Using an Android GPS in Airplane Mode is natural if you are outside of cell range anyway. However, certain devices struggle to get a GPS fix in the backcountry in this mode.
This recent message from a user best describes the problem:
“. . . on my Motorola Droid X, BackCountry Navigator worked fine at home but when I got into the back country, the program was never able to find my location. We were gone for 5 days and tried it every day without success. I was using the airplane mode as there was no cell service. Is this a problem with the phone or the program?”
Many of you know the answer – it is a problem with the phone in airplane mode. Certain Android phones have trouble getting their first GPS fix in Airplane mode. Most notably, this occurs in phones made by Motorola on the Verizon network. Read Droid, Droid X, etc.
I have worked with Motorola to get this acknowledged as a bug. Based on some reports, I believe this to be resolved in Droid 3.
For earlier devices, a workaround is still available: turn off airplane mode. Since this can be tedious, and leads to battery drain from the phone searching for signal, there is now an automatic solution: GPS Airtime.
At present, this app is only visible in the Market for Motorola phones and a few others. The app description in the Market has directions for testing other phones to see if they need it.
For those of you with a Motorola Droid, be sure and try it out. You can send feedback on whether it worked anonymously through the app.
We hope that this will be a helpful utility for those who want to use their Android GPS in Airplane Mode.