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Using cell phone as GPS

Hello,

If anyone can provide input for using cell phone as GPS in Europe it would be appreciated. Must we add international plan to our cell plan?? to use phone as GPS? We, of course, would like to avoid exorbitant costs added to our cell phone bill for data usage. We will also have a physical road map for guidance.

Thank you.

Posted by
9109 posts

Assuming your smart phone already has a GPS chip built into it, you don't necessarily need an international plan for location purposes. If you install an offline mapping app like, city maps 2 go your phone can determine your location via the GPS satellite signal, and show you your location/directions via map data already stored in your phone's memory. All of the above would use zero mobile data while overseas.

Posted by
16 posts

I used the French maps on my old Garmin very successfully several years ago, and plan on doing so again this year.

I will try out the offline maps at home first to see how they work - some comments I read were that Google offline maps worked more quickly than CityMaps2Go.

Just be sure to bring your car charger cable as the GPS still uses a lot of power even if the data is turned off.

You can also get a local sim card for your phone with a reasonable data plan - last time I looked, Lebara had a good deal for that.

Posted by
183 posts

Used our gps on our smartphone last September, we live in Canada and it only cost us $10.00 a day for the days we had our data on . It was very useful when we were walking around Paris .

Posted by
212 posts

We loaded Waze app on our cell phone and got an international plan through Verizon. It is what we used to drive all over England and Normandy for 3 weeks last fall. There was a GPS in each car we drove; Waze had it beat every time; no dropped signal, no vanishing off the map, no glitches. My memory is that it isn't a data hog and the international plan was very reasonable, about $25 for the month which included 250MB of data and we didn't come near using that much data.

Posted by
10395 posts

This is probably a stupid question, but I have always taken my Garmin to Europe on previous trips. I would like to eliminate taking redundant devices on my next trip. I will be driving in Italy, Austria and possibly Germany. Does google maps, Waze or one of the other mapping apps navigate the same in Europe as they do in the U.S.? I have T-Mobile and I will have data, though I hate to use it up by using my phone as a GPS. If one is in an area without cell service, does the GPS still work?

Posted by
53 posts

I am doubtful about using the phone for GPS substitute. I don't believe the smart phone uses GPS satellites for location, rather i think it uses triangulation from cell towers. ergo, no cells , no info.
Secondly,, the phone plans are rather expensive and confusing, i , myself, would rather not rely on phone services in Europe.
A Garmin France card costs about $25 on Amazon, and is easy to install if you have a portable GPS.

Posted by
9109 posts

"..... I don't believe the smart phone uses GPS satellites for location...."

Most all do. A simple google of the model will get you the specs. In addition smartphone's also use triangulation from cell towers (for indoor location), wifi gps, and Bluetooth gps.

Posted by
10395 posts

So using an iPhone 6s could be a viable option to substitute for my Garmin?

Posted by
33314 posts

one of the other mapping apps navigate the same in Europe as they do in the U.S.?

Yes but for a couple of issues.

First, when you are in the UK and Ireland, because of the driving on the left the writing goes from right to left instead of left to right.

That same glitch kicks in when you are south of the equator, so in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, not only is the writing from right to left, but it is also upside down.

The solution is to turn your phone upside down, but make sure the screen is locked or it will just spin around.

How will you hold the phone on the dashboard?

Posted by
9109 posts

So using an iPhone 6s could be a viable option to substitute for my
Garmin?

Absolutely, GPS is one of the most used features on high-end smartphones.

Posted by
53 posts

i did check on the GPS function on the iPhone, yes its there, but it works best when connected to the cell or wifi. Without it, there's a delay, plus less accuracy (no WAAS) . With some of the roads so small in France, i think it could take you into someone's driveway by mistake.
Anyway,, good luck.

Posted by
9109 posts

That's not my experience. I've driven in many areas without cell phone reception, relying only on the satellite signal, and my location has always been bang-on accurate (iphone6).

Posted by
33314 posts

There is no reason that the GPS on your phone would be any less accurate than on a dedicated unit. It is the same satellites and the same triangulation.

Bluetooth and mobile triangulation is helpful in a building, but driving you are likely to not be in a building.

Posted by
7562 posts

Nigel, your statement is correct, but I can personally say that my Samsung phone is not as fast as a Garmin at getting a lock on the satellites. And in places with poor GPS reception (for example, downtown Philadelphia-don't ask me why) I believe that Garmins may have a better, or bigger antenna. While it's not an issue plugged-in, inside a car, GPS chips in phones do use a lot of power. Garmins have plenty of peculiarities, I'm not inclined to come down on either side of the issues in this thread.

Posted by
1097 posts

Based on advice in a couple other threads, I just downloaded Ulmon CityMaps2Go (the free version). I'm already impressed with what I've seen of the Paris map. Seems very easy to use and you can add and subtract city maps as you go.

Anyone else using Ulmon? Any cons I haven't noticed yet?

Posted by
53 posts

So Micheal, can you explain the procedure for using the city maps 2 go app?
Do you download map data for the area you are interested in, ( is this simple enough) you need cell or wifi for this. I assume you don;t get data for all over with the basic app. I have a hiking map app, which is a pain, I have to DL sectors of where i am interested in, and its hard to figure out what you have, and what' s missing.
Secondly,, there are several versions, ie basic, Pro etc what do you recommend?

Finally ,, what's the value in getting the city versions, more info , i assume.

thanks

Fred

Posted by
10395 posts

"one of the other mapping apps navigate the same in Europe as they do in the U.S.?
Yes but for a couple of issues.
First, when you are in the UK and Ireland, because of the driving on the left the writing goes from right to left instead of left to right.
That same glitch kicks in when you are south of the equator, so in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, not only is the writing from right to left, but it is also upside down.
The solution is to turn your phone upside down, but make sure the screen is locked or it will just spin around."

You're funny Nigel! :-)

Posted by
13 posts

I appreciate your helpful comments! Thank you all so much. I know applying some of the suggestions will make for smoother traveling. We also ordered the Michelin #527 of Provence and Riviera regions.

Regards

Posted by
1443 posts

I'm using the Nav system in the car rental I have arranged. I don't have to bring an extra device with me, it's already got all the local maps, it does French and English, and it will be easier to use than a phone while I'm driving. Citymaps2go will be excellent for helping me wander around on foot.

Posted by
10395 posts

I drove home from L.A. yesterday. I used google maps on my phone, along with the GPS built into my 10 year old Lexus. There were a few areas where I didn't have cell service. Google maps worked great! And its suggested route is exactly the way we normally go. With the GPS in my car it always has to recalculate to match up to the route we are driving. I'll try it again next weekend when we are at the coast and I know we won't have cell service, but based on the performance of using my phone as a GPS yesterday I feel more comfortable leaving the Garmin at home when I leave for Europe in a few weeks.

Posted by
4629 posts

We found that without any local cellular, data, or WIFI service our iPhone was still of benefit. It found our location and showed it in on some internal mapping system-- it appears every iPhone has a built in map of France? This included a small town on the coast way outside the normal tourist circuit. Anyway, cellular or data service did not appear to be essential when checking for location in France with an iPhone, although we never formally used it as a GPS navigator.

Posted by
9109 posts

Tom,
Your iPhone was using wifi gps to determine your location. Your phone doesn't need to actually connect to a wifi router to determine position. It just needs to read the mac serial number and compare it to a database your phone download from Apple last time you connected to the internet. Same deal with map data. When you arrive in new locale Apple and Google maps stores a bit of local mapping in the background depending on how much free memory you have.

Posted by
100 posts

My cellphone with google maps chewed up data allowance badly. I have downloaded Navmii for France. I have not used it there but it works very well in the US states.

Posted by
33 posts

I have both CityMaps2Go and Pocket Earth on my iPhone. I prefer Pocket Earth.

I put the sites I want to go to before I head out, or when I'm connected to WiFi over there, and then turn off Data Roaming. I have no problem if I'm outside (in view of the satellites,) and it's accurate to about 3 metres.

Posted by
2393 posts

Cell phones can use GPS alone or assisted GPS which uses mobile data. Turn of data roaming and use just GPS - works great.

Posted by
339 posts

Not sure how we did it but when we were in Italy and Sicily last year, we downloaded offline maps ahead of our trip and turned off our data and followed the blue dot and navigated well. No voice as I recall. But we did it all without data. I think it just told us where we were in relation to the offline maps on our phone.

Posted by
339 posts

Not sure how we did it but when we were in Italy and Sicily last year, we downloaded offline maps ahead of our trip and turned off our data and followed the blue dot and navigated well. No voice as I recall. But we did it all without data. I think it just told us where we were in relation to the offline maps on our phone.

Posted by
1 posts

Two questions -- We'll be driving throughout most of France. Is the cell reception pretty much continuous from southern France up to Normandy -- so that Google Maps will work all the way?
And can anyone give me some tips for downloading Google Maps and others for offline use? Never done it, though I've used Google Maps a lot. Out here in Colorado, Utah, etc., we often drive beyond cell range and Google Maps craps out. I presume the in-car GPS would stay connected the whole time??? No need for cell towers, etc.? Many thanks!

Posted by
27414 posts

I use CityMaps2GoPro by Ulmon, for which I paid $4 or $5 last year. Once you have the app on a smartphone or tablet, you can download city or regional maps when you have access to Wi-Fi, then they are available at any time. The phone or tablet uses GPS satellites to figure out where you are on the map. This can be problematic in medieval districts with narrow streets and relatively tall buildings, but the basic maps will always be available.

There are others options, but I've only used CityMaps2GoPro.

Posted by
10395 posts

I used my iPhone 6s and google maps in Italy and Austria in May. It worked like a charm. It works without cell service as long as set your destination when you do have service. In otherwords, no problem going through areas without service as it doesn't interrupt the GPS.

Posted by
139 posts

I took paper maps, a Garmin, and printed directions to France earlier this year, ended up using GPS on the phone with our free T-mobile data, and got added bonus of entertaining pronunciations of French place names with the voice.

Posted by
12172 posts

I just got back and had pretty good luck with Co-Pilot (downloaded Western Europe while still at home). It navigated fine without data or phone connection but I'm hesitant to say you won't need data. Without some connection you may have trouble searching for places (gas, grocery, parking, etc.). If you want to go without some connection, make sure you have all the street addresses you need either before you go or while you have WiFi available.

I kept my data off while navigating (to ration it) but turned it back on occasionally to search for specific things. I would have had a harder time if I didn't have the data available when I needed it.

Posted by
1005 posts

I use Google Maps offline and it really works well. You must have a Google account to do this. Just remember that even if you are offline, your cell phone is going to use lots of power. In a car, I keep it hooked up to the charger. On the street, I put it in Airplane Mode unless I need a quick update.

Posted by
55 posts

My wife and I recently returned from a 3-week vacation in Europe where we drove a rental car and explored many areas by foot. We took our iPhone 6 along with us and used the app called "HERE WeGo" for our gps guide. This app was free to download and worked amazingly well without using any wifi or roaming. Before we left home, we downloaded the maps of areas in which we planned to visit using our home wifi. Then, in Europe we put our iPhone on airplane mode so there would be no roaming or wifi charges. It functioned just great while we were driving. (We took along our charger for the car cigarette lighter to maintain the iPhone battery). A real bonus was using the HERE app while we were walking in some of the larger cities. We simply put the app in walking mode and typed in the place we wanted to go (e.g., museum, cathedral, etc.). The app directed our walking and told us when and where to turn. It was just great! While walking, the app would "beep" us when it was time to turn to a different street and we would simply look down on the screen to see where to go. It also gave us an estimated time of arrival while we were walking or driving! We highly recommend it! (By the way, we don't own any stock in this company, either.) :-)

Posted by
228 posts

Just downloaded the recommended app city maps 2 go and loaded in Paris. What a wonderful app! It is so specific and user friendly! Thanks!

Posted by
621 posts

I got a TomTom on eBay with french maps for $35.

Posted by
4 posts

Just want to thank everyone for valuable input about getting around without using data. I just decided to buy the citymaps2gopro and will be seriously relieved to not worry about what my AT&T bill will look like when I get home from Paris. So, just to clarify, simply turning the phone to airplane mode will avoid data charges when away from wifi area? I have the iphone 6.

Posted by
27414 posts

Don't forget that in addition to the app itself, you need to download the maps you need (which are free) when you have a Wi-Fi connection or (before you leave) don't mind using cellular data.