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Issue #739: September 19-25, 2021

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Q: Not sure you can help me, but I finally was forced to buy a smart cell phone, It is a Samsung. But I’m having an issue with using the Google Maps feature. It works well at home connected to the internet. I can set directions and when I get in the car it will guide me to the specific location. But if I want to reset directions to another location it will not locate the location or provide directions and it’s as if it cannot use the local cell coverage to grab the information. Can you help?

– Ron R.
Niceville, Florida

A: I will be the first to admit, Ron, that my smartphone knowledge leans more toward the iPhone line than Android (which, presumably, is what your Samsung phone runs).  Nevertheless, there are certain precepts that are common among such devices, and I’m happy to give you advice as far as my knowledge will take me.  With that disclaimer out of the way, I’ll say that it sounds to me like your phone is programmed so that it must be on Wi-Fi to use the Google Maps app.

When you say “It works well at home connected to the internet.” I’m guessing you mean connected to Wi-fi.  So long as you have service wherever you happen to be located, your phone should always be connected to the Internet.  However, whether the phone, and the apps that it’s running can actually access the Internet is under your control.

It is fairly common for cellular phone providers to offer a data plan that consists of a fixed number of data bytes each billing cycle that can be transmitted to the device.  When you exceed that amount of data, they happily charge you for more.  If you don’t track this, or keep it under control, you can accidentally wind up with an unexpectedly large bill.  To help you to avoid this, those who write the operating system software that powers smart phones provide you the option of whether to allow the phone to use so-called cellular data or to only allow data when you are on Wi-Fi, which is almost always free.  In most cases, it is possible to configure this feature at a granular level – right down to the application level, allowing some apps to use cellular data, while making others wait until the phone is on Wi-Fi. Obviously, if you intend to use an app when you’re mobile, as you want to do with Google Maps, it should be configured to allow the use of cell phone plan data.

To configure this on your Android phone, start by swiping down from the top of your phone’s screen, then tap the settings icon in the upper-right corner.  Find “Cellular” and select it.  Scroll through the list to find Google Maps.  Make sure that “Use cellular data” is turned on.

If this was the only place where the usage of cellular data could be controlled, that would be easy.  But things on high-tech devices are never easy, and there are a whole slew of ways, and other locations within Settings where cellular data can be regulated.  Rather than try and cover them all here, I’m going to refer you to the support pages of the Android operating system’s vendor, Google, for further information. Start by visiting TinyURL.com/IGTM-0739.  Good luck, and I hope this helps.

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