Kim Barloso

GPS without data and the Internet: questions and answers


GPS is an indispensable technology actively used in mobile devices. At the same time, many users have questions regarding the work of GPS in conjunction with a navigator. Does it use data from the Internet, can it work without wi-fi, etc. - these questions will be answered in this FAQ.

Content :

    Does the GPS download data from the Internet?

    There is no definite answer to this question.

    If you have a navigator (like Google Maps, Waze) on your phone the application would download data from the Internet. If the phone is connected via Wifi this will be automatic. If mobile internet is activated, the app asks if the maps can be downloaded to the device. In some cases this is not the case.

    The GPS technology itself does not make use of the data from the internet, but directly requests the information (longitude and latitude) from the satellites.

    How to use the GPS without internet

    If you download offline maps of the desired region/city to your phone, the navigator will display your location without internet.

    Test this easily:

    1. Download the maps to your phone (the easiest way is with Google Maps),
    2. Disable the Internet,
    3. Turn the GPS on,
    4. Check if the navigator is working,
    5. Go to the internet consumption statistics,
    6. Make sure you do not require internet for the GPS.

    By the way, car navigators are equipped with autonomous maps, so the built-in GPS system does not require an internet connection - in contrast to many Android and iPhone mobile navigators which are dependent on an internet connection.

    Note also that the operating error of the navigator without internet connection is 5-10 meters.

    Equipment required for the GPS

    You will need a satellite receiver (receiver) for gps navigation. Most modern smartphones have one built in. Pixel, Samsung, HTC, Huawei, and other Android, iPhone models support gps out of the box.

    We should, however, be aware that the "low-end", i.e. low-end hardware versions, do not always have the GPS receiver built in.

    In an extreme case GPS-receiver is available as an external input, it can be connected to the free usb-port.

    GPS is free?

    All information from the satellites to the GPS-receiver is free of charge.

    At the same time, if you use a mobile navigator, make sure that the price of the mobile Internet traffic enables you to download maps and other data necessary for displaying and downloading additional maps without any fear.

    Where can I use GPS?

    GPS navigation is available worldwide.

    Some difficulties may arise:

    • possible weather conditions,
    • you are in a place without good satellite access,
    • a signal inside an isolated room - usually the connection to the GPS satellite is worse than in the open air,
    • metal ceilings, hard and dense materials may impair the communication to the satellites.

    How GPS works

    1. The GPS receiver (internal or external module) connects to the satellite.

    2. The satellite transmits the current coordinates (longitude/latitude) to the device.

    3. Google Maps, Waze (or other software) uses the coordinates to display the user's location on a map. The maps are downloaded directly to the device.

    4. When the user moves, the location data of the receiver changes in real time.

    Are there alternatives to GPS?

    In addition to GPS (in the USA), Glonass (Russia), BeiDu (China), Galileo (EU) may be used in navigation.

    Do I have to install the maps?

    If you are using a separate navigation device (e.g. Garmin or Navitel) the maps and other software are already integrated and do not as a rule require any pre-installation.

    In the case of mobile devices, you can use the suggested software for Android or iOS.

    How much data does Google or Waze use with GPS

    While many navigators are free to use, the Internet traffic actively consumed by this software is not free.

    How to save traffic on Google Maps

    How much traffic can a regular navigator like Google Maps use? About 100MB per hour is the minimum, with a fairly economical approach. Please keep in mind, that besides the map loading, the navigators also receive additional information in real time, which may cause additional costs.

    If you have downloaded offline maps to the device, the GPS navigator will only use the data obtained from the smartphone memory. For reliability, it is advised to disable the mobile internet. Especially if you are using roaming while using GPS in conjunction with the navigator.

    If you need roaming to operate the GPS?

    If you need the internet to download maps to the navigator, then roaming may be required. Bear in mind that the cost might be shocking. Therefore it is best to do the following:

    1. Download maps to the device, making them available offline.
    2. Buy a local SIM card with prepaid internet traffic.
    3. (and/or) If possible, use Wi-fi points to view and download navigation maps to the device.

    Thereby roaming is not necessary for gps operation. For comfortable operation, it is better to download offline maps and not to use roaming. Do it only in emergencies: to know your location or to plot a route.

    Will the gps fully functional without navigator and maps?

    In fact, only the gps receiver works, by determining your coordinates (longitude and latitude), i.e. your location.

    Full functionality requires one of the applications, a navigator or a reference book which shows in an accessible visual form where you are.

    The best solution for these tasks is a free navigator. Depending on your device and platform it could be Google Maps, Waze or Apple Maps.

    “Hello. My name is Kim. I discovered that technology, when used with a purpose, can be pretty amazing. To share the wonder of tech, I’ve written for blogs like and With over three years of freelance writing experience in the technology and entertainment niche, I can write a storm about a software app, a cool browser extension, a new mobile device and other geek-centric stuf... “

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    Kim Barloso