When we’re traveling, I depend on Google Maps to know where I am. It can be very distressing when I realize that my little blue dot, which represents my location, is actually a block or two off from where I really am. When that happens, it’s time to calibrate the compass.
In addition to my location, the shadow beam of the blue dot shows which direction I am facing. The more accurate your compass is, the narrower and more useful this directional shadow will be. My first tips are for Android only; I will end with some comments about iPhones.
There are two ways to calibrate your Android phone’s compass for Google Maps:
Live View calibration – even greater accuracy
To manually calibrate your compass, just tap on the blue dot. You should see a blue screen like that on the left below. When you tap on “Calibrate compass, you will see a screen like that on the right. Grab your phone and do 3 figure 8s as pictured and it should improve your compass accuracy. You should see Low, Medium, or High.
Live view calibration
This is a new feature of Google Maps on Android. It is especially useful when you are in dense downtown areas and your phone may have difficulty getting a GPS fix. This uses live view to get a fix using the streets, buildings and signs you see in front of you. After tapping the blue dot, you should see “Calibrate with Live View.” If you don’t see that, you may need to move to a different location by a public street. After tapping the “Calibrate with Live View” you should be seeing what your phone’s camera sees. Just lift it up so it sees the street, buildings and signs and wait for it to get a fix. You’re done.
These Google Map calibration features are not currently available on iPhones. You can improve accuracy by making sure that automatic calibration is turned on in settings: Settings, Privacy, Location Services = on, scroll to the bottom and tap on System Services, make sure Compass Calibration is on. You can further improve accuracy by turning on WiFi and Bluetooth. You don’t need to connect, just have them on.