Compass so bad it's basicaly not usable

Hi guys, any one else has noticed that sometimes the compass is so bad, it’s basically not usable? Just recently it was off by believe it or not 180° so google maps litereally send me off in the oppositie direction to where I wanted to go.

I do not blame FP in particular tough, I noticed with all kinds of modern smart phones the compass’ got redicilously bad, iPhones included. So chip manufactures to blame.

Back the day with my HTC desire it worked like a charm… I could stand there turn until compass needle lined up with planned route and then start walking… now no more.

PS: Writing this because I was recently asked my disgruntled iPhone user about exactly this problem and had to tell them, no FP is in no way better, so no good reason to switch because of this.

Well, the issue is that it needs frequent calibration to be (somewhat) precise.

Calibration is pretty easy and quick to do, some of my star watching apps allow me to do it, it requires putting the compass in calibration mode and moving the phone in all directions for 5-10 seconds. After that, and for a limited time, it is acceptably precise (to a couple of degrees).
If you don’t calibrate it, it’s indeed pretty random, on all phones.


Underappreciated basic smartphone knowledge.

Does it? I was under the impression we could draw our little infinity 8s into the air at any time to improve the compass.
Afterall, not every affected App will immediately complain about the compass being skewed, so there should be something in the Android settings to initiate calibration … but there isn’t.

I think every sensible App visualising what the compass says to the App shows that as a range, not as a singular straight direction … this should leave room for thought.
180° is extreme, of course, and outside of any such indicated range, but blind trust in technology is never any good anyway.


Well, that’s even better!
I admit I don’t know, I assumed there must be some special thing since compass calibrating is always a special menu.

At least Apps will sometimes show that it needs to be calibrated with an illustration of how to move the phone to do it, I’ve seen this.

I played around a bit, but I fail to force this, it seems.

If you need an app that provides calibration:

I use the german language interface, translated from german: Tools → :gear: (Preferences) → Sensors → compass → calibrate


What I use (and both explain the 2 ways to calibrate*) is a free star chart called “Sky Map” (by “Sky Map Devs”), and a useful tools collection named “Smart Tools” (by “Smart Tools co.”). The latter is not free, but IIRC there was a free version too.
Pretty much every app using a compass will have a compass calibration menu, without which it’s pretty much useless…

*) One calibration method is to draw repeatedly a shape like the infinity symbol (∞) in mid-air, the other, IMHO easier, is to rotate the phone repeatedly and successively along the 3 axes (roll, yaw, pitch). No need to make full circles, going 0°-90° and back a couple times is enough in my experience. No need to spend an hour either, doing 4-5 rotations on each axis is usually more than enough. Once you’ve got used to it, it takes seconds.

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Incidentally, I just got my hands on a Samsung phone with a skewed compass (not mine) … just did the calibration moves without any mode or menu … compass correct again.

There must be something in the OS managing the compass, because I know the compass can report its state (calibrated or not, and the expected precision).

Besides, if it calibrated itself in any situation, it would (eventually) re-calibrate itself each time you use it, or move with your phone in your pocket… You might not do any somersaults, but you definitely turn and bend… :smile:

If only. My FP4 has similar issues with the compass being atrocious. Whenever I try to calibrate it I have to spin the phone around and stuff.

Which part do you object to, the “moving the phone in all directions”, or the “5-10 seconds” part? (Genuine question)

If it’s the “5-10 seconds”, you’re probably not doing it properly; It took longer for me too in the beginning, now it only takes a couple seconds.

For the record I calibrate each time before using the compass. Compass calibration does decay with time and depending on the environment (magnetic fields). For me the next day it’s already less precise, the day after that even less. Given calibration takes little time I don’t mind re-calibrating it each time I want to use the compass (which doesn’t happen very often anyway).


Hi, thanks for instructions, but i was unable to find i in /e/ version S, also using the search function, both in English and Italian.

May you give more help, please?

Many thanks. Marco

I don’t use /e/ and don’t know how it looks like. What did you do?
Did you install F-Droid? Do you use PlayStore? Did you install the app Trail-Sense? Did you look in Trail-Sense or in the preferences of /e/?

Did you search in “App Lounge”?

Mostly the spinning part overall. My girlfriend has a Samsung phone and calibrating for her takes 1 second by pointing at the nearest house.

Now that’s definitely an original way of calibrating, one I’ve never heard before!

For the record, my previous phone was a Samsung (Note), and calibration worked pretty much like on my FP4.

I’ve looked for it and haven’t found it.
Where is the compass on my Fairfhone 5?

Your phone (any phone) just has a chip with a magnetic sensor, able to sense magnetic fields.
Now this feature can be used by a 3rd party app to display a magnetic compass, but that app isn’t provided, you have to choose one and download it yourself (Play Store or similar).

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This is absolutely true, and exactly after calibrating for a short while it works.

But still is this something we should be tolerating? My very old HTC never required calibraation to be good in this regard.

Maybe it should auto calibrate during normal movement through the day?

Just noticing the chip quality really detoriated IMO.

There are certainly better and more expensive chips, and cheaper and less efficient ones. But my (very) old HTC (Desire) required a lot of calibration too. :man_shrugging:

As for auto-calibrating, I can see why this wouldn’t work: If the chip auto-calibrates while you’re near (or inside!..) a metallic structure, that calibration would be totally off. As a result auto-calibration would be totally hit and miss, and require you to re-calibrate the compass each time you need to use it anyway.

IMHO the current calibration requirement isn’t too annoying, especially once you’ve gotten the hang out of it.
Besides, a phone’s magnetic sensor is never any better than “adequate”. If you need “good” (or better) precision and reliability, you’d better invest 20€ in a real compass… :smile: