Does GPS SmartPhone Use Data, Mobile Internet Plan?

GPS in smartphone uses mobile internet data if you don't have maps downloaded on smartphone. Google maps has offline maps feature save mobile data. Global Positioning Service - GPS is provided free of cost by satellite everywhere. Data will be used to get maps on the go with T Mobile, Verizon, At&T, Airtel, Vodafone.

Written by Anil Gupta
  Anil Gupta    Updated 9 Nov, 20

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 all smartphones these days.

Your Google Pixel 3, Samsung S10 and iPhone X, iPhone Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XR do have GPS pre-installed.


Do I need Mobile Internet Data connection to use GPS?

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

That’s the reason your car’s GPS can work even if there is no internet connectivity in car’s navigation system.

Although, the newer cars like Audi Q7 and BMW are giving out WIFI hot-spot options as standard feature these days, you still can use the navigation without the internet.


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 smartphone 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.

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.

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.


Written by Anil Gupta
  Anil Gupta  
Mentor | Immigration and Finance Journalism | Humor | Opinions are my own