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Samsung Galaxy S2 GPS Problem? SOLVED!

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The mysterious Ninja Duck is a geocacher after Cumbyrocks’ own heart. Not only does he have an excellent name (if we told you we’d have to kill you) and young caching companions, but he is a Blackberry and Android geocaching proponent. Here he shares some of his evil ninja genius:

Are you a geocacher, trail runner, mountain biker or anyone else needing excellent GPS accuracy from their Android device but who finds that at times it just doesn’t seem to update your position even when moving?

You may be the victim of something called disabled Static Navigation.

Disabling Static Navigation is seen as a desirable feature that intentionally filters out apparently minor position updates once you are going at a low or slow speed. The idea is that your position will not be accurate anyway, due to the GPS signal being degraded by bouncing off buildings, being under trees or walking through a canyon.

The weird thing is the phone’s GPS chip is still receiving updates and keeps calculating your position; it simply stops telling you.

I don’t know who decided that being told you are 10 metres away, 11m away, 8m away, 10m away over 4 seconds while you are standing still is not desirable; instead fixing your position semi-permanently from anywhere up to 50m away.

As a geocacher, I think it’s idiotic. If all you are doing is trying to find a petrol station, I guess it’s close enough!

Here is a good way of checking if static navigation has been turned off in your device: I’m assuming you already know how to use software that advises your position and/or how many meters you are from some sort of mark.

Take a quick drive in your car toward that mark, stop a few hundred metres short, get out of the car and slowly walk toward your chosen spot – In my case, I had to walk less than 5km/h. When static navigation is disabled on your phone, you’ll see that your distance-to-mark isn’t being updated.

If you happen to own a dedicated GPSr, then for every step or two you take, no matter how slowly, it will update your position and show this on the unit. If your Android device isn’t doing the same thing, it has static navigation disabled.

Now, this article is only for Samsung Galaxy S2 phones with the SiRF StarIV GPS chipset. But you may find that your solution will be very similar.

For reasons that aren’t clear, static navigation isn’t a function that is accessible to consumers who own Samsung Galaxy SII phones. It appears to be a case of Android or Samsung “knows best”, because it isn’t a setting or otherwise easy thing to access and change.

The solution for a SGS2 involves:

  1. Rooting your phone (see below)
  2. Downloading and using GPS Control SiRF StarIV from the Android Market

GPS Control SiRF StarIV was specifically developed by Stefanos Fatouros (fatdroid) to solve this problem on such handsets.

When I loaded his software, it didn’t work with my phone. After emailing Fatouros, I had a reply within hours, and upon sending a specific file from my phone for him to analyse, he had an updated version on the Market within 24 hours. I’m not suggesting he’s always that quick – but he invites such questions/feedback on other SiRF StarIV chipset devices in the hopes he can make his app work for them too.

Now, you do need a rooted device. In the case of the Galaxy S2, here’s what works for me when using a PC, but do take note that this process will void your warranty and has the potential of turning your phone into a dead paperweight: [Editor: You have been warned - don't blame INATN or Ninja Duck if something goes wrong.]

How to Root your Samsung Galaxy SII

After rooting your phone, you will need to download this free software from the Market

GPS Control SiRF StarIV by fatdroid

Stefanos also has the same program available for sale on the Market so you can make a donation. If you get value from using the software – especially if he helped you personally – you may want to consider sending him a practical token of thanks!

Please note you’ll only have to run the software once to enable Static Navigation. It can also turn the setting back to disable Static Navigation again at a later time.

And that’s all there is to it. Easy when you know how!

——–

Don’t think you need Static Navigation enabled? Fine! However, have you ever noticed that when you are driving with Google Maps and when you go around a corner, or drive away after having been stopped at a red light, your position seems to take anywhere from 2 to 5 seconds to start updating again? Well… welcome to Static Navigation.

Since I turned on Static Navigation, Google Maps updates my position even when I am turning or immediately after I set off from the lights. And in spite of the intentions behind disabling Static Navigation, which may be quite necessary if you live in city canyons with lots of high buildings, for those of us who enjoy relatively good access to the sky when we are out and about seem to only benefit by turning Static Navigation on. I have really not found any negatives. So much so that it leaves me wondering why it comes disabled by default, and it is (almost) impossible to turn off!

Have you used GPS Control SiRF StarIV or something else to improve the accuracy of your Smartphone GPS? Let us know in the comments!

26 comments

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  1. Cumbyrocks

    Firstly, no I am not the Ninja Duck.

    However, I can attest to everything the Ninja Duck has written. I’ve seen the process work with a Galaxy S2 and also experienced the excellent response from Stefanos when the app didn’t initially function on the phone. The increase in performance was outstanding.

    For any geocacher willing to take the risk themselves [INATN didn't make you do it] it is well worthwhile. :)

    1. SAS

      I have downloaded Stefanos GPS control, but it says backup failed and the option to Enable static navigation isn’t on. Can someone give Stefanos email address?

      1. Cumbyrocks

        Hi SAS, if you go to the app listing in the Google Play store there is a link there (just above the screenshots) which says ‘Email Developer’.

  2. Pete

    I own a SGS2 and had that exact problem. Stefanos helped me out and now the phone works just like my Garmin 60. On the same spot they disagree about 1-3m and the phone is often closer ;) More importantly, if your phone GPS isn’t working like a normal GPS, look into static navigation on your phone too.

  3. Caster

    Thanks for the info. I’m going to pick up my new SGS2 today, and wondered how long will I manage without custom firmwares or at least rooting. Looks like not much :)

    I just believe that Ninja Duck has the meaning of Static Navigation reversed, which most likely comes directly from the app’s description. So it was confusing to me at first. Since Sirf III bluetooth modules such as Nokia LD-3W (where this was also a problem and needed a special app to control this), the term Static Navigation means the filtering, not the lack of thereof. So ENABLING static navigation means TURNING THE FILTER ON which means you DON’T get the minor updates. What you thus want is to DISABLE it. Apparently the app’s description uses this in the opposite meaning.

  4. TofLaBeuze

    Hi all,
    thanks for this very interesting post. I’m surprised because I’m geocaching with my Samsung Galaxy S2 without this problem…? is a bug that has been corrected in the last releases of the smartphone or Android ?
    Second thing, I loaded the software without rooting my phone, and it told me “OK, ou are root” ???
    Thanks for your help !
    Very nice site and blog !

    1. Cumbyrocks

      It actually took me a long time to notice. One particularly bad experience highlighted the issue.

      I’ve found it a bit like HDTV. You don’t think it’ll really be any better but once you have it you feel like non-HD is archaic!

  5. Kung Foo

    Everybody just request Samsung to make an official software update for Samsung Galaxy S II so that this will officially be fixed some day. Otherwise we’ll end up having the same problem in the future products too!

    This kind of a feature just should be ON/OFF configurable by the user in settings application – or done like other phone manufacturers (mostly) do: support static navigation always!

  6. alisha

    Hi I am about to purchase a Telstra phone, probably the SGS2, for work (ecologist). I really want to use it as a backup GPS and data entry device. I was impressed with the comment that after fixing the rooting it had a 1-3m accuracy level. It would be great if the phone could handle a few drops and to some extent the rugged environments I go to. Do you think this is the best smartphone to buy?

    Thanks

    Alisha

    1. kjwx

      Admittedly, I’m a major iPhone fan so am probably not the best It’s Not About The Numbers sibling to reply, but I reckon buy whichever mobile you like and then protect it with the toughest case possible. Cumbyrocks and I have both used Otterbox’s Defender Series cases – him on his beloved former Blackberry, and me on the iPhone – with excellent results. Well worth the extra outlay for peace of mind on the trail.
      You can see my review of the iPhone case here, or visit Otterbox’s website for details of their SSG2 version.

  7. Les Takash

    Hi

    Samsung Galaxy S2
    Yes that was my dream. Never again.
    Probems ?
    Never ending.

    1. Cumbyrocks

      Thanks for that…brief and cryptic…comment. I’m afraid I don’t quite understand what you’re trying to say, although it does remind me a little of a haiku.

      1. Pete

        LOL.

        I can only imagine that an iPhone may suit someone better, and that battery life is, and for the time being will continue to be an issue. But the SGS2 rocks. There really isn’t much out there that’s is clearly a better phone. Until a few weeks from now I guess, when the SGS3 will make us all feel like we’re slipping behind again ;)

  8. Shaon

    Hi, I was trying to use osmAnd application for navigation with offline maps with data connection of phone turned off, But unfortunately Samsung Galaxy S2 (with ICS) was not able to location my location even in a open street, though my low end android device LG GT540 was finely doing the navigation work. I was wondering why this is happening. Can anybody help me resolve this? Its really shocking not to be able to use GPS properly using such a high end android device. Can anybody help me get rid of this issue?

  9. Kawthar

    too many pattern attempts
    the phone asked for my google account and i forgot it
    what should i do
    the phone is locked

  10. baldmosher

    I came from an HTC Desire with amazing 4ft accuracy and a fix in less than 5 seconds, but a tendency for GPS to completely die every so often, and HTC’s daft AC/USB charging system that meant it would only draw 512mA, unless you buy the official dock, which of course only comes with a 512mA adapter, so the battery would drain quickly if you’re using it as a satnav.

    The S2’s consistent 16ft accuracy seems positively terrible in comparison (although it’s generally fine for driving) and it charges well through the official dock, so I’ll be encouraged to see if this improves accuracy when I drive home later.

    I also found some more info via this thread:
    http://androidforums.com/samsung-galaxy-s2-international/349619-poor-gps-signal-galaxy-s2.html

    I’ll pop back and update….

  11. Tyson

    He never popped back in..
    But I will after testing
    :-)

  12. retro

    Kernel Version 3.0.15-SPH-D710.FH13-CL663858se.infra@SEP-68#3 dont look like the three xxxs

  13. Nae Luck

    I managed to successfully root the phone and install the software etc. but the app can’t tell if my Static Navigation is on or off. It just says “unknown” at the top of the screen in the app where it should say enabled or disabled. Both the enable and disable buttons are greyed out and inactive so I can’t turn it on or off! The only option it gives me is to restore the original GPS driver which is precisely what I don’t want!

    Help!

  14. Robbie

    Can anyone tell if this works on SGS2 GT9100-G version?

  15. Ralph

    Thanks! Tried alot of gpx fixes application and this one worked like a charm. My S2’s stopped working after I’ve upgraded to stock JellyBean 4.1.

  16. Arzenic

    i tried installing this app. It says
    GPS driver : Unknown
    and i cant enable or disable the static navigation :( what could be the problem

    1. Cumbyrocks

      I’d try contacting the app developer. At the time of writing the article, which was some time ago now, he was very responsive and helped sort out issues very quickly.

    2. boyan

      same here, uninstalled :(

  17. boyan

    GPS driver : Unknown
    and i cant enable or disable the static navigation :(

  18. Radoslav Imo Žiak

    Problem with gps signal is not solved on Galaxy S2. Because I stand near geocache and this f***g korean s**t still shows 20m. Stupid bug.

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