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Samsung Android phone GPS defect
I used to track airline flights with my old Garmin GPS receiver. The device was not very sensitive, but tracked most of the in-flight segments when being held directly to the window of an airliner, requiring a minimum of 4 satellites for 3D tracking.
I tried the same with a HTC Google Nexus One. It did not work initially, but at some time before or since upgrading its radio firmware to the latest available (Korean) release and the operating system to CyanogenMod 7.2, it has worked exceedingly well and has been a very reliable track recorder in flight.
Then I bought a Google Samsung Galaxy Nexus. While being a very nice phone (apart from its obvious shortcomings like very limited and not expandable memory) it has failed to record GPS tracks in flight. It does record very nicely and reliably during takeoff and landing, but after takeoff and some climb, when faster than 600 km/h and higher than 3,000 m, it fails in a peculiar mode. A typical example is that the GPS Status app shows some 8 satellites, all green, i.e. perfect reception, but the position and speed indicators are frozen to some obsolete value. Other programs that show the GPS track on a map, like Locus, also freeze the aeroplane indicator and end track recording.
I feel stupid now, because I had heard multiple times that Samsung phones contain crappy GPS receivers. I would be interested in hearing reports on other phones, particularly new HTC and Motorola phones. I would also like to know which, Samsung or other, phones have the same defect. Please add a comment here, if you have more information.
It seems that the Galaxy Nexus and possibly all other Samsung phones have an arbitrary limitation programmed into them that stops GPS position updating when the plane is either faster or higher than that limit. I could not find out so far whether it is the speed or the altitude that causes the failure. My guess is that it is the speed.
Obviously this is not a normal technical limitation, as other older and cheaper phones and other cheap consumer GPS receivers show no such problem. Also, the GPS system itself has no such limitation.
I have asked Samsung support about this defect, but they are arrogant enough to not even reply at all.
I would particularly like to hear about workarounds, patches, alternative radio firmware, etc., that could repair or work around the defect in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Also, if you tested any other type of smartphone in an airliner, please add a new comment below and report whether the GPS worked properly. So far we only know whether the GPS works at high speed in these two devices:
Attached is a screenshot of GPS Status in a typical situation with excellent reception of 9 satellites. The latitude, longitude, speed, and altitude figures were no longer changing after a certain point. The GPS indicator in the notification bar was blinking.
Additional keywords: airplane inflight in-flight
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