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[Q] GPS in an airliner

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(Last edited by hgmichna; 3rd November 2013 at 09:48 PM.)
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Question [Q] GPS in an airliner

I currently have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which I still like a lot, but its GPS is bad. Among other shortcomings it does not work in fast aeroplanes, but I need exactly that capability.

The apparently misdesigned Galaxy Nexus GPS can record a flight until the plane speeds up after takeoff and initial climb, then it stalls and keeps reporting the same stationary position until the plane slows down again for landing.

For comparison, the much older Google/HTC Nexus One has no such defect. It has no problem recording a complete airliner flight track.

If the Nexus 5 GPS worked better, that might for me outweigh the not exchangeable battery disadvantage of the Nexus 5, compared to the Galaxy Nexus.

Hence my request: Please test the Nexus 5 GPS in an airliner at high speed and altitude. Does it work?

Note that the phone should be in airplane mode during flight. Some airlines explicitly allow mobile devices in airplane mode. If yours does not, you have to decide whether you break the rules or not. I always do, but be sure to have the phone in airplane mode at all times during flight.

Note that the GPS may need a long time until it gets a GPS fix, for two reasons:
  1. Without an Internet connection it has to receive the orbit data from the satellites themselves, which takes longer.
  2. Even if you hold the phone against the window, it can still only receive the satellites on that one side. Occasionally, if there are not enough satellites in view, it will not lock on at all.
It helps if you let the GPS lock on once, shortly before takeoff. In the air, you have to be patient.

Depending on the window construction you may be able to slip the phone behind the window shade and just leave it there for something like 15 min. That is usually, though not always, enough for the GPS to lock on to the satellites and get a fix.

Another convenient way to have the phone at the window without having to hold it all the time is to reast a small bag, like a camera bag, on an arm rest underneath a window and put the phone into the bag on top of other bag content.

If you happen to know the answer to this question for any other phone type, please let me know as well. I would like to publish a list of phones along with their GPS flaws.
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Maybe not exactly the devices you had in mind. But I've used my phones (Galaxy S3, S4) often during several flights around the globe and I usually get a fix within reasonable time. Especially when you've updated AGPS data before your flight. But it still is weather and airplane dependent.

These apps help you to discover the state of GPS-fixing pretty good, so before you fire up google maps, let these do the initial fix:

GPS Status (
AndroiTS GPS (
GPS Test (

I've also discovered differences between fixing time among these apps. GPS Test usually gets the fastest fix times. Google Maps usually is the slowest.

Hope this helps.
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