Our platform uses native operating system functionality to acquire GPS co-ordinates in the most accurate way possible. We leverage the accelerometer and device features to capture the direction the user is facing, and other related values, in addition to the latitude and longitude co-ordinates. The time it takes a device to capture GPS is dependent on many factors. Below are some key aspects to consider:

Desired Accuracy

As a general rule, when your desired accuracy is 50 metres or more, it is possible for the device to use mobile network towers to triangulate position. This is much faster compared to GPS, and avoids the line of sight and GPS chip quality issues mentioned below.

For accuracies of 25 metres or less, the device will usually need a GPS lock to meet the required accuracy because the mobile network triangulation will not be accurate enough. GPS acquisition is normally slower, and is influenced by the other factors outlined below.

When you configure a GPS setting - e.g. a location field in a form design - be sure to consider the minimum accuracy you can accept. This decision will affect how long your users need to wait for the device to acquire location co-ordinates.

Sky Line of Sight and Conditions

The fastest way to get an accurate GPS lock is to be in the open, around nothing to obscure the device's line of sight to the orbiting GPS satellites. Being out in the countryside is usually more GPS capture friendly than being in a city with tall buildings all round, or even worse being indoors.

Weather can also play a role in affecting the speed with which your device gains an accurate GPS lock. Cloudy days will affect its performance compared to sunny ones.

Quality of your Device's GPS Chip

This is generally not a problem with high end devices. It is common for manufacturers to use poor quality or limited capability GPS chips to save money. If you're using a low- to mid-range device your GPS may not work as well. As a rule of thumb, devices costing less than 250 USD generally have slow processors, poor quality GPS chips (if any) and limited amounts of memory.

Aside from the poor GPS chip, a slower processor and memory also slows the device's capability to process incoming GPS data. If you are finding that some devices are slower in getting a GPS lock compared to others, it's likely because the device itself is struggling to get a GPS lock. If requested accuracy is 10 metres or less, devices with poor GPS chips will take a while to achieve this.

You can see this type of hardware limitation by opening the Google Maps app on your device and centering in on your current location. If you stand still and leave the app open for a minute, you should see the current location beacon moves around and the accuracy radius/halo around it will be widening and narrowing the whole time. That movement and accuracy variation is the kind of data that we receive from users devices, and we need to contend with that in getting a decent accuracy lock.

Device Support for GLONASS

We have found that GPS locks faster with devices that have GLONASS support.  GLONASS is a Russian alternative satellite system that can be used by devices in concert with the standard US GPS system. Giving access to essentially double the number of satellites increases the chances of a speedy co-ordinate result. You can check whether your device supports GLONASS on mobile device comparison websites. Check out this link to see how the Samsung Galaxy S6 has GLONASS while two similarly priced, ruggedized phone options do not.

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