another brick). gps and bluetooth on this phone is crap. When I do get a lock and use one of the nav systems, this crap routes me to Iraq rather than take to my destination. I watched this vid with my daughter and her iPhone and from inside the house, she get’s a lock in seconds where this brick fails. I’ve tried the other fixes from XDA and nada. In the last year, I’ve spent nearly $700 for phones when I could have just paid flat out for something that works. Hey if Android OS is BETA (#) just say so and we’ll know what we are getting, but don’t pass this crap as GOLD – I don’t care how much people rave about it, you can’t have this many problems and profess to be “ready for primetime”. Just frustrated, iPhone here I come.