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What is a GPS Hack?

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/4/2010

A GPS hack may be frowned upon by vendors, but employing this type of modification to a GPS device gives more bang for the owner's buck. Whether it is adding, removing or modifying features of a GPS-enabled device, GPS hacks usually require some technical know-how.

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    Some people want more out of their GPS devices or software, and that is the beginning of the need to modify how a GPS device or software works. A GPS hack lets people add, remove or modify certain functionalities in their preferred GPS device or software. There are ready-made GPS hacks available online while the more technically creative people create their own. What can GPS hacks do? Let us take a look at what a GPS hack actually entails.

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    Satisfaction Not Guaranteed

    There are people who are not entirely satisfied with the features of a phone, even the mobile device that they prefer the most. Performance issues may force these individuals to make some modifications to add, remove or modify features whether it concerns the software or the hardware. Some of the most common GPS hacks concern mobile devices and modified GPS antennas. In some areas, a mobile device may not have the ideal reception that the owner was promised back at the store, so it is quite natural for some people to find ways to get around this reception problem.

    Some people open their mobile devices, revealing the inner workings of the GPS antenna. Wires can be added or replaced to improve the reception of the antenna, therefore increasing the chances of an improved reception for GPS signals. Most of the time, all this takes is cleaning the wires and adding a few more, or even replacing the existing wires especially if there is damage done to them. This kind of GPS hack may not be neat, often leaving wires unsecured and hanging out of the back of a mobile device, but ingenious types will find a way to keep the modified wiring secured and functional.

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    Specialized Features

    Some people have very specific wants when it comes to their GPS-enabled devices, like the need to let specific people to know where a certain user is. Let us take, for example, a person who wants to send out a private tweet to their closest friends and family where they are, without having to use check-in services or to post updates on social networking websites. By hacking a GPS-enabled device like the iPhone with a specialized piece of software, the person who wants their friends and family know where they are will have the ability to give his general location automatically. One solution is to have one's iPhone automatically send a private status update on the microblogging service Twitter, just by being in the general area of a cell phone tower, determined of course by the GPS capability of the phone. This is an instance of employing a GPS hack to add functionality to an existing communication system.

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    Changing the Game

    Sometimes, one feels the need to change how they experience using a GPS device without actually messing with its hardware or adding functionality to it. Let's take for example GPS devices running on Windows OS but have a more streamlined interface that can be too simple for some people. With some technical skills and understanding of how the OS works, one can customize a mobile device such that the underlying OS interface becomes the default interface of the device, giving the user more functionality that is already there in the first place. This reinforces the idea that a GPS hack is not about cheating the system but is about making things better and more useful for one's needs.