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GPS on a Degoogled Phone

One of the most common questions we get about degoogled phones is, “Can I use GPS on a degoogled phone?”

The confusion here is understandable!

By its nature, a degoogled phone will not work with Google Maps or Google Navigation services. For some people, this is a huge deal-breaker.

However, all hope is not lost. There are a lot of options for navigation outside of Google Maps, and even outside of cell phones themselves.

But before we talk about alternatives to Google Maps on degoogled phones, let’s talk about why Google Maps itself is so dangerous to your privacy.

Weaponized WiFi

Ever wonder how your Android or iPhone device has such insanely accurate location data?

“Normal” GPS is only accurate within a few hundred yards, but Google can peg your location within mere feet!

They do this through a technology called WiFi triangulation.

Your phone is constantly scanning for WiFi access points wherever it goes, and Google has been logging and stealing locations of all routers in the world for over a decade.

In short, if your phone is ever within range of a router whose location Google knows, they also know exactly where your phone is, even without GPS.

The signal strength of your WiFi isn’t just for your convenience, it’s also used to determine your location in vicinity to a wireless access point.

With the advent of contact tracing technology, Google is now admitting they can also do this with Bluetooth in relation to other people’s phones.

Very creepy stuff! For some people, the convenience of Google Maps is worth this trade-off. But it’s important to understand just how large this violation of privacy is in order to make informed decisions.

Alternatives to Google Maps

Now that we’ve identified why Google Maps is such an affront to your privacy, let’s explore some alternatives for GPS on a degoogled phone.

This is Will Smith in Enemy of the State.

Don’t be like Will Smith.

OsmAnd+

OsmAnd+ is an open-source client that uses Open Street Maps for navigation. It is by far the most popular open-source GPS client and also the best.

In addition to being open-source and privacy-respecting by default, OsmAnd+ also has a number of unique features, like the ability to download and use maps completely offline!

OsmAnd+ is far from perfect, though. You won’t have the convenience of simply searching for a business and mapping to it as you do in Google Maps.

And sometimes, Open Street Maps will have trouble pulling a location from an address. You might have to resort to using coordinates instead.

But overall, it’s a very serviceable GPS app for occasional mapping needs.

MapQuest

Does anyone remember MapQuest? Well, they’re still alive and kicking!

Rather than use GPS directly, you can use a service like MapQuest to deliver directions to your phone. You won’t get turn-by-turn directions this way, but you will have a predefined route that you can follow.

Is this less convenient than Google Maps? Definitely.

Is using a service like MapQuest worth it to retain your privacy? That’s up to you.

Standalone GPS Unit

Before the advent of smartphones, standalone GPS was the only option for turn-by-turn navigation.

And thankfully, it’s still a great option!

GPS companies are not data surveillance companies like Google – their business is selling GPS units and making sure you get from Point A to Point B.

They make their money by providing you with a good product and service, not by spying on you and selling your data to third-parties.

GPS units aren’t cheap – a good one can cost upwards of $100, almost the cost of another budget smartphone. But they offer a great mapping experience without surrendering your autonomy in the process.

Use Two Phones

This option may sound counterintuitive at first, but it’s actually the method we use here at PriviacyToGo.

The method is simple:

  • Use your degoogled phone for 99% of your daily use
  • Keep a second phone as a backup, turned off (and ideally in a faraday cage) and use it only for GPS

This is a great option for those who have an old cell phone lying around – and who doesn’t have an old phone or two collecting dust somewhere? 🙂

You also get another benefit from going this route, and that’s the ability to use your old phone as a honeypot for your privacy.

Your old phone, whose identity Google and countless other trackers already know, will generate a “false” fingerprint of your phone usage habits. All the while, your “real” phone, the degoogled one, is not leaking this information to Big Tech.

This option is also ideal for professional couriers, like those who drive for Uber and Lyft, who require Location Services to do their job.

In Closing

When it comes to GPS on a degoogled phone, there are a lot of options at your disposal.

Some options, like standalone GPS, are even more convenient than using Google Maps. Others sacrifice some convenience in exchange for increased privacy.

If you are the type of person who only uses GPS every now and then, all of the above options are great to consider. Heavy GPS users might require a bit more forethought.

Either way, life after Google doesn’t mean a life without GPS!

Ready to take the next step? We sell degoogled phones at our shop.

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2 thoughts on “GPS on a Degoogled Phone

  1. […] We’ve got a full article on using GPS with degoogled phones here. […]

  2. […] has been performing hyperaccurate location snooping via WiFi triangulation for nearly a decade. Contact tracing is simply the latest iteration – spying from device-to-device via Bluetooth. […]

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