GPS Status & Toolbox App Review

Look, everyone wants a tricorder. Today’s phones are inching closer to that goal, but we’re not quite there yet. At the very least, Google and Apple, and their various app developers, generally hide all the cool functions away from view.

Well, OK, maybe not “cool” but at least interesting to those of us who find sprockets and cogs interesting.

While there are a few apps that give you access to the various sensors in your phone, most are a hodgepodge mess, making their use tedious at best.

GPS Status & Toolbox, available for Android devices (phone and tablet versions shown above) avoids this with a simple interface, and limits (more or less) the info to things associated with movement.

As you can guess by the name, the basic goal of GPS Status is to show you how many satellites the GPS in your phone is currently reading. On a simple compass rose, it shows where they are in the sky. My old Garmin PDA did this, and I loved it. I find it useful to get an idea why it’s taking so long to get a lock. Also, I just find it interesting.

The center of the rose, in addition to acting like an actual compass, has a bubble level.

Around the rose you get heading and orientation at the top. At the bottom you get the amount of location error, and the number of satellites your phone has a fix on. This is also represented in a bar graph below the compass.

At the bottom of the screen there’s lots more raw data. You get readouts of your location: degrees, minutes, and seconds. You also get speed, acceleration, and altitude. These three are what got me to get this app over other, similar apps.

Then there are three more pieces of data that are a little tangential, but I they're included because the designer is as big a nerd as I am. There’s the percent left on your battery, which is sort of redundant, but above that is the battery’s temperature (interesting, I suppose).

More interseting is on the other bottom corner: a light meter, reading the sensor that sets the brightness of the screen. I compared it’s accuracy to a AEMC CA813 light meter, and as you’d expect, it wasn’t quite as accurate. On a full white, the real light meter measured 285 lux, while the phone said 320 lux, or moving closer to the projector, 1785 and 2600 respectively. Close enough, honestly, but the low end was way off. The phone said 40, the meter said 0. This will all vary a bit depending on your phone's hardware, but don't expect total accuracy.

That said, it’s probably close enough to get enough readings to show your annoying brother-in-law how crappy his LCD’s contrast ratio is compared to your plasma.


The basic app, as described, is actually free. There’s a paid version for $3.73 that removes the in-app advertising and adds a few features. You can store and edit waypoints (for navigation), and pressure, rotation, temperature, and humidity values “if supported by the device.” That latter part brings up a valid question: Which devices have those? Not sure.

Bottom Line

Presuming your phone has all the sensors to take advantage of this app, it’s great fun.

GPS Status & Toolbox on Google Play