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Seeking recommendations for a cell phone with a good GPS

Hello fellow hikers!  I'm doing a lot of hiking and have run into MAJOR issues with my cell phone.  I have a Samsung S8+.  I use AllTrails for tracking (Yes, I know. I'm switching to GAIA).  

I've rebooted the phone multiple times and have removed a bunch of apps to try and improve the signal.  The phone is in a pocket with no interference.

Any recommendations on what to purchase? 

p.s. I'm getting a Garmin InReach next year.


Thanks in advance,


10 Replies

@CajunHiker  Hi there!  Can you describe in a little more detail what exactly is happening in regards to the gps part of the issue?

I'm using gaia on my I7plus and previously was using backcountry pro on my galaxy and never ever had what I'd call a gps issue.

BTW, gps works independently of your other apps, so they aren't interfering.

A couple of things affect your gps signals but the major one is not having a clear view of the sky above so the phone can receive the satellite signals.

(tip - make sure your phone is on airplane mode when using your gps apps to save battery life.  Airplane mode doesn't affect gps signals.)

If the problem is slow loading of the trails/maps it's probably because you need to download the maps to your phone before going to the woods or anyplace without telephone/data signal.

The maps get onto your phone via your telephone/data signal, like when at your house.

Your map app then uses a gps satellite signal to pinpoint you location on the map/trail you have previously downloaded - (when you did have phone signal).

My guess is, you were someplace where you had a poor TELEPHONE signal so the maps were very slow to load and the map app didn't have much to work with.

The secret is, and this always works, is to download the maps of your trip BEFORE leaving home.

Good luck

REI Member Since 1979

Hi @CajunHiker ,

@Philreedshikes gave an excellent response here. 

I'd just add that it might be good to do a basic test of your GPS hardware with a simple walk around your neighborhood using Strava or another mapping program. If your GPS is still inaccurate, and your neighborhood isn't tree or cloud covered, it could be the GPS receiver in the phone. 

I also found an article that shows you how to toggle the high accuracy function on the S8.

Hope this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Also maybe use the map app that comes with the phone, come to think of it, if that’s been working then I suspect the gps is ok

REI Member Since 1979

I downloaded the app for the GPS Status.  At home, things look great.  My wife and I have the same phone.  Her phone was not having issues.

So ... I took both phones to the same location with the GPS Status and Toolbox.  Her phone picks up the signal (and associated satellites perfectly).  My phone was spinning looking for a signal.  

My deduction at this point is that my phone's GPS antenna is torqued up.

Any thoughts on the IPhone 11, Samsung 10, or OnePlus 8?


The phone is the issue.  My wife's Galaxy S8+ (same exact phone) was having no issues in the same location as me (We were hiking together; both using AllTrails).  

I'm thinking my GPS antenna is torqued up.  Thinking of going to the IPhone 11 or a OnePlus8.

Any thoughts?


@CajunHiker wrote:

The phone is the issue.  My wife's Galaxy S8+ (same exact phone) was having no issues in the same location as me...

Any thoughts?

Perhaps it's worth getting the phone fixed, or at least looked at to see if it can be fixed. The issue might be something simple like a disconnected or loose antenna cable.

The S8+ is a good phone with good GPS. It supports GPS satellite networks from the US, EU, Russia and China. If you're otherwise happy with the phone then it still has some life left in it.


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Ouch! Sorry that it’s the phone, hope you can get it fixed!

REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes and @Wanderer , I've decided to ditch the S8+.  I'm getting either an S20 5G or a Google 4 XL.  

Right now, AT&T has a deal if you switch providers.  While I like Verizon, I'm going to switch back. 

Unless .... 

What are your thoughts on AT&T and Verizon as far as GPS coverage is concerned.  This is a temporary fix until I get my Garmin.


Hi again @CajunHiker !

ok, gps satellite coverage is totally different from cell phone tower coverage.  All smart phones (working phones, that is...), all phone brands will receive the exact same satellite coverage, since they all ping on the same orbiting satellites, which is different from phone companies using their own towers.

changing subjects:  IMO, trying to use the inreach for anything other than emergencies or sending some messages is extremely rough.

Using gaia on you new phone, imo, is the absolute best way to go!  Create your routes on a third party site, such as, upload the route into gaia, upload your maps into gaia, and you are good to go!

REI Member Since 1979