By Bill Hughes

You can’t talk smartphone mapping on your Samsung Galaxy S9 without acknowledging the GPS in the background, which creates a few inherent challenges of which you need to be aware. First off (and obviously), there is a GPS receiver in your phone. That means the following:

  • Gimme a sec. Like all GPS receivers, your location-detection system takes a little time to determine your location when you first turn on your phone.
  • Outdoors is better. Many common places where you use your phone—primarily, within buildings—have poor GPS coverage.
  • Nothing is perfect. Even with good GPS coverage, location and mapping aren’t perfected yet. Augmented reality, the option that identifies local landmarks on the screen, is even less perfect.
  • You must be putting me on. Your GPS receiver must be turned on for it to work. Sure, turning it off saves battery life, but doing so precludes mapping applications from working.
  • Keep it on the down-low. Sharing sensitive location information is of grave concern to privacy advocates. The fear is that a stalker or other villain can access your location information in your phone to track your movements. In practice, there are easier ways to accomplish this goal, but controlling who knows your location is still something you should consider, particularly when you have applications that share your location information.

Good cellular coverage has nothing to do with GPS coverage. The GPS receiver in your phone is looking for satellites; cellular coverage is based upon antennas mounted on towers or tall buildings.

Mapping apps are useful, but they also use more battery life and data than many other applications. Be aware of the impact on your data usage and battery life. Leaving mapping applications active is convenient, but it can also be a drain on your battery and your wallet if you don’t pay attention to your usage and have the wrong service plan.