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Flaw in Google Now iOS App Keeps GPS Active

Sections: InterrupTech, Software / Applications

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Google Now

When I woke up this morning, I noticed that the GPS icon was showing on my iPad. The only app I had running was my alarm clock, which doesn’t use Location Services. It was odd but didn’t give it too much more thought.

Then I was browsing Twitter and noticed someone had tweeted that the new Google Search app (with Google Now) had a flaw, leading to the GPS being always on. Aha! Perhaps mystery solved. I checked my iPhone. Sure enough. GPS icon active.

GPS on

I uninstalled the Google Search app from my iPad and iPhone. GPS icon went away.

There’s an active discussion around the topic on one of the Google Search forums. It looks like a number of people are having the same problem. A representative from Google has posed a “solution,” turning off Location reporting in the app. Unfortunately, Location reporting is what makes the feature useful, and people on the thread are complaining, with justification, that it isn’t a real solution.

Until it’s fixed, I’ll leave the app uninstalled, which is disappointing. I’d really been looking forward to having Google Now on my iPhone. But not at the expense of a huge battery drain.

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7 Comments

  1. It’s not a flaw, you agree to that setting when you set up Google Now. To disable it open Google Search app, click settings, click privacy scroll down and uncheck location reporting – it should take care of the problem. It is important to note however that most apps use cell triangulation only for background GPS services which drains battery much slower than satellite run GPS.

    Alan
  2. Here’s a fix for Google Now using Location Services always:

    http://www.karthikk.net/2013/05/prevent-google-now-for-ios-from-using-your-location-services-quick-fix/

    Karthik K
  3. That’s easy to fix. Get an Android. Works perfectly well on my Samsung Galaxy S3.

    Ashley
  4. All right. You can quibble with me on using the word “flaw.” But it is a problem. Even when the app isn’t running, Location Services is still on. I had to completely uninstall the app to turn GPS off.

    And turning off Location Reporting defeats most of the purpose of using the app. I don’t want to have to turn on and off Location Reporting every time I run the app.

    I’m fine with GPS being on while I’m running the app. I’m not okay with it still being on when the app isn’t running. I’d never even launched it on my iPad. Just installing the darned thing turned on my GPS and left it on all night. Not cool!

    Juli Monroe
  5. Hi there, I’m with Google and wanted to address this concern:
    Reports that Google Now on iOS drains battery life are incorrect. We understand people’s concern about seeing the Location Services icon stay on when they use Google Now. Many apps that keep the icon on actually do drain the phone’s battery because they require very accurate location. (For example, some apps have to run your GPS all the time during navigation to keep you from missing your turn.) This update to the Google Search app is built very differently: it uses cell towers and wifi hot spots for much lower battery impact.

    We extensively tested Google Now on iOS for months and didn’t see reports of significant battery impact — we would encourage you to try it in the Google Search app for a few days and we don’t expect you to see significant impact on your battery. If you are seeing a problem, please do tell us (just tap feedback in the app settings). We take user feedback very seriously.
    Best,
    Krisztina

    Krisztina Radosavljevic
    • Krisztina, thanks for the responding. Good information.

      However, it still doesn’t answer why the GPS icon is still on even when the app isn’t running. That’s a far bigger concern for me and makes me wonder if the OS and your app aren’t playing well together. As I said in one of my earlier comments, I hadn’t even launched the app once on my iPad, and the icon was on. That is a concern to me. Any feedback on that?

      Juli Monroe
  6. The other problem is that if Google Now is always showing a location icon then you don’t know what other apps are still using the location services in a battery draining way. Moreover, there are two location icons. The transparent one and the filled one. The transparent icon implies there is an app running that uses passive location services (eg geofencing) and the filled icon shows that an app is actively using the location services. Google Now not only shows the icon when the app is not running but it is also always showing the filled icon, which is more concerning.

    Ross Collins