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Motorola support says GPS won't work in airplane mode?

Discussion in 'Android Devices' started by dakster, Mar 3, 2010.

  1. dakster

    dakster Well-Known Member
    Thread Starter

    I swear I tried this at some point and it worked, but I checked with Motorola about whether or not the GPS receiver will work when the phone is in airplane mode. They say it doesn't.

    Can anyone confirm whether or not the GPS (not aGPS, just good old fashioned, slow to download datum and get a fix GPS) works when in airplane mode?

    I'm traveling overseas to Japan, and only want to use wifi and GPS, so I thought I'd just leave the phone in airplane mode the whole time, but I'm really going to need GPS working (I'm using Maverick Pro for offline maps).

    I'd go out and try it, but it's snowing and crappy, and I don't want to sit outside that long :)

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  2. dakster

    dakster Well-Known Member
    Thread Starter

    Quick update after some more testing. It seems that having airplane mode enabled blocks the initial gps lock. If you have "My location" set to only use GPS, and not network towers, get a GPS fix in whatever program you want, and THEN enable airplane mode, the GPS will continue to work just fine.


    Anyways, I've also found that disabling the data part of the droid (instead of using airplane mode), but keeping CDMA voice going also allows the GPS to work just fine.

    You can disable the data part of the droid by dialing:

    Selecting phone information, hitting menu->more, and then select disable data.

    That's also probably safe overseas, as long as you don't make or answer any calls. You'll still get charged if you receive any text messages ($0.05 for received text message in Japan, $.50 for sent text messages, $2 a minute for phone calls). But at least the standalone GPS works.
  3. bjamerican

    bjamerican Member

    Great timing with this post! I joined the forums this morning to ask the exact same question.

    I will also be traveling to Japan in 2 weeks, and I think having GPS in Tokyo will be crucial. However, I don't want to end up paying $21/MB for roaming data charges.

    Have you confirmed whether the *#*#4636#*#* code truly disables all 3G data connections? I also wonder if there is a way Verizon could temporarily disable data access altogether on my account while traveling (otherwise nearly every person who travels with a smart phone would probably return with a $5,000 phone bill).
  4. bjamerican

    bjamerican Member

    Also, can anybody confirm whether the Droid is capable of tuning to the extended WiFi channels (12-14) used in Japan? I've found that most devices are capable in hardware, but have operation on these channels disabled through firmware.
  5. dakster

    dakster Well-Known Member
    Thread Starter

    Disabling the data connection in the phone information menu definitely works. As a side note, I tried using the phone information menu to completely disable the radio (voice AND data), but just like airplane mode, the gps won't get the initial fix.

    Not sure about the extended wifi channels, however it seems wifi isn't particularly common in Japan. Everyone has 3G network cards for their laptops there (they're cheap, and fast).

    Many hotels don't have internet at all, since almost everyone from Japan uses their 3G laptop modems and cellphones for internet.

    If you do find a hotel with internet in the room (you have to check, it's not common), it's almost always ethernet. I'll be taking a travel router with me so I can use my droid with wifi.

    Going back to the GPS issue, I don't think this has anything to do with aGPS. I have "My location" set to ONLY use GPS, and my mapping program set to only use GPS as well, and not the cell network. Still the GPS won't initialize without the CDMA radio on.

    Once the GPS is initialized, you can flip airplane mode back on and the GPS continues to work. Might have something to do with the "standalone" gps in teh droid being sGPS, which I believe means the GPS shares the antenna with the CDMA radio.

    If you have the data disabled from the phone information screen, you can flip back and forth between airplane mode, and the data connection stays disabled. I'll just flip on the cdma radio to get the gps system to initialize, and then flip back to airplane mode.

    Sounds like a software bug to me.

    And I think the data wouldn't work anyways, unless you have data roaming selected in the settings (which is off by default if I recall). I feel safer completely disabling the data connection though. And even safer with airplane mode on. But I'm definitely gonna be needing that GPS to find my way around :)
  6. bjamerican

    bjamerican Member

    Hmm... interesting that the GPS continues to work after disabling the CDMA radio. I'm willing to bet the phone uses the cellular network to determine the initial approximate location, and then actual GPS to get the actual coordinates.

    I know from experience that "basic" GPS receivers generally take a LONG time to acquire a signal without being supplied with a "best guess" of the location first. (even the Pioneer navigation system in my car took about 4 days to determine my location after installing it). I bet if you left your phone in airplane mode for several hours in a location with good GPS reception, it would eventually determine its location.
  7. magnus

    magnus Well-Known Member

    To those intending to use the gps without data......what good is it?

    Do you intend to use an app that caches maps?
    What is the point of merely getting you latitude and longitude? Don't you want to be able to get directions and search around etc?

    How do you intend to USE it without data?
  8. magnus

    magnus Well-Known Member

    You want an app called Wifi analyzer...free on the market. That would allow you to pick those channels manually if you wanted.

  9. dakster

    dakster Well-Known Member
    Thread Starter

    I believe however other people have mentioned the droid can get a GPS fix when it's out of cell tower range, so I think the GPS is capable of getting the datum data directly from the satellites since cell towers aren't in range to "hotstart" the gps fix. I've seen people mentioning it taking many minutes to get a gps fix, which sounds like traditional standalone GPS to me.

    I think this might be more of a software bug that keeps the gps from initializing correctly if the cdma radio is disabled. Unfortunately I don't have a way of testing this, the verizon coverage is too good here for me to see if I can get a fix with no towers in range.
  10. bjamerican

    bjamerican Member

    Glad to hear all of these options exist for disabling data. I actually don't own the Droid yet, so I'm not familiar with the menus and settings. I'll be picking one up before I go on the trip.
  11. dakster

    dakster Well-Known Member
    Thread Starter

    I'm using Maverick Pro, which is a map cacheing program. I can build the maps using atlas creator, put them on my SD card, and it will show my position on the map. No routing, but showing where I am on the map, plus some preloaded waypoints for the hotels I'm staying at, and places I want to see will do in a pinch.
  12. magnus

    magnus Well-Known Member

    Thank you!! That explains it for me! Plus you always have Wifi should you need internet
  13. takeshi

    takeshi Android Expert

    There are GPS (including nav) apps that don't require data.
  14. On a recent trip to Singapore (where CDMA is non-existent), I had the phone set up in regular mode (ie: all radios enabled). There is no cellular network but I have wifi access. Even with an open sky, and leaving the phone in Maps for 15 minutes, I could not get GPS lock. As such, I could not use the GPS even for location-based services like Yelp. I've downloaded GPSTest, and not a single satellite showed up.
    When I returned back to the States and switched it on, I got GPS lock immediately.
    I suspect the GPS locking algorithm requires data from the CDMA cellular networks to lock down the initial location before getting a final lock via GPS.
    Can anyone from Motorola or Android developer confirm or deny this?
  15. dakster

    dakster Well-Known Member
    Thread Starter

    Well, I just got back from Japan, and I can confirm that the GPS worked just fine, as long as the CDMA radio was turned on.

    I did have roaming CDMA coverage in a lot of places in Japan (although I never used it), but even when I didn't have any CDMA coverage my GPS worked just fine, even if it took a little longer to get a position lock. When I did have coverage, it got a lock almost instantly, so I guess AGPS works over there.

    Strange that the CDMA radio has to be on in order to get the GPS to fully work, but at least I now know that it does, even without cell tower coverage. I think the GPS shares an antennae with the CDMA voice radio, so maybe that's why getting the initial lock requires the radio to be on.

    Once I had a lock, flipping to airplane mode was fine.

    I didn't try out any data connectivity, I had that disabled in the testing menu, so only the cell voice radio was enabled. If I had that turned off (or airplane mode on), the GPS wouldn't get a lock.

    Wifi worked just fine over there. I was able to find open wifi spots every now and then.

    Making wifi calls using sipdroid (with sipgate as the sip provider) worked way, way better than I could have ever imagined. Voice quality was really good, although there was a predictable delay calling back to the states.

    The droid was a real lifesaver over there with offline maps (maverick pro with an atlas I created using google maps as the data source), along with some japanese phrasebooks.
  16. (G)

    (G) Android Expert

    Thanks for the update! Valuable information!
  17. takeshi

    takeshi Android Expert

    It's not strange at all. Have you read about what aGPS means?

    IIRC, the Droid cannot fall back to standalone mode.
  18. dakster

    dakster Well-Known Member
    Thread Starter

    The droid does both agps, and standalone gps.

    However, for the standalone gps to work, the cdma radio has to be turned on. Even if you're completely out of range of any cdma towers, the gps will work (eventually, it's slower to get a position lock because it doesn't get the help of the agps system).

    If it was agps only, you wouldn't be able to get gps to work at all.

    You could be in the middle of the ocean, and you're gps will work. As long as the cdma radio is turned on.

    A strange requirement, but at least it works. I'd much prefer to be able to leave the droid in airplane mode, and have the gps work. The GPS will only work in this manner if you've already achieved a lock. Then you can flip on airplane mode, and it will continue to function.
  19. Lock-N-Load

    Lock-N-Load Android Expert

    I can confirm the initial issue of GPS not working if in Airplane mode BUT....

    so I use a GPS based app called MyTracks and when I put the phone in Airplane mode first, try to get MyTracks (or GPS Test) to get a lock on satellites.. forget it


    when I have the phone on, NOT in Airplane mode, and turn on MyTracks or GPS Test and get my GPS fix and THEN put the phone in Airplane mode the apps and GPS work correct.


    get your GPS app of choice up and running and collecting data or locked in and working and then put the phone in Airplane mode. I have done this now a half dozen times - and tested it many times to prove it - as there is no reason to have the phone on wasting battery power and so Airplane mode is ideal. But it seems, the phone must be active and running when GPS is activated and only then can you put the phone in Airplane mode and expect the GPS to work as we would hope while in Airplane mode. MyTracks even says to put the phone in Airplane mode to conserve battery power, but fail to tell you that it seems there is a limitation in the Droid in that the GPS app must be up and running and getting signals before you put it into Airplane mode.
  20. takeshi

    takeshi Android Expert

    That is awkward. Good to know though!
  21. chromadroid

    chromadroid Lurker

    I brought my Droid2 with me to Afghanistan (typing this message from Jalalabad right now). My phone would not get a GPS lock. I found this forum thread and tried it out. There is NO CDMA here, but as soon as I turned Airplane Mode off (Turning the CDMA radio on) the GPS got lock.

    I'm at a guest house with good wifi, so google maps grabbed the satellite imagery just fine. I'm also running OSMand and it found my location just fine as well.

    I really want the geotagging to work in the camera though, and that's the only thing that is not getting GPS. boo to that.
  22. Lock-N-Load

    Lock-N-Load Android Expert

    BUT.. are you getting charged international data charges now that you flipped on the radio? noticed any charges?
  23. dakster

    dakster Well-Known Member
    Thread Starter

    If there's no CDMA service, he won't be getting charged. If there were, he could get creamed on data, but you can disable data through the hidden info menu.

    If he only had CDMA voice radios enabled, he'd only get charged if he sent/received a text, or made or answered a call.

    You can't control whether or not you receive a text, but those usually aren't too expensive (I don't use text messaging much, so not an issue for me overseas).
  24. rparra14

    rparra14 Newbie

    Couldn't have said this any better!!
  25. Lock-N-Load

    Lock-N-Load Android Expert

    Seems like some misinformation. This "issue" is called AGPS or "assisted" GPS. It is not a bug. A phone can have GPS or AGPS and AGPS phones need to use airtime to lock in first to the GPS signal.

Motorola Droid Forum

The Motorola Droid release date was November 2009. Features and Specs include a 3.7" inch screen, 5MP camera, 256GB RAM, processor, and 1400mAh battery.

November 2009
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