Does GPS Cost Money on Android?

By Ashley Poland

Many Android phones can be docked and mounted in your car.
i Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The GPS feature on your smartphone finds your location and, with the right apps, guides you to your desired location. GPS access does not cost any additional fee, but using a GPS app for navigation can cost you money in the form of data use. By using GPS features mindfully, you can avoid getting lost or being late to meetings without lugging around an extra piece of hardware.

Location Information

The GPS receiver inside your phone isn't at all attached to your cellular data plan. Even if you turn off cellular data access, you could still use it to access GPS satellites. For the GPS receiver in your phone to pinpoint your location, it must be within range of four GPS satellites. When your phone has determined your location, the information is used in your GPS navigation app of choice. The potential to spend money comes into play within the GPS app itself.

Data Usage

The cost associated with GPS on your Android smartphone is in data charges that come with downloading maps while you're on the move. For instance, the Navigation app included as part of Google Maps downloads your maps in chunks rather than all at once. The map downloads are free, but when you're away from Wi-Fi, they can take a bite out of your data plan. This becomes more costly when you're roaming, as some carriers charge per megabyte for roaming downloads.

Navigation App

Android phones come with Google Maps pre-installed, which offers a GPS navigation tool called Navigation. The Navigation app provides voice-assisted, turn-by-turn navigation using Google Maps for map services. You can use Google Maps with GPS enabled without using the navigation tool. These services do not cost any sort of per-use or monthly fee, but they do both use data.

Alternative Apps

While Navigation uses Google Maps and comes built into your phone, it's not your only option. Three free apps from the Google Play Store include the rave-reviewed Scout GPS Navigation, MapQuest and Navfree. The features on these apps vary, though they all offer turn-by-turn navigation. MapQuest offers social tools, and Scout integrates reviews from nearby locations using Yelp. The most effective to avoid data costs may be Navfree, which allows you to download maps while online and then store them on your phone for offline use.