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Your data plan could fall victim to navigation

Peak fall foliage on back road in Peabody MA

Road through peak fall foliage

If you have been with me a while you know I have been advocating travel with a map book like the Delorme Gazetteers and a GPS. For me, my cellphone is my primary GPS which is currently a Verizon Samsung S6, and my back-up which is an old Garmin (real) GPS.

What is bringing this up? Ask yourself this. Do you have an unlimited data plan? If so no need to read on.

Talk about this subject in my Autumn Advice forum (brand new)

For the past year or two I’ve noticed subtle tweaks to the “Google” maps system. The Maps voice has gotten better (more data) and in the settings I’ve been asked to add “high accuracy location” so your placement in location services will be more accurate, more accurate is better, right? (also more data)

How I noticed this problem

data plan

mobile data on or off

Lisa and I were on our way to the Fort at Number 4 in Charlestown NH for a French and Indian war reenactment. I hadn’t been there for many years so I whip out my S6 and plug in the address and we’re off. (convenient is not always good)

On Route 93 traffic stopped and since there, was an exit right there we took the off ramp and the GPS started to route us through Manchester NH and onto the destination. Note* we were routed all over the place and if I didn’t know better, I would think the phone was a little lost. Soon, Lisa got an alert on her phone from Verizon. We’re informed that our data plan was at 50% of our 1 GB data, I was a week from my data plan starting over so we were fine, or so I thought.  20-30 minutes later another alert we’re at 75%, ouch?

We’re about 20 minutes from the Fort and another alert and we’re at 90%!!! Well I pulled over and handed the NH Gazetteer to Lisa (as I always try to have these in the car) Her job was to get us from where we were to the Fort. First she had to figure out where on the map we were (which is why we have a GPS)

mobile data plan screenI then went to settings and data usage and turned of mobile data. No more mapping. I got Verizon on the hone and they were apologetic but weren’t sure what happened.. They gave me (the unhappy customer) another 500 MB of data. (promotional and will be on the account for a year)

The following week, I got a hold of tech support and discussed the maps data usage. The official answer is “Industry data says it should only use 5MB per hour”.  I reiterated that I went through 400+MB in an hour or so.

The technician also told me his trick to beat the system since he doesn’t have unlimited data. He turns on mapping to his location and then, once it’s all loaded up, he turns off mobile data. (screen won’t update) Now this will work but if you like your turn by turn guidance without stopping to see your next turn on the map or whether you just passed it, then you’ll be sucking down data like I did.

Why did this happen?

Another thing we discussed, is what may have caused this? I watched my connectivity and except in towns I was at best, in 3G coverage and the further west we went the worse it got. The technician theorized that due to Google Maps having to make all these fine point triangulation’s that it uses more data and if you go from from 4G to 3G or even roaming, Google is pulling data from other sources that it has to search for. Basically it uses much more data

Screenshot_2015-07-14-08-52-34One thing to try is going into settings and change from high accuracy to GPS only and see what happens. Those who care about their privacy should note that going back to high accuracy, the phone will inform you that high accuracy improves accuracy and helps the phone find your location quickly but will also use more battery power (nothing about data) and anonymous location data will be sent to Google (anonymous… yeah right) I’m sure I won’t receive an AD for a store based on my location to that store…

The result!

If you are traveling where I recommend, (The backroads of New England) then this could happen to you. So be very aware of your data usage, (forewarned is forearmed). If you are like me and I love to just have the map feature running on the back farm roads of Peacham VT and I guarantee that there isn’t any 4G connectivity in Peacham. So turn the map feature on only as needed.

I can’t guarantee that this will happen to you. I may have something set wrong but I wanted to give you a heads-up so you aren’t blind-sided when after one day your data plan runs out!

So our choices are:

  • If you don’t have unlimited data then you may have to map out ahead of time and shut off mobile data.
  • Rely on your Gazetteer a lot more
  • Or you can travel with a “real” GPS from one of the various makers

If you are on an unlimited plan you don’t have to worry about it. Also I don’t know how the other carriers handle this. (is Sprint or T-mobile better?)

I’m sorry that there a lot of IFs here but I would love to hear in the comments if this has happened to you?

Escape today

Have you noticed the greater data usage when you are running the Google maps. Are you running a different navigational assistant? If so which one?

Jeff "Foliage" Folger  You can purchase images by visiting my Fine Art Gallery websites
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Jeff Foliage

My name is Jeff Folger,
but people call me Jeff Foliage.
I have several pages that I write blogs for such as:
My most popular blog is for Leaf peepers: Jeff
I live in Salem, Massachusetts and work as a blogger and Travel Photographer. I'm also the founder of the New England Photography Guild.
Feel free to visit me on my blogs and see what life in New England is like.

I started with Yankee Magazine as their first blogger on everything fall foliage. Now I blog on my own blog on my favorite subject, telling leaf peepers where the fall foliage is showing up in New England and helping them (to some extent) plan their fall foliage vacations.
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Watch your data plan for your autumn trip? — 3 Comments

  1. Jeff! would love to hear from you. Lost my hard drive on computer with your info in it….
    Very interested in your horror Data story; have just started using Samsung Galaxy 5 with its Google Maps to get me from Point A to Point B; loving it! But totally unaware of the dreadful data possibility, so thank you.

  2. Great advice, Jeff! We noticed the same thing happening out west during our California vacation when we were in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I just turned off our maps app once we knew where we were going. Often times we had no service at all. I didn’t know about this increased accuracy thing, so we will be watching for that, too. Thanks for the heads up.

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