In the year of twenty-twenty one, I still map using an external Bluetooth GPS receiver unit (yes, and yes, GPS explicitly refers to the American constellation only).
The device in question is Qstarz BT-Q818XT. It was updated with a firmware that kinda fixes the Y2K problem of GNSS.
Purchased in 2014, I used to hook it up with the BlueGps app with a tablet running Android Jelly Bean.
Latest Android versions shipped with devices come with time. The BlueGps app stopped working in Android KitKat. Luckily, there’s another app in the Google Play Store that still could do exactly that: it’s simply called as Bluetooth GPS. The APK copy of it is still able to function independently in devices without Google Play Services.
Fast forward to the dessert release of Pie. Significant changes in more recent releases of Android means apps that no longer patched, with several legacy API calls begin to cease functioning properly. At least the app would just still work on Android 8.1.0 Oreo.
What other alternative is available?
Browsing through the Google Play Store appeared to be hopeless at first. Similar apps like Bluetooth GPS are common - they stopped received any updates for quite a long time. I don’t want to take the risk to give those shady apps a go, until I stumbled upon Bluetooth GNSS - GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou. What a long, descriptive name for an app.
No adverts? Cool? More like cooler! I took a dive.
Yes, it works on Android 9.0 Pie. As the time of writing (the app received an update on 26 May 2021), the app simply works on Nokia 2.2 running Android 11 (warning: a 6MB GIF!). I suspect it would run OK on devices with near vanilla Android (Pixel, Android One, etc).
Some disclaimer: I don’t receive anything to share this.
I also own a Xiaomi Mi 6X phone, slapped with Havoc OS 2.8 (based on Android 9.0 Pie). Cut short to the important bit: yes, things will work.
However, I noticed some subtle difference when the same unit is paired with Mi 6X. Tracks recorded on the Xiaomi phone appeared to be more “ragged” than everything else I’ve logged with, including the Jelly Bean tablet (now dead). I never tested the app on the phone with MIUI “skin” though.
Problems loading images?
Some background is important: I used the F-Droid OsmAnd app to record tracks on the Xiaomi phone (orange) and Nokia 2.2 (green). Settings were set where every possible changes in my movement should be recorded with time.
Mind that above track is not the first attempt for the Xiaomi phone.
Some might wonder what the initial attempt looks like.
I thought probably I’ve overlooked important toggles in the OsmAnd app.
In the Location settings, I’ve set to receive locations with GPS only. The phone’s performance was set to “Balance”, rather than “Extreme Battery”. Then it was decided, why not try logging a track with OSMTracker for Android.
Huh, I don’t know.
There. Collecting unmapped informations (and by my standards, ragged GPS tracks) would still be fine, but I definitely need to log more tracks to see whether phones with custom ROMs may not be fit with me. The phone is just great for other normal usages, but probably better if tweaks are available just not to see those pointy tracks.
Comment from kucai on 9 June 2021 at 01:48
Did the nokia used Kalman filter perhaps? That will definitely smooth out the track, but you’ll see that the radius of any sweeping left/right turn becomes a bit ‘elongated’.
In my case, raggy tracks just easily get fixed with JOSM’s shift-Y with 0.5mtr setting.
Comment from AkuAnakTimur on 9 June 2021 at 03:54
No idea… I’ve collected a lot of tracks with OSMTracker for Android with Nokia 2.2 before the switch to OsmAnd though.
Comment from StephaneP on 20 June 2021 at 14:42
There are some BlueGps forks. I have one which works:
https://github.com/Stefal/bluegnss4droid (beta apk available)
It’s not perfect, and I had some crashes with it, but it’s open source, so anybody could fix the remaining bugs and publish it on F-droid.
Comment from AkuAnakTimur on 22 June 2021 at 04:44
Really cool to see efforts to fork it. Hopefully someone can make it work on latest Android OS.
Comment from StephaneP on 22 June 2021 at 06:42
@AkuAnakTimur, could you test it ?
Comment from AkuAnakTimur on 25 June 2021 at 03:23
I’ll try to give it a spin if I have the opportunity to commute. I’ll let you know my findings. Where should I share my experience?