The question is as simple and clear as it sounds.

When celullar data and Wi-Fi are turned off on my iPhone 6, location services work great and I get my location in a moment with a precision of 1-2 meters.

However, if I turn my celullar data on, it takes 10-15 seconds to get my location and, usually, it is pretty incorrect (+- 200 meters and it randomly moves around while I am standing at the same place). As some of my friends have the same problem, it looks like it is mobile network operator issue (Altel 4G, Kazakhstan).

Why does iPhone prefer to use cell network-based or wifi-based location services while GPS is doing good? How can I turn off cell network-based and wifi-based location services, so it uses only GPS services and doesn't work at all if GPS is not available.

Now, I have to turn my celullar data off in order to get my precise location and turn it on later. However, it makes playing some games involving both location services and celullar data impossible.

  • Are you in an area where antenna of cellular phone network are sparsed?
    – dan
    Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 13:07

5 Answers 5


The iPhone's systems are optimized for battery life. From the chip design to the OS, battery conservation takes precedence over all.

GPS chips are massive power consumers. Read these answers for more information on GPS chip power use. Due to this, the iPhone will always prefer to find its location with wifi/cell tower triangulation, then refine with GPS. The phone will often quickly cycle the GPS chip on and off, confirming location as needed. (remember, computers think in microseconds or smaller)

Since the iPhone is not a dedictaed GPS, you likely will never find a way to force it to become one. You might try an iPhone GPS application, many of which seem to 'force' the GPS chip (and drain the battery).

For more, learn about Assisted GPS, which explains how GPS works on your phone, including iPhone. This may also explain why your carrier might be a challenge, as it might not be providing you with Mobile Station Assisted data.

  • I'm using the navigation app in my car, with the iPhone connected to a power supply. Power's less a concern than data use.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 17:52
  • Less of a concern to you perhaps, but the iPhone does not behave differently when charging. Power concerns are not simply availability for charging but cycles used as well as the thermal envelope of the CPU and GPU. The iPhone in particular suspends and ends programs, throttles CPU, and other tasks, automatically to reduce battery use, regardless of charge state.
    – cmason
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 18:31

You can use Google Maps in offline mode for the GPS part of the question but you won't get the live traffic updates. You can navigate on any part of the map that you've previously downloaded to your iPhone and it will track your location using the GPS chip.

The traffic updates come over the cellular connection, not the GPS, so if you turn that off you're not going to get the live updates, detours, arrival time, etc.


If you want better location accuracy, you might want to try some MFI certified GPS. I have BadElf Pro as dedicated GPS tracker and it claims to overtake iPhone location service data stream when active. That might solve your problem with accuracy and lower power consumption. BadElf is not cheap. Check it out.


On iOS, it seems you can't disable cellular. But I think it is not important. After get new location, you check accuracy, if accuracy > 100, discard it and wait to get next location.


Smartphones use mobile/WiFi networks first to locate you because they are nearest you and this won't drain much of your phone's battery, whereas GPS uses satellites requiring more power from your phone looking for a minimum of 3 satellites to completely work.

  • You're getting downvotes because your statement that the phones uses mobile networks first because they " are nearest you " is incorrect. Distance has nothing to do with it.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 12:09
  • Your hypothesis is correct in a high density urban environment.
    – dan
    Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 13:10
  • Please bring your question about down votes in comment.
    – dan
    Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 13:11
  • I don't get the down-vote at all when it's clearly how iOS or any smartphone OS were designed to do. A smartphone is not a dedicated GPS device, so there's really no other way to prioritize GPS than downloading an offline map and disabling cellular network services. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 8:26

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