Fix GPS on your Samsung phone

This is the first hardware ‘hack’ which I release today on my Blog which is focused on the Galaxy S5 Mini (one of my test devices) but in theory it should work for other devices too and that’s the reason why I not specifically mentioned the S5 mini in the title.

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Catching Pokemon’s without GPS signal is not possible – so let’s fix it! Picture: Androidcentral.com

Some people are really pissed of GPS (including me, no shame to admit it here) and the problem is a) that the GPS antenna cover might block the signal (depending on your phone) b) together with the fact that the AGPS servers are (by default) not the optimal ones. Combine these two little things and you have a huge problem to get a GPS fix fast.

Requirements

  • Root (to alter the gps.conf)
  • GPS status app
  • A little screwdriver and a hair dryer and a Plektrum
  • Around max. 1 hour of your lifetime

Let’s start hacking!

Well it’s not really a hack, it’s more like a modification but hacking sounds better – right? Okay, we start…

  • Open your S5 Mini or other Samsung phone
  • Take off the battery and your SIM/external sdcard
  • Now use the hairdryer (hottest + highest blower level) to warm up the upper left corner. Depending on your model it’s maybe on another corner, before you doing it, check were your GPS module is located. I’d say about 15-25 seconds from 10 cm distance. Please be careful and don’t melt it!
  • Now comes the Plektrum (guitar) use it and begin lifting up the lower right corner near the frame (see picture below).
  • Warm up the cover more for a short time, push the Plektrum stepwise counter-clockwise forward, repeat till the cover (GPS antenna) gets off.
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Take a little srewdriver and lift up the pin of the GPS antenna. Picture: Andi46
  • Reassemble the antenna precisely, you should push the antenna down with a little screwdriver and warm it up once more (to reactivate the adhesive).
  • That’s it for the hardware now we doing the software part!
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Picture: Andi46

GPS Settings

To check the GPS settings of your phone follow these steps:

  • Head into the ‘Settings‘ menu of your device
  • Scroll to check for ‘Location‘ and tap on it
  • Under Location, tap on ‘Mode

Here you will notice that there are three different settings available under Mode. Depending on the setting you choose, your GPS can provide you the most accurate location. You must choose the option “High Accuracy” because other two options will limit the manner in which your GPS checks the location. You will find a Battery Saving mode which will use the Wi-Fi and the networks to identify the location and there is the GPS only mode where the device will rely slowly on the GPS to check for the location. The best option is High Accuracy because it combines both the modes so that you get accurate location details when you use your GPS.

Clear Cache And Data

  • Head into the ‘Settings‘ menu of your phone or tablet
  • Scroll down to find ‘Application Manager‘ and tap on it
  • Under the ‘Downloaded Apps‘ tab, look for ‘Maps‘ and tap on it
  • Now tap on ‘Clear Cache‘ and confirm it on the pop up box.
  • Once the cache files are cleared, tap on ‘Clear Data‘.

Once you have cleared all the data and cache files, restart your phone and use GPS once again. Check if the problem you were facing has been solved. This might helps in case a app like Maps has some locking issue.

Software hacking

  • In root explorer, solid explorer or whatever your favourite file manager is go to /etc now open the gps.conf
  • Edit the line of NTP server to europe.pool.ntp.org
    The SUPL_Host server / SUPL_PORT to your needs (as example I used the T-Mobile one).
  • You can find server examples and a pre-configured gps.conf here. I uploaded example files myself here.
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Ensure the permissions are correct! Picture: Andi46

We are almost done here!

  • Turn your location settings off + Put the phone in airplane mode (just in case)
  • Open GPS status app and go streight into menu/manage A-GPS data and reset them
    close the app for at least ~10 seconds!
  • Turn your location on (GPS mode only) and deactivate airplane mode and wait till mobile network connects again.
  • Now open the app again and go to menu/manage A-GPS data to download new data – it’s the best you’re sitting outside in the garden and it’s a clear day!
  • Go back to status screen and lay your phone on the table after quite a while you’ll see first it finds GPS satellites, later it sees the GLONASS sats – but it isn’t able to get a fix by the GLONASS. It’s REALLY IMPORTANT to let the phone there with screen ON !!! + GPS status page for around 15 minutes.
  • Your phone caches some GPS data in the meantime which is necessary to get a ,,HOT Start” the next time.

It should be mentioned that the GLONASS malfunction appears because of wrong implementation in several ROMs like e.g. LineageOS (for some devices). Since Android N there were a lot of GPS related changes made and that’s the problem, another solution would be to roll back to e.g. CyanogenMod 13 but I highly suggest to not do this just because of something which can be fixed in under one hour. Remember that Android N/O go several new features and security related fixes, reverting back makes you only more vulnerable to several attacks!

After you did all the mentioned steps you get a GPS fix really quick, however the only thing I noticed it that after rebooting the device you might need to re-calibrate the compass within the GPS app, otherwise it might take a bit longer to get your position, in my tests I got a signal after 3 second – before the mod it took around 5-10 minutes!

I hope I could help some people, especially older devices suffering from the GPS problem and at least you could try it – I mean you have nothing to lose you only can win here.

 

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