Friday, August 5, 2016

Galaxy S7 on Optus network stuck in “Searching for GPS” - fixed for now!

S7 Navigation

Image courtesy of this YouTube video

One of the things that made me want to upgrade my phone was this. (If you don't want to read that whole post, the problem was with its GPS where it would lose the signal randomly while navigating, which made me go past where I was supposed to turn in places that I was unfamiliar with.)

I did a lot of research before I bought my S7. GPS issue is just one problem; the phone had to be usable in the first place, irrespective of whether it had the GPS issue or not. At the Chadstone Shopping Centre, I played with many phones for many hours and felt the iPhone 6S or the Galaxy S7 were the most usable. Hence I limited my further research to those two.

Sadly, there was no definitive answer to whether either of these phones had the GPS problem. There were complaints from people from both camps about GPS reception issues, sometimes triggered by software updates. But they were not widespread, and there seemed to be solutions to fix those issues.

I bought the S7 expecting everything to work well, but on the very first day I tried to navigate by car, I was hit with the darn issue!!! As soon as I got into the car, I set the destination as Chadstone Shopping Centre because that's where we shop most of the grocery. But all I got was the following message displayed on the Google Maps app.

Waiting for GPS

My current location was shown as a grey circle, instead of a blue circle. It's a bit different to what I experienced with the Nexus 5 though. With the Nexus 5, I would lose the GPS signal randomly.

I tried one of the solutions available on the Internet. Switching to GPS only setting in Locating method was what I had to do. But it did not work in my case. It was still stuck with the "Waiting for GPS" message. I manually closed and relaunched Google Maps but that did not fix it either.


The other solution was to remove the My Optus app that come bundled with Optus branded phones. That is pretty much the only bloatware Optus bundles with a phone nowadays, which is pretty good. But removing that app did nothing either.

For the entire journey which lasted only about 7 minutes, the GPS did not work at all! My location indicator was still stuck as a grey circle at my home address!!!

I was lost. I was pissed!

I did not test it on the way back home though; I cannot remember why. For the next few days, I could not test it because I do not drive much. I don't have to as I don't commute to work; I walk. I mainly use the car for grocery shopping and that happens about couple of times a week.

The next time I tested car navigation, it worked perfectly!!! I felt it was weird; I expected it to not work at all. I drove more than usual on that day, but the GPS never failed. In the morning, I took my kid to the Springvale Home Maker Centre, the in the afternoon I went to Market Europa in Noble Park, Clayton market and Chadstone Shopping Centre. GPS worked flawlessly.

There are two ongoing threads about this issue on Whirlpool forums and Yes Crowd and I revealed my experience. People claimed that neither setting the locating mode to GPS only nor removing of the My Optus app fixed it for them. Apparently, the issue is mostly present with Optus branded phones, so it could even be a bug in the Optus branded firmware. But one guy on Yes Crowd followed up on what I mentioned and figured out that if you reboot the phone after removing the My Optus app, it gets fixed. He did a lot of testing afterwards and it seemed to have worked so far. When I mentioned that you have to reboot the phone after removing the My Optus app on the Whirlpool forums, another guy tested it and he also claimed that issue was no longer showing up on his phone. Many others joined in to say the same. Voila! I also informed about this to Optus via Twitter.

After I removed the My Optus app, I suppose I did reboot the phone or the phone automatically rebooted (there is a feature that can do this weekly in the S7, to keep the performance up) between that time and the next time I tested it, hence why it was working fine for me the second time.

Even though My Optus app was the culprit, I wanted to dig into this a bit. It appeared to me that it was one particular setting that was responsible to all these problems: Network Performance. There is a little info icon next to that setting and this is what it says.


I reinstalled the My Optus app, disabled Network Performance setting and checked if it made things worse again. It did not. I told others about this on the same forums and there were few who were willing to test it. As of today, the results have been positive. But on the Yes Crowd forum, someone mentioned that it still made Pokémon GO not work reliably for him. So, it is still not conclusive this setting was what made the GPS behave erroneously. 

So the conclusion is, if you remove My Optus app, you will have your GPS issues resolved. You might need to reboot the phone just to be safe though. By the time you read this, Optus dev team might have fixed it. This issue was seen in versions prior to 3.61. They updated the app couple of days ago to 3.61 but do not mention anything about fixing this issue, so probably it isn’t fixed. Or perhaps it needs fixing at the firmware level; who knows?


If you are wondering why I wanted to install the My Optus app again, that's because I wanted to monitor my data usage using it. I sure can monitor it from the inbuilt data monitoring feature, but since I haven't owned the phone for a full month yet, and I switched from another plan, I wanted to do it through the app. I could have used Optus' My Account page, but the data usage widget is not functioning at the time of writing this post. So, the My Optus app is the only way I can check it. Once the 2nd month begins, I will gladly get rid of the app.

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