How to Calibrate Google Maps for Better Directions

How to get more accurate directions on iPhone or Android

What to Know

  • iPhone: Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > move Compass Calibration to on/green.
  • Android: Go to Settings > Location > Improve Accuracy > move Wi-Fi scanning and Bluetooth scanning to On.
  • Google Maps uses your smartphone's compass, Wi-Fi, and Location Services to determine your location.

This article explains how to calibrate your iPhone or Android to get the best location data and directions from Google Maps. These tips will improve the accuracy of Google Maps determining your location and getting you where you need to go.

Is There a Way to Calibrate Google Maps?

Google Maps uses your smartphone's built-in GPS (among other features) to figure out where you are and how to get you where you want to go. You may need to calibrate that compass to help Google Maps get the best location data from time to time. Luckily, do that is easy.

How to Calibrate Google Maps on iPhone

To calibrate the compass that Google Maps uses on an iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Privacy.

  3. Tap Location Services.

    Settings app, Privacy, and Location Services highlighted on iOS
  4. Tap System Services.

  5. Move the Compass Calibration slider to on/green.

    System Services and Compass Calibration in iOS Settings

Believe it or not, another way to calibrate your iPhone compass is to move your iPhone around in a figure-eight motion. When your iPhone detects this kind of motion, it resets and recalibrates the compass for better accuracy.

How to Calibrate Google Maps on Android

You can also calibrate the compass on Android to improve Google Maps. Here's how:

  1. Open the Settings app and tap Location.

  2. Make sure Location is toggled to On. If it's not, move the slider to On.

  3. Tap Improve Accuracy.

  4. Move the sliders for Wi-Fi scanning and Bluetooth scanning to blue/on.

    Location, Improve accuracy, and blue toggle in Android Settings

Why Is Google Maps Location Not Accurate?

Generally speaking, the location determined by Google Maps is pretty good. Sure, it might not figure out exactly where you're standing, but it's usually accurate to within a few yards/meters. However, from time to time, your location features will become much less precise than that, which can be frustrating and confusing.

This decline in accuracy happens most often when the compass feature of your smartphone gets misaligned. It's just the nature of the feature, and you can fix it in the ways described earlier.

Other things that can cause Google Maps to have an inaccurate location for you include Location Services or Wi-Fi being off or hardware or software problems.

How Can You Improve Location Accuracy?

Calibrating your smartphone compass isn't the only way to improve location accuracy. There are several other methods, including:

  • Turn On Wi-Fi (iPhone and Android): Smartphones use Wi-Fi to triangulate your location by checking with databases of known Wi-Fi networks. It's a significant factor in determining your location (along with GPS), so your location will be incorrect if Wi-Fi is off.
  • Allow Exact Location (iPhone): The iPhone's pre-loaded Compass app lets you choose whether apps can use your exact location (which gives better directions) or just approximate location (which gives more privacy). To use exact location, go to Settings > Compass > Location > move Precise Location to on/green.
  • Turn Off and Turn On Location Services (iPhone and Android): One good way to recalibrate your phone's location features is to reset your Location Services by turning them off and back on. Doing this should clear out any old, bad data and replace it with an accurate reading. Learn how to turn off Location Services and how to turn on Location Services.
  • Restart Phone (iPhone and Android): Restarting your smartphone is a cure-all for many, many problems, including inaccurate location data. A reset clears out all of your old, temporary info and provides new data. Learn how to restart iPhone and restart Android.
  • Update OS (iPhone and Android): Since new versions of your phone's operating system bring new features and bug fixes, installing the latest OS can also improve your location data accuracy (assuming that the new OS includes those features). Find out how to update your iPhone and update Android.
FAQ
  • How do I tell which way is north on Google Maps?

    Tap the Compass icon. Google Maps will show your location and reorient the map. The compass will disappear after a few seconds of inactivity.

  • How do I show the compass on Google Maps?

    If the compass isn't visible on Google Maps, move the map view around to make the compass appear. If you still don't see it, you may need to update the app.

  • Why isn't Google Maps showing alternate routes?

    If Google Maps isn't showing alternate routes, it could be because your GPS is miscalibrated, your internet connection is weak, or location services are disabled. Other potential culprits include outdated app or cache files and closed roads or traffic delays.

  • How do I show coordinates on Google Maps?

    To show latitude and longitude in Google Maps, right-click or long-press a location on the map. The GPS coordinates will be displayed in a pop-up window.

  • How do I use Google Maps offline?

    You can save Google Maps for offline use in case you're going somewhere with limited service. Maps you download to your device can be viewed in the Google Maps app wherever you travel.

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