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"Google Wi-fi & Mobile Network Location"

Discussion in 'Android Lounge' started by Jdub412, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. Jdub412

    Jdub412 Newbie
    Thread Starter

    Within "Location Services" there are two options:
    1) GPS & Verizon Location Services
    2) Google Wi-Fi & Mobile Network Location

    The first - "GPS & Verizon Location Services" - is for using GPS navigation (and probably some other apps that I don't use). I only turn this on when using GPS navigation (Google Maps app) using the GPS button in the notification panel.

    The second - "Google Wi-Fi & Mobile Network Location" - seems to only be necessary for using Google Now. It also needs (not surprisingly) Wi-Fi. I'm sure other apps use this second location service too. I assume that along with Wi-Fi it also uses cell towers or whatever to approximate location.

    My question is how much battery will the second - "Google Wi-Fi & Mobile Network Location" - eat? I'd love to use all the features of Google Now, but I'm not going to turn "Google Wi-Fi & Mobile Network Location" on and off every time I want to use Google Now if it eats too much battery to leave on all the time. And same with Wi-Fi in general; will that eat battery if I leave it on? I'm rarely in an area where I get Wi-Fi, but I do like to have it connect as soon as I get home.

    Talk to be about this feature!
     



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  2. argedion

    argedion The TechnoFrog

    Anytime your device is searching for a signal it will eat up the battery. How much it will eat will really depend on your device and how well it handles being out of range of any wifi devices. I normally turn mine off during the day and turn it on when I get home. Well I did when I had wifi internet now I just tether from the phone.
     
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  3. Slug

    Slug Check six!
    VIP Member

    Any process requiring geo-location data will use these services. GPS, as you rightly say, uses satellite-based triangulation which works well if there's a clear los to enough satellites. That's where the second option comes in; devices can narrow down their position based on the known location of wifi access points and/or mobile network base stations. This can be invaluable in urban areas where tall buildings block the sky; for example Google Maps can obtain a usable fix without any GPS satellite locks.

    When enabled GPS only activates when required by a running process, so battery drain depends on (a) how many apps are regularly used that make geolocation requests, and (b) how often they do so.

    Wifi otoh will scan constantly for available APs when enabled, so leaving it on 24/7 is a battery drainer unless you spend the majority of the time connected.
     
  4. codesplice

    codesplice Elite Recognized Moderator
    Moderator

    Wifi-based location is much more battery-friendly than the GPS approach. And while the network location information may be somewhat less-accurate or precise than GPS, it's also frequently quicker to determine the location. Either way, it's only going to be actively used when an application requests location information.

    Wifi may continually scan for nearby APs while enabled, but that's based on the wifi connectivity function instead of the location provider. Disabling the wifi-based location services won't really do anything to improve your battery life unless you're also disabling the wifi radio itself.

    I used to use a variety of approaches including Tasker to automatically manage GPS and location services states, but did not honestly see any change in battery life - in fact, I was much more frequently inconvenienced by having to manually toggle those functions. Now, I just leave all the location services enabled.
     
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  5. Jdub412

    Jdub412 Newbie
    Thread Starter

    Thanks guys!

    I understand that turning off "Google Wi-fi & Mobile Network Location" won't save battery if I leave Wi-Fi on because my phone will keep searching for Wi-Fi access. But what if I turn off Wi-Fi and leave "Google Wi-fi & Mobile Network Location" on? Will that drain battery? IIRC, Google Now won't function without Wi-Fi on, even if "Google Wi-fi & Mobile Network Location" is on, but its not clear if I'm wasting battery in that situation. I ask because it would be one less thing to toggle on/off, especially since there isn't a button for it in the Notification bar (the GPS button only turns on the regular satellite GPS and not the google/wifi one). This location service doesn't just use Wi-Fi, right, but also cell towers (mobile network).

    Is it possible to know what apps are using or requesting location services? I know some apps let you toggle this on/off in their settings. What I'm wondering is if this was toggled off in all apps, would there still be a drain on battery with GPS on? If there would be a drain in battery, is that because leaving location services on still affects batteries even if no apps are requesting data, or is it (also) because my phone/apps will request location data aside from the settings in apps that I can toggle on/off?
     
  6. codesplice

    codesplice Elite Recognized Moderator
    Moderator

    That kind of depends on your device and OS version. Android 4.3 added the ability for the Google location services to determine your location from nearby Wifi networks even with Wifi turned off. This is defined by the option at Settings > Wifi & Networks > Wifi > (menu) > Advanced > Scanning always available.

    With Android 4.4, Google revealed a new way to display recent location requests. This list will appear under Settings > Location > Recent location requests.

    If no apps (or the system) request a location update, the location services (and thus the GPS) shouldn't be used at all.
     
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  7. Jdub412

    Jdub412 Newbie
    Thread Starter

    Interesting. Thanks.
    So this means if scanning is always available, then using "Google Wi-fi & Mobile Network Location" will still using my Wi-Fi radio and drain battery even if Wi-Fi is off. In other words, if Wi-Fi is always available, my Wi-Fi may be running in the background without any benefit to me (at least no benefit that I want or am aware of).

    My GS3 just updated to 4.3, so I wouldn't have this option, but I expect it sometimes shows some interesting things running in the background.

     
  8. codesplice

    codesplice Elite Recognized Moderator
    Moderator

    Yes - or, at least, Wifi & Mobile Network Location will still be able to use the Wifi radio for location. Again, it's not going to be a permanent, ongoing thing unless an application is specifically requesting it. And even so, periodically checking for network-based location is much less detrimental to your battery than the GPS is.

    If you still don't want that, it's easy enough to disable by just unchecking that tickbox.

    Honestly, the battery impact of wifi location is very minuscule. And the lock will be quicker and more accurate than just going off of cellular network location (which, again, means it takes less juice to pull it off).
     
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  9. Jdub412

    Jdub412 Newbie
    Thread Starter

    Thanks - you seem to know your stuff!

    I'll have to think about it, maybe mess with some of the settings, but ultimately, battery is king for me.
     
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