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Track recording

Common issues with track recording: Noise, gaps, and inaccuracies.

This article addresses issues with GPX track recording which have been observed over time in different Android versions. Background means to simply refer to the OsmAnd app not being displayed in the foreground, in particular when the device screen is off (which is different from the Android-internal definition of background).

Note: Since Android 11 (2020/12) there is no more system permission option Always allow to use location access in the background, but this does not limit OsmAnd's background track recording: According to Google's documentation it is now considered foreground usage, as internally the foreground service permission is now used and a system notification about a track being recorded is always visible.

Pleae note that it's simply the new Android wording which can be misleading:

Allow while using the app means that the app can permanently obtain the location as long as the app is either displayed on the screen itself or has a visible notification in the Android notification bar, like OsmAnd has during navigation or trip recording. (This is technically referred to as foreground mode.)

Allow all the time, on the other hand, means that an app can in principle obtain your location 'unnoticed' without any of these conditions applying. But Android limits the frequency of location access in this (background) mode to something like once per hour, certainly not the correct mode for a navigation app.

Recorded tracks are noisy​

There are 2 typical accuracy issues leading to a 'messy' recorded track.

  • Longer standing in same place
  • Bad GPS signal and switching to network signal based location

You may

  • either avoid such issues if using "Pause" to interrupt the recording during such conditions.

  • It is also possible to edit a track later and remove "noisy" points.

  • Or you can use the Trip recording Plugin settings to filter "noisy" points already while recording, based on your experience and recording device. You can filter out points by various criteria:

    • Points with low or zero speed
    • Points with bad precision (GPS 'hdop')
    • Points closer than a threshold in meters
  • Google Services API or Android API: You may further change how OsmAnd receives location data on Android devices. In OsmAnd Settings β†’ Location Source select between Google Play Services and Android API, in many cases changing to Android API helps to improve the recorded tracks and makes them less noisy.

Recorded tracks have gaps​

Since at least Android 4.4, Android power saving options have allowed the system to limit CPU max speed, screen brightness, and kill apps in the background (e.g. when the device screen is off).

For outdoor use (screen brightness), map rendering (CPU limit), and track recording these power saving features may impair your experience with OsmAnd, hence you may want to consider turning the device (Android) power saving entirely off. (It may depend on your portfolio of apps, but I observe no noticeable impact on power usage on my devices.)

Check in OsmAnd​

  • To allow OsmAnd recording tracks while the device screen is off, make sure the OsmAnd setting (under) 'Prevent standalone logging' under Plugin/Trip recording is deactivated.
  • Update OsmAnd to 3.9 or higher. Different Android versions apply different strategies to reduce power consumption by killing apps running in the background. New versions of OsmAnd therefore deploy a Foreground service during navigation or while recording a trip, visible in the Android notification bar. This should keep the app active on most systems, at least under Android 8+ (Issues #5255, #5587).

In Android, try these steps​

  • On some systems it may be sufficient to just exempt the OsmAnd app from power optimization, your mileage may vary: In your Android's Power or Power Savings setting, white-list OsmAnd to not being optimized: In Android's 'Apps', 'Applications', or 'App Manager' settings, find OsmAnd and tap it. You may find a line item regarding 'Power Savings' or 'Power Consumption': Tap it and exempt OsmAnd from power optimization measures. (Issue #5255).
  • Disable the Android Power Saving on your device, this often helps for older Android versions.

In iOS​

An iOS device may sometimes temporarily suspend or stop apps from running in the background. The system does this automatically when it reassigns processes. The OsmAnd app cannot fix or affect the system in such cases.

When track recording is active and you lock the device, the recording stops. And a gap or straight line appears in this recording in the part where the screen was turned off. To fix this, you can edit your track with the Plan a route tool.

You can read more information here.

Tested Power Settings for Android 9, 10, and 11 (Hardy, 2020-08-25)​

I have successfully tested the following Power settings under Android 9, 10, and later 11 (on Samsung devices) for OsmAnd to log gapless tracks. Please locate these 10 settings and set accordingly:

  • (1) Power (saving) mode = OFF (called 'Optimized' in Android 10)
  • (2) Adaptive power saving = OFF (leaving ON may periodically use Medium power saving which inhibits OsmAnd logging.)
  • (3) Adaptive battery = ON (candidate for 'OFF', but no problem detected so far)
  • (4) Put unused apps to sleep = OFF (check list of sleeping apps)
  • (5) Auto disable unused apps = OFF (seems not to exist anymore in Android 10)
  • (6) Optimize settings = OFF (in Android 10 under "Device care / Advanced", in Android 11 seems gone)
  • (7) Auto optimize (daily) = ON
  • (8) Auto restart (at set times) = OFF
  • (9) Optimize Battery Usage (under "Apps / OsmAnd / Battery" or "Apps / 3-dots / Special access / Optimize battery usage / All / OsmAnd") = May leave all unchanged (looks like OsmAnd does not need to have Battery optimization disabled here)
  • (10) In the same place and for Android 11, make sure Allow background activity = ON for OsmAnd.

Some of these settings interact, so be accurate. Best search for the above settings by name (with and without the expressions in parentheses). Depending on your version of Android, they may be scattered over these various Android Settings screens:

  • Device care
  • Device care / 3-dots / Automation
  • Device care / Advanced
  • Device care / Battery
  • Device care / Battery / Settings
  • Device care / Battery / App Power Management
  • Device care / Battery / More battery settings

OsmAnd 3.9: Altitude issues when using Google Play Services​

Google Play has changed their policy and in order to comply, OsmAnd since version 3.9 (except Nightly, F-Droid, Huawei, Amazon builds) has to use Google Play Services to obtain location fixes while running in the background (i.e. in Android terminology as a foreground service with visible system notification).

After that change there seems a problem with recording altitude: Apparently Google Play Services interpolate the altitude measurement very aggressively, see Github issue #10864. This issue affects Android 10, possibly not Android 11. Google issue 180218747 is already reported, probably will be fixed 09-03-2021.

As a workaround, in OsmAnd Settings β†’ Location Source you may switch the location source from Google Play Services to Android API.

OsmAnd 3.9: GPS wakeup now replaced by continuous foreground service (2020/12)​

As of version 3.9, when needed for track recording or navigation, OsmAnsd will keep GPX on continuously via an Android foreground service, and this will be visible as an Android system notification.

The prior strategy of using a doze mode and periodic GPS Wake-Up has been removed from our code (commit Drop waking navigation service on alarm), as required by new Google Play restrictions on Background location access. As a result, the following sections (A) and (B) apply only to versions of OsmAnd prior to 3.9:

(A) GPS Wake-up Strategy

  • (A1) While OsmAnd is used for e.g. Navigation: We keep the system's GPS module on all the time, as continuous location information is key here. Effect on battery use (order of magnitude) seems about 5% per hour on older systems up to Android 4.4, 2-3% for newer systems.
  • (A2) For 'background' track recording without concurrent navigation: For recording intervals up to 15sec, we also keep the GPS on, no big battery saving can be achieved by other strategies.
  • (A3) For intervals >=30sec, we turn GPS on only for each sampling point. This has some noticeable effect on the accuracy of the points recorded, but reduces battery usage to order-of-magnitude 1.2% per hour for 30sec track recording.

(B) GPS Wake-up Issues

In order to achieve the GPS wake-up, so far we use the Android AlarmManger to wake up the device periodically (also from Doze mode, which was introduced in Android 6). New Android versions introduced the following issues:

  • (B1) AlarmManager's setRepeating() became inexact starting with Android 4.4:
    Mitigation: We now use setRepeating() only up to Android 4.2, the new setExact() method starting with Android 4.4, and setExactAndAllowWhileIdle() for Android 8+. (Issue #5632)
  • (B2) Starting from Android 4.4, systems limit the number of times setExact() is executed repeatedly to e.g. once per 5 or even 15 minutes. (The actual value seems wildly device specific.)
    No good solution found for now. Current mitigation is we do not use AlarmManager wake-up, instead keep GPS always on for background track logging on devices with Android 5+ for all recording intervals shorter than 5 minutes. This produces reliable and precise tracks at the cost of the higher battery use. (Issue #5632)