Fix GPS on iPhone 6s

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Two months ago, Google Maps stopped telling me directions when navigating on my Apple iPhone 6s. I could still navigate without the voice prompts though. Two week ago, my current location would only update once per minute. I couldn’t navigate at all. Sometimes, after 5-10 minutes, the GPS location updates would start working correctly again. In any case, my GPS was broken. (Apple Maps exhibited the same GPS problem.)

Note: The intermittent GPS updates reminded me of the refurbished iPhone 5s I got from T-Mobile. It would abruptly lose power in very cold weather. Later I found out that the phone was missing parts inside, specifically, the metal shield over the battery connector; so during cold weather, some parts must have contracted and shorted the battery out. Maybe my GPS problem was similar. Alas, no parts were missing from the iPhone 6s.

I thought it was a software bug because I had updated to iOS 11.2 near the time the GPS started misbehaving. Updating to iOS 11.3 did not fix the GPS problem. I reset the location configuration (under Settings, General, Reset, Reset Location & Privacy), did a “Reset All Settings”, and performed a full system restore (using iTunes), but none of those actions fixed the GPS.

After researching, I could only conclude that the GPS issue was a hardware problem. Most likely, the GPS antenna needed to be replaced.

Tip: If you no longer hear the Google Maps (or Apple Maps) navigational voice prompts, then the iPhone probably was not able successfully to acquire the GPS satellites. However, Google Maps will still roughly (and inaccurately) update your position using the cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth networks.

While there were numerous instructions on replacing the iPhone 6 GPS antenna, I could only find one Youtube video (from the Netherlands) that had instructions on replacing the iPhone 6s GPS antenna.

The reason is that while the iPhone 6 had a separate GPS antenna, the iPhone 6s uses an integrated cellular, Wi-Fi, and GPS antenna. Unfortunately, different sources refer to the antenna by different names. iFixit calls it the cellular antenna. Some Youtube videos call it the Wi-Fi antenna. Many eBay sellers call it the antenna “retaining bracket” which doesn’t sound like an antenna at all.

Note: To add to the confusion, there is a second Wi-Fi antenna which iFixit calls the “Wi-Fi diversity antenna”. I suppose it is necessary to increase the Wi-Fi reception range.

I ended up purchasing a used, original iPhone 6s antenna by mistake. I was looking for an authentic iPhone 6s antenna (instead of the cheaper “OEM” clones), found one for a reasonable price (almost twice as expensive as the OEM), thought it was new, and purchased it. I installed the antenna by following instructions from the Youtube video above and iFixit’s iPhone 6s Cellular Antenna Replacement page.

Once the antenna was replaced and after testing, I found that the GPS was still not working correctly. While I didn’t see the intermittent GPS location update issue, it would still take several minutes before Google Maps would start updating the location correctly.

Note: Once the GPS was working, I did noticed that in Google Maps (and Apple Maps), the shadow on the location dot pointed in the wrong direction. It was 80 degrees off from my car’s direction of travel. Strangely, the directional shadow was correct when Google Maps was giving walking directions.

Some forums recommended installing an iOS app called GPS Diagnostic: Satellite Test (available for $2.99). The app provided more information on the GPS function and indicated that it was taking several minutes before the phone could acquire the GPS satellites.

Tip: Test the GPS outside with an unobstructed sky. The phone will have problems acquiring the GPS Satellites inside a house.

In conclusion, I purchased a brand new iPhone 6s OEM antenna, installed it, walked outside, opened up the GPS Diagnostics app, and within a few seconds, the phone successfully acquired the GPS satellites. I’ve tested the GPS navigation a couple of times since then and Google Maps worked immediately as expected. The directional shadow was still wrong, but hopefully it will fix itself over time.

Update: Sporadically, the GPS would not be able to acquire the satellite when I first turn it on. I found out that it was because I hadn’t tightened the screws on the GPS antenna enough. Unlike the screws on the other parts (like the metal shields which you don’t need to tighten too much), the screws on the antenna need to be tight to ensure a solid metal connection.

I noticed another benefit. Wi-Fi reception is poor in a corner of my house. With the old antenna, the iPhone wouldn’t switch to the LTE network, but would just keep trying and failing to use the Wi-Fi. With the new OEM antenna, the iPhone switches quickly to the LTE network (and back).

I hope the above will help you to fix your iPhone 6s’ GPS woes.

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You May Not Have the Latest Windows 10 Version

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I found an issue with my Windows 10 desktop. Unknown to me, it has been running an old version of Windows 10 and is lacking all of the recent security updates. Worse, when I run “Check for updates” (a.k.a. Windows Update), Windows say that it is “up to date”. But Windows 10 lies.

I remember Windows Update complaining about a failed update and asking me to reboot several months ago. After several reboots, Windows stopped complaining so I assumed the problem was solved. But it wasn’t. Windows had given up and then pretended that everything was hunky-dory.

Running “winver” tells me that my desktop’s Windows 10 version is 1703. The latest version is 1709, known as the Fall Creator’s Update. When I check my update history (under Windows Update), it says that the version 1709 update has “failed to install”. There used to be a link to reboot so Windows could try again, but that link is gone.

Update Assistant Required

I check the web and there are all sorts of solutions recommending running sfc (and dism), stopping services, clearing out the update history, etc. I try several but they did not fix the problem. The real problem is that Windows Update is not capable of upgrading to version 1709. Version 1709 requires that we install and run the Windows 10 Update Assistant utility.

The Windows 10 Update Assistant downloads the version 1709 update, installs it, and requests a reboot. (Even though I gave permission to reboot, nothing happened but the Update Assistant quitting. I had to do a manual reboot.) On boot up, a grey screen is shown with a message that the update will take awhile. On my Intel Core i5 system with SSD, it took around 20 minutes to complete the update.

The “winver” utility now says that the version is 1709. Windows Update now indicates that “updates are available” and starts downloading them for installation. (There are about 5 updates including “Definition Update for Windows Defender Antivirus”.)

Cleanup Old Windows Version

The old version of windows is kept under “C:\Windows.old” and takes up a lot of space (22.6GB on my system). The directory is classified as temporary files, so there are several ways to delete it.

  • Run “Disk Cleanup”, select the “C:\” drive, click on “Clean up system files” button on the bottom-left, select “C:\” drive again, check “Previous Windows installation(s) 23.9GB” and “Windows Update Cleanup 1.78GB”, click OK, and confirm by clicking “Delete Files”.
  • Run “Storage”, click on “This PC (C:)”, click on “Temporary files”, check “Previous version of Windows”, and click “Remove files”.
  • Manually deleting the directory.

Note: Either the Disk Cleanup or Storage may freeze when deleting the “Windows Update Cleanup”. This happened on my system. After waiting 20 minutes, I cancelled the cleanup and restarted. The second time through, the operation completed within several seconds.

I recommend uninstalling the “Windows 10 Update Assistant” using the “Add and remove programs”. It is no longer needed. When the next major version update is required, you will want to download the latest version of the Update Assistant then. Uninstalling Update Assistant will delete the “C:\Windows10Upgrade” directory (20MB).

Note: On my desktop, the Windows 10 Update Assistant insists on launching at startup to thank me for updating with a truncated text message. Worse, the close window icon (upper-right X mark) is greyed out. Worst, it places an icon in the system tray. I don’t recall if the system tray icon has a menu option to quit or not.

Check your Windows 10 version and if necessary, update to the latest 1709 version with the Windows 10 Update Assistant.

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Apple iTunes, A Hard Drive Space Hog

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My Windows laptop complains that there is very little free space left on the 128GB SSD drive. That’s strange because Windows 10 and the few applications I installed shouldn’t have taken that much space, maybe at most half the hard drive space. I dig around and find that my user’s hidden AppData directory is taking up 47GB!

Further investigation reveals that the culprit is “%APPDATA%\Apple Computer”, belonging to the Apples iTunes application. Specifically, iTunes’ device backup directory uses 34GB and software update directories use 12GB.

I use iTunes to backup and update several iPhones and iPads belonging to myself and different family members. Over the years, there have been many backups and many iOS versions. Because the base memory on the newer iPhone and iPad has increased (from 16GB to 32GB or higher), their backup images have grown in size (more songs, photos, and videos). Worse, iTunes does not automatically delete old iOS images that are no longer in use.

Tip: Windows 10 (and probably Windows 8) includes a Systems Settings app called “Storage” that helps you to view and drill down into the space usage. Run it and select the drive to view how much space each file category is using. Click on the category to drill down further.

Below are instructions on how to free up the drive space on Windows.

Delete Device Backups

To delete the backups using iTunes:

  1. Browse to menu “Edit->Preferences…”.
  2. Click on “Devices” (top-right icon).
  3. Select the unwanted backup listed under “Device backups:” and click “Delete Backup”.

Tip: Look for duplicate device backups to delete. Usually the device’s old backup is overwritten by the new backup; however, sometimes iTunes won’t overwrite and will create a new backup instead.

iTunes will move the deleted backups to the “%LOCALAPPDATA%\Temp” directory so you will want to clean up that directory manually or by using the free CCleaner tool. (Unfortunately, Windows’ built-in “Disk Cleanup” app does not empty the “%LOCALAPPDATA%\Temp” directory.)

Alternatively, you can manually delete all the backups using the command line:

# Change directory to the device backup directory
cd "%APPDATA%\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup"

# Delete all subdirectories under device backup directory
for /d %d in (*) do rmdir /s %d

# You will be prompted to confirm deletion for each subdirectory.
# Note: We can pass a "/q" quiet flag to "rmdir" to not prompt, but that is dangerous!

Delete iOS Images

Delete the iOS images using the command line below. iTunes will download them again in the future if necessary.

# Delete iPad iOS images (ex: iPad3,2_9.3.5_13G36_Restore.ipsw)
cd "%APPDATA%\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPad Software Updates"
del *.ipsw

# Delete iPhone iOS images (ex: iPhone_4.0_64bit_10.3.1_14E304_Restore.ipsw)
cd "%APPDATA%\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates"
del *.ipsw

# Delete iPod iOS images (ex: iPod4,1_6.1.6_10B500_Restore.ipsw)
cd "%APPDATA%\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPod Software Updates"
del *.ipsw

Note: iTunes 12.6.2 and earlier versions would also backup the apps, taking up more space than later versions. Later versions will re-download the apps from the App Store on the device when restoring.

If you use iTunes to backup and update iOS devices and find that your computer is running out of drive space, you may be suffering from the same issue that I have above. I hope that the above info will help you to slay your iTunes space hog.

Tip: Instructions are similar for Macs. Look in the “~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup” and “~/Library/iTunes” directories.

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