iOS GPS accuracy


#1

This is something I have been experiencing for quite some months now and was hoping would be resolved with the latest app & firmware updates. Unfortunately even after the most recent 5.3.1 iOS app update the problem persists.

I’ve noticed that very regularly the location sharing feature whether it be manually sent or Auto shared will show inaccurate/old GPS location data.

This has been experienced by my entire extended group of friends/family consisting of roughly 2 dozen people with gotennas. Covering a wide range of different iPhone models & different versions of iOS.

Sometimes the location data is so old it shows the user several miles from their actual location.

After questioning everyone who experienced the problem I discovered that each of them confirmed that their gotenna was actively connected to their iPhone, they all had location services permission activated for the gotenna app, the app was running in the foreground, & we verified by using other gps apps that their iPhones had a strong and accurate GPS signal.

With all this feedback I have concluded that the issue is not with any of my family’s iPhone hardware, or iOS. The problem is most definitely within the gotenna app.

I have noticed that inaccurate position data is even shown while browsing the map looking at your own position!

When viewing the standard street map view your own “supposedly live” position can be minuets or even hours out of date! However if you turn on the terrain map mode (which you have to pay for) then you actually get your true live position to show up.

This is a very very dangerous glitch to have and I’m surprised it still exists. I reported it many months ago both directly to gotenna as well as in an app review on the App Store.

To give an example of how this unreliable feature can lead to disaster. On my recent family camping trip many of us like to go mountain bike riding. Sometimes in groups and other times on our own. I broke off from the group to check out a new area up a very steep hill. Eventually I turned back and on the downhill ride I crashed pretty bad. Went totally end over end flying through the air, then crashing horribly and tumbling for 50 feet down the hillside before finally coming to a stop in a pile tangled up in what was left of my mountain bike. Miraculously I hadn’t broken anything. My gotenna & iPhone survived the crash, but when I sent my uncle and my dad my position it sent them in the wrong direction back where we had come from roughly 30min before I even split off from the pack. They had to do it the old fashioned way by just randomly searching before they figured out where I was located.

The gotenna system which I love to use had utterly failed us when we needed it most.

If there is anything I can do to assist in getting this bug fixed just let me know.

Here is a collage of recent screen shot examples of this issue:


#2

This has to be something specific to iOS. I routinely send location data on Android to other Android devices and have not seen this issue.


#3

Thanks for sharing this! We definitely want to make sure that this feature is functioning as expected, especially for situations like the one you experienced (hope you’re okay!).

We’ve taken a deep look into these reports and we’ve found the same information, and troubleshooting, to work each time.

We’ve found that this is related to specific GPS accuracy. Location services on an Android or iOS device will almost always attempt to place your location icon on the map. That means, you often see yourself within the context of the map, however, the level of accuracy here could be as far as 700ft away.

goTenna Mesh, when prompt to update location, takes into consideration your location services projected accuracy. If the location provided to goTenna is over an ~100ft margin of error, goTenna will not update the location, as it’s determined the update isn’t accurate enough to trust & report. Thus, the user sees behavior like-- a position that was true several miles, or minutes, ago. (You could argue, an inaccurate location update is better than no location update at all, this is something we’re looking into.)

Similarly, if the movement of the user is minimal, between 15-20ft, your location won’t be updated. This can be adjusted by something like, restarting the app, or, as you’ve noticed, toggling on topo maps, which is likewise forcing a refresh of your location so your icon can exist within the context of the topo map.

As mentioned above, this is usually fixed with a quick refresh. Restarting the app or taking another action to refresh location information, like you’ve found when toggling on topographic maps.

Keep reporting the behaviors you see around this. We definitely want to make sure this feature is working properly!


#4

Don’t know if this is related directly or helpful, but when resending a message with attached location that did not go through as confirmed the first time, there is an option offered to refresh the position previously sent. That’s handy, because I often moved before trying again on our mesh network, because with only 3 hops you often needed to move more than a little bit to get a better shot at a connection plus confirmation. This has been much less of an issue with the extra 3 hops provided by 5.0.

Perhaps having a similar button to allow a position refresh in these other circumstances might be a fix?


#5

It’s specific to the iOS gotenna app. Not iOS. I’ve never had any problems like this with any other Apple or 3rd party GPS apps. And I’ve used dozens upon dozens of GPS related iOS apps.


#6

I do not believe this is related to GPS accuracy in iOS. When actively using the gotenna app. The topographic map in the gotenna app shows the live gps position which is accurate. The moment I switch to the standard road map view in gotenna it will show an old location and will not update. The moment I switch back to topographic view in the gotenna app it shows the correct location.

Furthermore I can switch to literally any other gps app on my iPhone and have pinpoint accuracy immediately. The moment I switch back to gotenna street maps it still is showing me at a location where I haven’t been at for up to an hour, sometimes much longer.

The problem is not gps accuracy from iOS.

This is especially apparent while in a moving car. It is obvious that the iOS gotenna app is not showing the users live position data because it does not move with you as you drive down the road or walk down the street.

This has occurred on well over a dozen different iPhones of friends and family.

I have tried erasing the gotenna app, hard rebooting iPhones, & even erasing various iPhones completely. No other app has this problem on any of our iPhones. Only the gotenna app.

Please update the app so the street maps shows a live location like the topographic screen.

Also please update the app so the app uses the actual live location of the user when their location is requested by another user or when said user tries to manually share their current location.

The app should automatically refresh the users location and share accurate up to date gps data. Requiring users to force quite the gotenna app should not be required. Plus that doesn’t work.

Sharing a location that is 20 miles away from my actual location isn’t a feature.


#7

iOS 11 GPS accuracy has been a major issue since the system came out. It’s well-documented if you do a Google search. From my own personal experience I’ve had this issue as well when using ride-hailing apps (I once almost ordered a cab to a hotel in San Francisco when I was already back home in NYC) and other such GPS-enabled apps. My 2 cents!


#8

I’d be curious to do some digging on these other apps. I can’t speak to how they operate, but it’s entirely possible that they have loose qualifications for what constitutes a valid location update (much like iOS). This would explain why you see different behavior with goTenna-- there’s higher scrutiny placed on accuracy reports.

As for the topographic map reports, this is something we can look into. I’m fairly certain the topo logic simply has a lower threshold on this exact accuracy qualification.

We certainly understand and echo your urgency around this issue!


#9

This reminds me about the two somewhat divergent means of verifying the accuracy of navigation in our modern age. The new way is about relying on various electronic means to determine position. The old way is relying on various analog means – and sometimes old fashioned folkways to do so.

This also suggests what one’s backup/cross-checking nav-aids should be. If you’re one of those who’s become very comfortable relying on the cellphone (with or without goTenna) for navigation - or never knew any different - cellphones are rather fickle devices in any situation that requires absolute accuracy for the specific reason noted above, plus others. The battery never ran out in any of my compasses. Maps, while bulky, are often the easiest way to trace a route. It’s a good habit to get into in every situation and absolutely necessary in any case where people might be endangered by an inaccurate location by any device.

I do not mean to make a blanket indictment of those raising these concerns. People should be aware of them. But much of what GPS offers is subject to multiple vagaries beyond the control of goTenna or even Apple. For instance, in case of a major conflict, you can expect considerable degradation of GPS accuracy from what recent experience seems to suggest users should expect, even here in North America. The military has the means to feed in corrective data. Ordinary folks, probably not.

The bigger issue here is that no one whose duty or job it is to navigate would EVER argue you should solely rely on a cellphone to navigate. They don’t, except in a pinch when their backup system goes down, I suppose. This is not to underplay either the benefits of the feature in goTenna or to suggest it is unreliable. It is within the limits of the system as discussed above.

If you are a dedicated modern person and don’t want to learn what I’ll suggest next and you need to rely on electronics for safe navigation, then I would suggest “pairing” your goTenna with one of the many affordable handheld GPS units. I have a Garmin Legend C that isn’t all that much bigger than a goTenna that I rely on, in addition to an older Garmin car dashboard unit that I have topo mapping I can load to supplement the road mapping that is standard on these units, just a bit larger than most cellphones. Either one plus a goTenna and I’d be fine most places. But that’s because I rely on the other approach to this…

Learn navigation via the old methods so that you can rely on it, using your electronic means as backup and verification. I’m more comfortable around a map and compass than around a cellphone with goTenna.

How ever you do it, it’s very important to understand where you are and where you’re going at all times, which simply put are how you avoid getting lost. To do that, you have to employ a self-awareness that doesn’t come easily if you’re used to not worrying much about navigation and just punching the button to check something that tells you that every so often.

While I do empathize with those who experience these frustrating dislocations, I’d argue that the danger comes not from any hypothetical goTenna inadequacy. Instead, it comes from the danger of assuming too much about the accuracy of computer involved and then failing to adjust effectively to employ the basics of navigational practices that are routinely used when the navigator truly must take responsibility for the life and safety of those around and themselves.

It’s probably worthwhile to point out that goTenna has made no claims that the goTenna can be used for navigation that would apply to circumstances where “navigation” is meant in a formal legal sense. Yes, goTenna does care about this and seems to have done everything currently possible to get the best accuracy for its app within the confines of current hardware and software it has little to no control over. There will be future opportunities to improve this situation as phone mfg’s up the ante with improved accuracy. Are there phones out there already that do this? I don’t know, but if you know enough about them to suggest a model, go ahead, people want to know.

Even with suitable future improvements, goTennas would still not be navigational devices in the sense that talk about how they “endanger” people superficially suggests. To do that, you’d need to make the choice, not about whether or not to take the goTenna, but to also leave home without an adequate primary or backup means of recognized legal navigation in circumstances that seem to suggest that’s a good idea.


#10

Luckily I’m an Eagle Scout so I grew up on using a map, compass, and just keeping track of where I am, where I came from, and where I’m going. Being a ham radio operator meant that I had multiple means of backup communications as well.

However I think all of this is a bit off topic from fixing a glitch in an app.


#11

If there was an easy fix for the glitch, given there’s already a lot of awareness of the problem at goTenna, then yeah, could be somewhat tangential. But I suspect there is no easy fix, so people will need to live with it for awhile.

And ultimately, until consumer grade GPS location is so reliable and accurate it fades away as a problem…well, there’s still the problems of device and system failure, signal accuracy degradation, and just plain ol’ dead batteries. To me, the skills you learned as an Eagle Scout (I managed to get to Star before dad’s transfer took me to a place where the Scout program was not nearly so inviting or certain) will always be useful, because even while various systems fail, such knowledge doesn’t get unlearned. As you note, it’s always idling in the background even when you are able to rely on electronics. Now if we could just impart that skill to all goTenna users this will be less of an issue and more of an irritation in the absence of a quick fix for it.


#12

There’s a clear distinction between standard GPS and aGPS (aka “assisted GPS”), which most phones use by default.

I’ve disabled aGPS on all of my devices (and gained nearly half a day of additional battery life as a result). I also don’t use the data network for location placement, and using standard GPS is significantly more secure in terms of unsolicited, silent tracking of my devices.

If your phone is just using aGPS (tower-assisted, “high-accuracy”), and does not fall back to traditional GPS (“coarse”), it may only record your last verified location on a map, as determined by aGPS positioning.

I do, however, see a lot of discrepancy with GPS positioning in coarse mode (no data network, no towers, no aGPS assist) when I’m in a dense metro area, where higher buildings would obscure my devices line-of-sight of overhead satellites.

This is one reason I carry SatelliteAR on my devices, so I can physically see where the satellites are, and position myself to be in “view” of them.

augmentedreality_00


#13

Excellent points and still more reason to consider supplementing the in-app location services with higher accuracy devices if this is something you need to rely on with considerable accuracy.

It’s important to adjust your tools to your needs. Most of the time the Swiss Army knife works well. Sometimes you just need to get a proper screwdriver.


#14

The problem exists when in civilization with strong cellular signal as well as when in remote areas without any cellular signal.


#15

Here is another example of the gotenna app showing old position data while in street map mode yet the moment I switch to topographic map mode it shows my accurate position. If I switch back to street map mode in the gotenna app a moment later it again shows old position data. The gotenna app has accurate position data but there is a glitch in the street level map mode which prevents it from showing your live position unless you use the topographic map mode, which is only accessible by paying for a plus subscription.


#16

Are you sure your GTM update interval isn’t set too low to preserve battery life, but that it’s impeding your ability to get accurate positioning?

Check under Settings → GPS Settings → Update Location, and set it to an interval that is appropriate for your needs.


#17

I think he uses a iPhone


#18

Oy! You’re right… I assumed they were the same in both versions of the app. I just checked and they’re not.

It’s a shame iOS has such basic, unconfigurable services and sensors (Location and GPS in this case) when compared to the amazing power and flexibility of an Android device.

Edit: Speaking of iOS, I just tripped on two odd ‘bugs’ with the iOS version while looking through the app to try to configure its GPS polling frequency:

  1. There’s no way to re-associate/re-grant permission for the goTenna app to read my Contacts. Upon initial install, I told it that it did not have permission to read my Contacts (because nobody I know has a goTenna, and wouldn’t use it with their phone number if they did). goTenna warns me that it needs access to Contacts, and redirects me to the goTenna Settings page, where… there’s no way to grant it the access it needs.
  2. In the same goTenna Settings page, there’s a Location option, which has two sub-options; “Never” and “While Using the App”. There’s often a third option “Always”, which apps like Google Maps, Waze, OSMand all request and can use… but goTenna doesn’t request this permission, and thus is isn’t available in the app.

I wonder, if it did have an “Always” option, would it update its location from the iOS cache more frequently than current polling, and thus have the possibility of a higher-accuracy posisioning that ShootAnyAngle is looking for?

Edit: Confirmed the first bug. If you remove the app and reinstall, and select ‘Allow’ when it prompts you to grant access to Contacts, you get an additional toggle in the goTenna Settings page that is missing if you deny that request.

IOW, if you denied access to Contacts when you went through the initial setup of the app, you can’t ever allow it again, because the option is missing.

However, if you do allow it to read Contacts during that initlal setup, the toggle shows up in the goTenna Settings and then remains persistent, allowing you to allow/deny/allow those permissions as needed.

Definitely a bug, but off-topic here.


#19

It might be a bug, but may also be a way of dealing with Apple’s tendency to reset user options when it does updates. Doing it this way may overcome that issue, I just haven’t tracked it specifically enough to know. For many users, the answer might be Never or While Using the App, but never Always, which I’m guessing is what Apple might prefer over the alternatives if it did do such a reset.

Of course, if that is the case, it’s better that it’s openly documented for everyone’s benefit.


#20

That setting option used to be in the iOS version. It has been removed. However the problem existed even with that feature set to always.