How Does GPS Work On A Cell Phone?


Have you ever wondered how does GPS work on a cell phone? If you answered yes to that question then you’ve come to the right place, I will answer that very question in this blog post.


How Does GPS Work On A Cell Phone?

What is GPS?


What is GPS?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, this is a global navigation satellite system which uses roughly 24 satellites. It also uses Algorithms to provide location, a receiver, velocity and time synchronization for sea, air and land travel.


The satellite system has six earth-centered orbital planes, each of these planes have four satellites. The GPS works at all times regardless of weather conditions.


If you’re driving to go somewhere that you’ve never been before and you end up getting lost. You can stop and ask someone for directions or you can use the GPS on your cell phone to find out exactly where you are and where you need to go.


It’s amazing how far cell phone technology has come. The GPS on your cell phone can give you turn-by-turn directions to get you to your destination.


How Do Cell Phones Work?


What is GPS?

A cell phone is a highly sophisticated two-way radio. There are base stations and towers which have been arranged into a network of cells that send and receive radio signals.


Cell phones have low-power transmitters which allow them to communicate with the nearest cell.


When you travel, you move from one cell to the other, as you are moving the base stations monitor the signal strength of your phone.


Your signal strength diminishes as you move toward the edge of the cell. As you’re moving your signal will increase in the base station that you are approaching.


How Does GPS Work?

As you’re moving from one cell to the other the towers transfer your signal from one to the next. In certain places, the towers are so far apart that they do not provide a consistent signal.


However, even when there are lots of towers in certain places the signals can be interrupted by tall buildings and mountains. Sometimes cell phone signals are weaker when you’re inside a building or an elevator.


If you’re in a house or a building and you have a weak signal you can improve the strength of the signal via a cell phone signal booster such as this one.


How Do GPS Receivers Work?


How Do GPS Receivers Work?

A GPS receiver relies on radio waves, the receiver communicates with satellites that orbit the earth. There are 27 GPS satellites in orbit, 24 satellites are active and the other 3 satellites are there for backup if any of the other satellites malfunction.


To determine your location the GPS receiver has to determine the locations of three satellites above you and where you are in relation to those satellites.


The receiver uses trilateration to determine your exact location. The receiver draws a sphere around each of the three satellites that it can locate. The three spheres will intersect at two points, one is on the ground and one is in space.


Your location is the point at which the three spheres intersect on the ground.


Wireless Assisted GPS:


Wireless Assisted GPS

In wireless-assisted GPS the phone uses information about the cell phone’s signal in conjunction with orbiting GPS satellites to pinpoint your exact location.


Wireless-assisted GPS is also referred to as enhanced GPS. The main difference is the wireless-assisted GPS can determine the user’s location a bit faster than the GPS-only receiver.


Aside from that, there are some wireless-assisted systems that can work inside buildings and in other places where the GPS-only receivers cannot receive signals.


How Does GPS Work On A Cell Phone?


How Does GPS Work On A Cell Phone?

Most of the new cell phones sold in America today have some GPS capability. This technology allows your phone to transfer your location to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) after you dial 911. This is the only thing that some phones are capable of doing with their GPS.


But other phones are GPS enabled, these phones have a complete GPS receiver located inside the phone or they have the ability to connect to one via wires or a Bluetooth connection.


These phones are highly sophisticated, they can understand programming languages such as Java and they can give you information about businesses nearby or turn-by-turn directions.


Some of these phones can also be used as tracking devices. To be able to use these features on your phone you must have the following:


  • A GPS-enabled phone or a phone that has a compatible GPS receiver.
  • A calling plan which supports the transmission of GPS data and maps.
  • A software or a service plan which provides the maps and directions or provides information about the location of the phone.


If you have any questions or if you would like to share your personal experiences with me in regards to GPS or Wireless-Assisted GPS feel free to do so in the comment section below.



  1. I have a Samsung Galaxy phone. Does that work when I go deep sea? I assume yes. If so, how accurate it would be? How slow it would be? If not, how far away from shore it works? Why it does not work in deep sea? Is it because there are no cell towers in the sea?

  2. If the cellphone towers go down, can a smart phone equipped with GPS, and connected to a satellite phone via Bluetooth still provide GPS location?


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