GPS Apps Shouldn’t Drain Your Data

GPS Apps Shouldn’t Drain Your Data

One of the arguments sometimes made against mobile phone-based GPS applications is that they’ll chew up your data allowance, which can be a problem if your plan has a stingy allowance. But the issue could be more myth than reality.

At the recent Suna media briefing day where the traffic monitoring data developer discussed its Phase 2 plans, the issue of data consumption came up. The consensus from the Suna team was that in a typical day’s use, a 3G-based GPS system pulling in maps and data might consume 100Kb in daily use.

That’s not a tiny amount, but equally it’s not likely to cause an issue unless you’re on a seriously miserly plan or spend all your time on your mobile watching streaming video.

Have you experienced data shock after a GPS binge, or do you happily seek directions from your phone at any and all opportunities? Tell us your story in the comments.


  • How can that figure of 100kB be possible unless the maps are pre-cached on the device? I know they’re not in JPEG format, but there’s still got to be a reasonable amount of data use even if it’s (for example) Open Street Map format.

    I definitely don’t believe that figure could be true for Google Maps in the satellite view.

    • 100kb does sound a little low, but not impossible. Based on a quick check, a typical google maps .png tile comes in at around 15kb. So, for a short trip with few tiles needed (and assuming these nav apps are good at downloading as few tiles as possible) and the directions themselves being small and compressable, 100kb might be a reasonable ballpark figure.

      Even with numbers this low, it becomes a massive factor when international roaming costs kick in.

  • Regular though casual use of Maps app on my iPhone hasn’t done disastrous things to my phone bill. If anything I’m more frustrated by the drain on my battery the GPS represents – I use a GPS tracking app on my phone whilst I ride my bicycle and it consumes all the battery over 3 – 4 hours.

    What did shock me as regards GPS/map services on my phone was the data roaming charges for the very minimal use I made of the app whilst travelling through New Zealand. That’s obviously a different matter though.

    • I’m with jt.

      I wouldn’t think they use much data – but if you’re overseas and roaming (or on any global SIM) then the data costs are prohibitively expensive, so *any* data is a big pain.

      Having cacheable maps would be much better.

      I recently went to Europe and decided it wasn’t worth the cost (on my eKit SIM) to use any data, so I pre-downloaded most of the maps I needed into Nokia Ovi Maps. It was pretty good, except for the fact that the GPS on my E71 took a good five minutes to lock onto satellites, and that was if I was in the middle of an open plaza on a cloud-free day. In the middle of a big city? Forget it.

      In the end, it was less painful to just use a paper map to navigate around… So much for the 21st century.

  • I have an iPhone and I use the TomTom app (I stopped using my TomTom GPS unit). I drove taxis in Brisbane for 5 years.

    100kb of data is nothing to most iPhone users. I’m on 1Gb plan, most I’ve used is 400mb odd.

    I have tried a few different traffic services and have yet to fine one that fast enough with the updates. They cause more traffic jams (cars avoiding traffic) than they help, talk radio reports are the worst.

  • 100k a day is not a problem, from my point view. I would be more concerned about availability of mobile network in places where GPS is being used. Would be nice to have an option to cache map data on SD card for the area you’re interesed in, for example NSW. In that case you can download whole map while connected to your home WiFi network.

    Going to roaming mode accidentally is not an issue while in Australia. But if you’re going overseas, get a local prepaid SIM card with data connection. You will be in control of your spend and it will save from “bill shock” upon returning home.

  • I’ve put Open Street Map into my Android phone. Whole Australian continent was just 50 Mb download, so I don’t see a problem storing whole map locally.

    Having mobile connectivity is really nice for getting live traffic updates, social POI sharing (how about getting live petrol prices displayed along your travel route 🙂 ), weather and other quickly updated information.

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