If you have GPS enabled on your Android unit, that doesn’t mean it’s continuously tracking your position with GPS; it just means that if one of your apps needs a GPS position, it can turn on active GPS tracking to obtain that position. The problem is that sometimes it can take several minutes to achieve an initial position fix with GPS, which means the program will just sit and wait until it obtains that position. The following two apps can help with this problem by making sure you have a reasonably fresh GPS position acquisition, which reduces the time for subsequent position acquisitions significantly.
Application Name: GPS Assist
Description: Turns GPS tracking on.
Publisher’s website: Luck Of Wise
Version/date reviewed: v.1.0 / 8-23-10
Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2
GPS Assist is the less-aggressive of the two programs; it will activate GPS tracking, but only leave it on for five minutes at a time.
Figure 1: Starting up the program, and selecting Enable, will bring up the “radar dish” icon in the status bar at top. Selecting “Enable automatic start” will start up the program whenever you turn your phone on, and also start up GPS tracking for five minutes. This is a good way to make sure your unit has a good GPS position fix right after being turned on; subsequent GPS fixes from applications should only take a few seconds, as the initial position/satellite data is good for about 4 hours in speeding up GPS acquisition.
To start up GPS Assist, bring down the Notifications bar from the top …
Figure 2: If GPS Assist is running and GPS acquisition is turned on, as it is here, you’ll see the GPS icon in the status bar. Pressing on GPS Assist / Stop GPS Assist will turn it off. If it’s off, the GPS Assist entry will say “Start GPS Assist”, and pressing on that will start up GPS acquisition. To turn off GPS Assist completely, removing it from the status bar, go to the program screen above and uncheck both boxes – that will shut it off.
The biggest drawback is that GPS Assist will only run for five minutes at a time; if you need longer, you should look at the next program. But the five-minute limit can also be a plus, since it will minimize battery drain.
The automatic start feature is nice to have, since it guarantees you a fresh GPS position fix every time you turn your unit on, and that will speed up subsequent GPS position fixes from actual applications. It would be nice to have the option for more than five minutes of GPS acquisition time, but that’s a minor quibble. If you need this capability, this is a decent app with minimal memory and CPU requirements, and the price is right.
Application Name: Tracker Booster
Description: Keeps GPS tracking active.
Publisher’s website: Droid Projects
Version/date reviewed: v.1.1 / 8-23-10
Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.2
If you need a continuous GPS acquisition, so that there won’t ever be any significant delay in GPS position acquisition when you start up an app that needs it, Tracker Booster is your app. Unlike GPS Assist, it runs continuously, and won’t turn off until you turn it off. But if you turn it on and forget it, it can drain your battery.
Figure 3: Not a lot to the interface. Press Start Booster to turn it on, Stop Booster to turn it off. Send to Background keeps the program running, but closes the interface. You’ll know it’s running because of the blue circle / right arrow icon in the status bar; you’ll also see the standard GPS signal icon as well.
Figure 4: If Tracker Booster is running, you’ll see the program Notification listing. Select that to bring up the main program interface above, and shut the program down if it’s no longer needed.
Can’ts stress this enough: If you forget it’s on, you can drain the battery down. A time limit option would be a useful addition, or possibly the option to shut it down when the battery drops below a certain level.
If you need continuous GPS acquisition, this is a simple and easy way to do it. Just don’t forget you have it running, or you might drain your battery dry.
Tracker Booster offers an easy way to judge just how bad GPS battery drain is, and I’ll look at that in the next post.