How Does GPS Work without Internet?

Technology has made lives more comfortable and convenient in a number of ways. One such advancement that has helped mankind put away those huge maps and travel with the utmost convenience is the GPS. However, since most of our gadgets which give us access to the GPS are still hugely dependent on a solid network connection, the question remains: How does GPS work without internet?

For if it doesn’t, how can it help in areas where there’s poor connectivity? To answer the question, let’s first try to understand the GPS system.

GPS: What is it?

It’s actually a system that looks up your location by making use of the signals received from the satellite. Since GPS didn’t evolve much in the old times, you could only make out your location on a latitude-longitude display of coordinates. However, later, as technology developed, the GPS came with a map that made it all easier to look up your exact location, no matter where you were on the globe.

You could also navigate and look for easier routes on the map. However, on the downside, nothing much was done about upgrading the map. That is because these maps did not make use of the internet. Nevertheless, they worked as a complete system on their own at that time.

A GPS typically works with a receiver and a processing unit.

Let’s look at each in detail here:

a) GPS Processor or Receiver

The processor or receiver, as the name suggests, tracks the satellite and in turn, find out the user’s location.

b) Processing Unit

The processing unit gives you the map. It connects the satellite coordinates with the location and shows you the area around you in the form of a map. Such can further help you look for the best route to your destination.

How does GPS Work without Internet: The Details

See, preloaded maps do not require the internet connection to work. Since the routes and places around you don’t change much, there isn’t much need for the regular updates.

However, for regular live traffic, route, and map updates, you may need the internet. As simple as it may sound, sadly, even the internet can at times only give you the information that’s not as updated as you require.

Hence, the GPS systems we see today in the form of Google Maps, Sygic, Waze or Apple Maps are only smaller parts of the big picture. The GPS system built in cars too is a smaller version of the actual GPS but, it definitely is a complete navigation system.

Parts of the System

  • GPS Receiver: Just as in the GPS, the receiver is only a one-way communication. It receives the satellite signals and finds out the latitude and longitude coordinates to determine the exact location.
  • A Map: A significant advantage of the built-in GPS is that it comes with the preloaded map. The map includes every detail of the city and country including every key landmark spots, streets, and parks. You can always connect to the internet to download additional maps when needed, but the system is good to go without the internet too.
  • Navigation System: The Navigation system brings the two together and helps keep up with the movement. As you are traveling, it calculates the motion of the person or vehicle and gives you the complete navigation details about your route.

Putting It All Together

The GPS receiver comes into play first. It finds out the exact location of the user. The map, in turn, gives you the coordinates, street, area, city, and country. This way, you get to know your exact location.

Then, as you start moving, the navigation system matches your speed with the time and route. This way, once it knows the direction you are heading to, it will help guide you through to your final destination. Hence, it is a primary, straightforward, yet effective system on its own that works without the internet.

GPS Apps or Software

Today we have a number of mobile Apps too that provide the GPS service offline or without the internet. Some popular examples will be discussed below

Google Maps

Google Maps has become a lifesaver app for many in the recent years. No matter where you are, if you ever get stuck in traffic or want to travel to another city on your own, the app has been nothing but a blessing.

However, the app requires data or Wi-Fi internet connectivity to work and to keep you posted on the route and traffic updates. Nevertheless, you can still download the map for offline use.

The downloaded map initially:

  • did not provide the traffic updates
  • did not let the user search for other places when using the offline map
  • had no navigation service

However, even with these limitations, people were still able to know the exact location and the route—as long as they managed to stay within the defined area.

Recent Update

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for Google to realize that the offline service was not of much help to anyone who was lost and without network connectivity.

So, Google enabled navigation and searching, both offline and online, to help its users. This way, if you ever lost connection during the route, on a downloaded map, you can still navigate, search and always find all the needed information at the same speed and without any disruption.

 How Does GPS Work without Internet in Google Maps?

To download a map offline follow the following steps:

  • Enter the name of the area (city or town) in the search bar.
  • Draw up the information bar at the bottom and tap the “download” option.
  • Select the general area you want to appear offline.
  • Tap “download”.

Sygic GPS Navigation

Sygic is another known name in GPS navigation, and also has the provision for downloading the map for offline use. However, it does not have, let’s say, a user-friendly interface. Unlike Google Maps, here you have to enter the complete address for it to look up the location for you.

Nonetheless, it’s a beneficial app for intercity and intracity travel by road and also gives you a complete 3D overview of the map. Further, the app gives you:

  • Traffic information
  • Photo navigation
  • Walking instructions
  • All the information about speed cameras


All in all, the GPS can still work without the internet—just the way it was meant to be. Since ages, mariners and pilots have made use of the service without the internet, and though it helps to keep the system regularly updated, you can still get the general idea of your location offline.

With such service being offered by all these apps or mini variants of the actual GPS, no one can ever lose their way or worry about taking a longer route.

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